When Oscar winner Marlon Brando and director Bernardo Bertolucci shot an anal rape scene without actress Maria Schneider’s consent

Marlon Brando is widely and justifiably regarded as one of the greatest actors and superstars in the history of not just Hollywood, but all of world cinema, with his fan-following, stardom and iconic movies transcending generations. One such iconic film of Marlon Brando that has left an indelible impression on the minds of moviegoers across eras is the 1972 erotic drama Last Tango in Paris, whose Director, Bernardo Bertolucci, is also well revered for his immense contribution to cinema and highly artistic films. Yet, it’s for Last Tango in Paris that these two men will also bear a perpetual blotch on their legacies, particularly for what they did to Maria Schneider, Brando’s costar.

Last Tango in Paris rape scene

Last Tango in Paris remains infamous for its brutal anal rape scene, though not so much for its brutality as it does for Maria Schneider’s lack of knowledge or consent before filming it, becoming privy to it just minutes before the scene was shot. The fact that she was just 19 years old when it transpired makes it all the more disturbing. The scene shows Marlon Brando hitting and forcing Schneider down on the floor as he proceeds to use butter as a lubricant before anally raping her. Of course, no penetration actually occurred, but you get the gist of what she went through.

Last Tango in Paris left Maria Schneider traumatised for life

Recounting the horrific ordeal later to the media, Maria Schneider had said, “They only told me about it before we had to film the scene and I was so angry. I should have called my agent or had my lawyer come to the set because you can’t force someone to do something that isn’t in the script, but at the time, I didn’t know that. Marlon said to me: ‘Maria, don’t worry, it’s just a movie,’ but during the scene, even though what Marlon was doing wasn’t real, I was crying real tears. I felt humiliated and to be honest, I felt a little raped, both by Marlon and by Bertolucci. After the scene, Marlon didn’t console me or apologise. Thankfully, there was just one take.”

Bernardo Bertolucci justified his actions on set

Bernardo Bertolucci reasoned years later that he just told her abut it prior to filming to ensure that she felt the trauma and rage and humiliation for real rather than enact it. Well, she did feel it, for life. He even insisted that it was necessary to humiliate his lead actress in order to make the scene look authentic. While there’s no doubt about how good the film is, how successful it was both critically and commercially, or how impactful said scene is, there’s also no denying that something very wrong happened to a very young girl many decades ago and the perpetrators were neither held accountable nor were they later remorseful for what they had done.

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