A 12.2 Elle article about a three-year-old confession by Last Tango in Paris director Bernardo Bertolucci ignited a firestorm yesterday. Written by Mattie Kahn and posted on 12.2, it contained Bertolucci’s admission that during filming he and Tango star Marlon Brando, 48, decided to cruelly surprise costar Maria Schneider, 19, with the famous anal rape scene — no preparation, here we go, wham.
The article was based on a 2013 televised interview with Bertolucci that was somehow ignored or overlooked before the Elle piece. A regretful Bertolucci said that he wanted Schneider to react “as a girl, not as an actress.” Schneider, who died of cancer in 2011, was naturally shocked, humiliated, appalled.
But right away an impression began to spread yesterday that Schneider might have been literally raped by Brando with Bertolucci egging him on. That’s not what happened, but once Twitter gets hold of a story or an event, the wildfire spreads.
Last night Jessica Chastain tweeted the following: “To all the people [who] love this film, you’re watching a 19 yr. old get raped by a 48 yr. old man. The director planned her attack. I feel sick.” This inspired Octavia Spencer to tweet the following this morning: “This is BEYOND disturbing. Rape!!!! So, in the director’s mind order for an actor to play a killer does he actually need to kill? Yikes!”
This morning Variety‘s Seth Kelley, summarizing the Elle piece, wrote that Bertolucci had confessed that he and Marlon Brando “conspired against actress Maria Schneider during a rape scene in which the actor used a stick of butter as lubricant.” That wording half-suggests that the rape scene might have been real. Which it wasn’t — it was total simulation. Obviously a cruel strategy on Brando and Berlolucci’s part, but the scene in question was still about pretending.
Schneider recounted the particulars in a 7.19.07 Daily Mail interview with Linda Das, to wit:
“That [rape] scene wasn’t in the original script. The truth is it was Marlon who came up with the idea. 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 apologize. Thankfully, there was just one take.”