The Rape Of Maria Schneider


There are many stories of directors crossing ethical lines by using abusive, unfair and disrespectful methods obtain a vivid performance from an actor. None are as bad as this one.

Now a video has surfaced of Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci admitting that in his acclaimed 1972 film “Last Tango In Paris,” the infamous rape scene where Paul (Marlon Brando) sodomizes Jeanne (Maria Schneider) with a stick of butter was not consented to by the 19 year-old actress, who was not warned of the unscripted sequence before it was thrust upon her, and in her. She was, in short, raped.

No wonder it seemed so realistic.

“The sequence of the butter is an idea that I had with Marlon in the morning before shooting it,” Bertolucci said in the 2013 interview at La Cinémathèque Française in Paris. “I’d been, in a way, horrible to Maria, because I didn’t tell her what was going on…I wanted her reaction as a girl, not as an actress…I wanted her to react humiliated…I think she hated me and also Marlon because we didn’t tell her.”

The film was a sensation, though and both Brando and Bertolucci received Academy Award nominations, so it was worth it.


Apparently Schneider alluded to the rape in private conversations and interviews, but never explicitly enough that it was clear what had been done to her. Now Hollywood is reacting with appropriate outrage.

“The should be in jail,” tweeted actor Chris Evans. (Psst!...the actor is long dead, Chris, as is Schneider. Bertolucci is 76.)

What a disgusting story of complete ethics rot in the arts, and what a damning indictment of Bertolucci, Brando and the culture that produced them.


Pointer: Fred

21 thoughts on “The Rape Of Maria Schneider

  1. I just now read about this, had copied the link, and was about to e-mail it to you, when I paused and thought: “I’d better check and see if Jack has posted about this ALREADY.”

    So – will all of academia turn on Hollywood for “acclaiming” any scene that ever so slightly reeks of a “rape culture?” [Waiting for the crickets.]

    • Are you under the impression that “academia” as an institution is never critical toward “Hollywood” as an institution? Because that would be…uninformed.

      • To answer your question: No. Are you under the impression that “academia” as an institution is not overwhelmingly in ideological and political lock-step with “Hollywood” as an institution (thinking, unethically rationalizing, voting, and hating alike)? Because that would be…self-misinformed.

        • To answer your question: No.

          Well, then I don’t understand your comment. What do you mean by “turn on?” Academics criticize Hollywood all the time, and have definitely criticized the rape culture within it; your comment implies that there are *crickets* coming from academia on this issues, which simply isn’t true.

          Are you under the impression that “academia” as an institution is not overwhelmingly in ideological and political lock-step with “Hollywood” as an institution (thinking, unethically rationalizing, voting, and hating alike)? Because that would be…self-misinformed.

          What? So because “Hollywood” and “academia” are both primarily left-leaning institutions, that justifies your earlier implication that academia never criticizes sexism in Hollywood? You’re not making any sense.

          • Ohhh, so you DO have citations to drown-out those crickets. Suuure. To review: you asked “never;” I replied “No” – which doesn’t kill the crickets. You know what I mean by “turn on.” Are you practicing your “wipe-it-like-with-a-cloth?” deflections? What?

            Now, we both know how disciplined sectors of the Left are, at avoiding confrontation of each other’s sub-culture’s ethical failures. There’s too much money and power at stake in academia and Hollywood, for any reason to hope that the recent confirmation of Brando’s rape of Schneider would ever (There! *I* said “ever” with its implicitly connected “never”) have a fraction of the same catalyzing effect and impact equivalent to a “Michael Brown Moment.” Righteous reactionaries organized to “lead a national conversation about” relations between races, and between police and non-police, in the wake of Brown’s death by bullets. But, it simply isn’t fair to expect every college campus to erupt – after discovering an alleged rape in a movie over 40 years ago, involving persons now dead – with energized chapters of a Vagina Defense League (and a companion Rear Guard), ready at every opportunity to march on sets and stages to protest any part of any scene that might, just might, be too rape-friendly.

            So the crickets (at least, the crickets-louder-than-the-critics) will go on.

            Nope: The rapes will go on (even on stage and on camera, on college campuses!), because after all, the show must go on; the sex scenes must go on; the portrayals of brutal sexploitation must go on for their intended exploitative effect. Students must be educated – learn by doing, even. Besides, sex scenes are just plain HOT, so demand for them will never diminish. Plus, there will always be so many misogynists out there who need to be pre-shamed into having, for their entire existence, limp dicks.

  2. I directed a short film right out of college which involved a woman tied to a chair. She really was tied to the chair for a while (though not so tightly that I’m sure she couldn’t get out of it if necessary, and we would have freed her at any sign of real discomfort.).

    There is a scene where someone breaks through the door and surprises her (that I didn’t end up using). I had a shot set up on a tripod pointed at her and I left. I told her, “Just relax for a bit. I’ll bust open the door, but not on any count, so you can be sort of surprised by it.” I would wait a random interval of time before busting the door open, eliciting perhaps slightly more genuine surprise.

    I hear stories about filmmakers doing stuff like this all the time. They didn’t tell Warren Oates he’d get dragged into the mud in Stripes (and chipped his tooth, apparently?). They dropped Alan Rickman on 2 instead of 3 in Die Hard. Maybe in Aladdin, they didn’t tell him the lava used on set was real.

    I really loathe stuff like this, because I see no reason to trick my actors into giving a good performance. I see no reason to not be honest with them about what they’re doing. Sometimes, people who make movies treat each other badly, but it’s usually only words. This seems to be the ultimate example of abusing the responsibilities that a director has to his or her actors and that actors have to one another, to the point where you ask, “who would really do this to someone else, for any reason, much less just for a damn movie?”

    • You are correct—the rape is at the far end of a very wide and long spectrum that includes merely surprising an actor to get a “real” reaction. At the other end, like what you did, it can be defensible both artistically and ethically, and some actors want that spontaneous realism.

  3. “I’d been, in a way, horrible”
    In every way. And not just horrible, criminal. A rapist filming a real rape is not art, it’s more like evidence.

  4. Bertolucci could still be prosecuted I suppose but it seems unlikely to me considering “he is a great artist”. Probably a civil suit could be launched if Maria Schneider has any surviving kids still alive or interested relatives.

    • I hate to say it, but it would hard proving rape here, and impossible in Italy, where rape is almost never prosecuted at all. Half the states have Statutes of Limitations on Rape that tolled long ago. So does Italy. Even then, there is more than the usual problem with consent. Did Schnieder ever say “no”? Or, “You’re kidding! I’m out of here.” She technically consented.

      It was still rape, but probably not under the law.

  5. This makes me think of the production we did of “Spring Awakening” where the two main actors are required to drop trou and be bare-assed, and open a blouse and be bare breasted. We were so cognizant of our actors’ vulnerability, risk, and discomfort that we went above and beyond to create an atmosphere during rehearsal where they could work through what they needed to do. Making them feel safely held was first and foremost. And actors who feel safe and supported by their own cast are then free to do what is necessary. There is no need to catch them by surprise.

  6. Some of the news coverage is mentioning that Maria Schneider called it rape years ago (maybe when it happened?), but no one paid any attention until Bertolucci said it. If this is true, it’s an indictment of everyone who ignored Maria all those years. But typical in these kinds of situations.

    • She was oblique. She said things like she felt violated, or that it was “like being raped.” I guarantee that if she had come right out at any time before or relatively soon after the film was released, it would have been a scandal. The scene itself was so violent that for her to say she felt violated or raped just seems to state the obvious. Even if she consented, how could she not feel that way? If John Wayne, after “The Quiet Man,” had said, “Boy, that fight felt like a real fight,” and “I was really beaten up in that fight,” would anyone assume he meant he didn’t consent to the scene? Then John Ford is found on video saying, “The Duke didn’t know Victor, who was a boxer, you know, would be really punching. I wanted to see Wayne react as a man, not an actor. He got the crap beaten out of him, but it was worth it!”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.