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‘Last Tango in Paris’ Director Bernardo Bertolucci Admits Rape Scene Wasn’t Consensual, but Also ‘Wasn’t Real’

Last Tango in Paris director Bernardo Bertolucci admitted in a recently surfaced 2013 video that the infamous rape scene in the much-lauded 1972 film was not consensual, but it also wasn’t real.

In a Q&A filmed at La Cinémathèque française in Paris, Bertolucci, 73, admitted that he and legendary actor Marlon Brando, who was 48 at the time, came up with the idea the morning of the shoot to use a stick of butter to rape Maria Schneider onscreen. (Schneider has clarified in past interviews that there was never any actual sex on-set, despite speculation.)

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“The sequence of the butter is an idea that I had with Marlon in the morning before shooting,” he said in the interview. “We were having, with Marlon, breakfast on the floor of the flat where I was shooting. There was a baguette, there was butter and we looked at each other and, without saying anything, we knew what we wanted.” (In the scene, Brando uses the stick of butter as sexual lubricant.)

‘Last Tango in Paris’

One of the most celebrated filmmakers of his generation, Bertolucci admitted that he recognized that he “had been, in a way, horrible to Maria because I didn’t tell her what was going on,” but that he went with the controversial decision to go forward because he knew it would translate on film.

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“[I] wanted her reaction as a girl, not as an actress,” the veteran director said. “I wanted her to react humiliated.”

In 2007, Schneider, who was 58 when she died in 2011, made mention of the fact that both Bertolucci and Brando had pressured her to go along with the idea. She was 19 at the time.

“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,” she told the Daily Mail. “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.”

Schneider further clarified that although the butter scene wasn’t planned, there also wasn’t any penetration on set. “Not at all,” she said. “There was no attraction between us. For me, he was more like a father figure and I a daughter.”

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Celebrities who caught wind of the surfaced 2013 Bertolucci admission, including Jessica Chastain, Chris Evans and Ava DuVernay, quickly reacted to the news with outrage and disbelief.

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