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The Biopic Maria Rehabilitates the Martyred Actress Maria Schneider

Marlon Brando on the left, Maria Schneider in the center, and Bernardo Bertolucci on the right

This Wednesday, June 19, 2024, the film Maria is released, a biopic directed by filmmaker Jessica Palud about actress Maria Schneider, famous for her role in Last Tango in Paris. This biopic with a beautiful cast revisits the most controversial scene of this cult film.

Born from a fantasy of Bernardo Bertolucci, Last Tango in Paris, released in 1972, tells the tumultuous love story between Jeanne — Maria Schneider — and PaulMarlon Brando. They regularly meet in a Parisian apartment for passionate encounters that become violent.

The film Maria by Jessica Palud, retraces the life of Maria Schneider, including the shocking rape she suffered at only 19 years old during the filming of Bertolucci’s famous film.

Heavily criticized upon its release, Last Tango in Paris was classified as an X-rated film in many European countries, banned for those under 18 in France, and banned in Italy. Bertolucci was even stripped of his civil rights for five years, and the actors were convicted of pornography.

Maria Schneider: the pain of “Last Tango in Paris” with Mireille Dumas | INA Mireille Dumas

Nearly 52 years later, a violent scene continues to shock. The cult line “Pass me the butter” is linked to this scene where Maria Schneider is brutally sodomized by Marlon Brando. Using butter as a lubricant, this scene left deep scars.

It wasn’t until 2016 and an article in Elle magazine that the reality behind this scene was understood. In a video, Bertolucci admits to having conceived this idea the morning of the shoot with Marlon Brando, without informing Schneider to get an authentic reaction.

Bernardo Bertolucci and the scandal of the film “Last Tango in Paris” | Archive INA

“The butter sequence is an idea I had with Marlon the day before the shoot. I wanted Maria to react, to be humiliated. I think she hated us both because we didn’t tell her anything,” the filmmaker admitted.

Maria Schneider’s tears were real. Years later, she stated that she considered this scene a rape and never forgave Bertolucci. She was scorned by society until the end of her life. Her friend Brigitte Bardot temporarily took her in… The trauma from this cursed scene plunged her into drugs, self-loathing, and suicide attempts. She passed away in 2011 at the age of 58.