Award-winning Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci has finally responded to the recent furore over the hugely controversial ‘butter’ scene in his 1972 classic Last Tango in Paris, issuing a statement that seeks to defuse the public outcry against him.
In recent days, a video from 2013 surfaced on the internet, seeing the 76-year-old appear to admit that the famous scene - which depicted Jeanne, played by the 19-year-old actress Maria Schneider, being anally raped by Paul, played by a 48-year-old Marlon Brando – had been filmed without Schneider being aware of the contents of it, nor being asked for her consent.
The video showed him saying, “The sequence of the butter is an idea that I had with Marlon in the morning before shooting. 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.”
Schneider, who died in 2011, told the Daily Mail in 2007, that she felt “a little raped” after it was filmed.
“I was so angry,” she said. “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.’”
However, Bertolucci has now moved to defend himself.
Writing in his native Italian, he said, “I would like, for the last time, to clear up a ridiculous misunderstanding that continues to generate press reports about Last Tango in Paris around the world.
“Several years ago at the Cinemathèque Francaise someone asked me for details on the famous “butter scene. I specified, but perhaps I was not clear, that I decided with Marlon Brando not to inform Maria that we would have used butter. We wanted her spontaneous reaction to that improper use [of the butter]. That is where the misunderstanding lies. Somebody thought, and thinks, that Maria had not been informed about the violence on her. That is false!”
He added that “Maria knew everything because she had read the script, where it was all described. The only novelty was the idea of the butter. And that, as I learned many years later, offended Maria. Not the violence that she is subjected to in the scene, which was written in the screenplay.”
Regardless of his statement, the matter is sure to generate ongoing controversy, particular with Schneider no longer able to give her side of the story, nor Brando, who died in 2004, able to respond.
The video which generated the original outcry can be viewed below.