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Bernardo Bertolucci admits he conspired with Marlon Brando to shoot non-consenual rape scene

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Emily Badiozzaman
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Last Tango in Paris was controversial when it was released in the early 1970s and continues to be today, most notable for one of the most notorious rape scenes in cinematic history.

The ‘butter scene’ sees Marlon Brando (then 48) use a stick of butter as lubricant as he rapes his young lover played by Maria Schneider (then aged 19).

In a recently surfaced video interview filmed in 2013, director Bernardo Bertolucci admits that the scene was not agreed with Schneider prior to filming. It was in fact decided between himself and Brando that morning, and Schneider was assaulted intentionally so that Bertolucci could catch an authentic reaction.

"The sequence of the butter is an idea that I had with Marlon in the morning before shooting," Bertulocci said in an event held at La Cinémathèque Française in Paris in 2013. He added that he felt horrible "in a way" for his treatment of Schneider but defended himself, explaining that he "wanted her reaction as a girl, not as an actress."

"I wanted her to react humiliated," he said. "I think she hated me and also Marlon because we didn't tell her." Even so, Bertolucci clarified that he didn't "regret" how he decided to direct the scene.

“I feel guilty but I do not regret. To make movies sometimes to obtain something we have to be completely free. I didn’t want Maria to act her humiliation, her rage, I wanted Maria to feel, not to act. Then she hated me for all her life.”

The admission has received justified backlash from audiences as well as Hollywood names.

Schneider did speak out about her assault in an interview with the Daily Mail in 2007, saying “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.

"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."

The actress never shot a nude scene again and suffered from depression, unhealthy relationships and suicide attempts throughout her life before dying of cancer in 2011.

The fact that Berolucci is only now facing criticism rather than when Schneider shared her experience almost ten years ago is, say many, indicative of how rife abuse is within Hollywood.

Writing in The GuardianPeter Bradshaw says:

“Hollywood history is full of these iceberg-tips of abuse peeping out. Everyone knows about the big cases: the conviction and exile of Roman Polanski, the (denied and unproven) accusation of Woody Allen.

“But there is also a vast unacknowledged history of normalised abuse - virtually every female star and many male stars have endured a casting-couch assault, although the MO has of course been offscreen. In his effrontery, Bertolucci put his abuse in front of the camera and like so many men of that era, maintains a tacit claim of permissive liberation and declines to see what was wrong.”

He ends with, “In 2016, as in 1972, and 1937, there are plenty of disgusting men in the movie industry who don’t see what the problem is. Now they are being forced to confront the poison they have created.”