Last Tango in Paris rape scene controversy: Jessica Chastain, Lena Dunham, more respond
Hollywood stars are speaking out against director Bernardo Bertolucci following an interview in which the iconic filmmaker revealed his questionable ethics in crafting a harrowing scene for the 1973 film Last Tango in Paris.
The recently resurfaced clip (originally filmed at La Cinémathèque Française in Paris in 2013) made the rounds over the weekend, showing Bertolucci discussing the film’s controversial rape scene — one that sees Marlon Brando’s character Paul use a stick of butter to rape a young woman, Jeanne, played by actress Maria Schneider.
The two-time Oscar-winning filmmaker admitted he and Brando came up with the idea of using the condiment as lubricant prior to filming, though they kept the dynamics of the scene a secret from Schneider, who was 19 at the time of production, until moments prior to shooting the sequence.
“I’d been in a way horrible to Maria because I didn’t tell her what was going on,” Bertulocci said in the clip. “I wanted her to react humiliated… I think she hated me and also Marlon because we didn’t tell her.”
Several actors — including Jessica Chastain and Jenna Fischer — denounced the film for showing an “actual rape” on screen. In an interview with the Daily Mail in 2007, Schneider said the movie did not depict real sex acts, but did admit the sequence left her feeling “a little raped” by the director and star.
“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,” the actress, who died in 2011, told the publication. Schneider added the sex between she and Brando was entirely simulated.
Chastain and Fischer weren’t the only stars to express outrage over Bertolucci’s comments. Evan Rachel Wood, who recently opened up about her own sexual assault, wrote in response to Chastain’s tweet, “This is heartbreaking and outrageous. The 2 of them are very sick individuals to think that was ok.”
After other celebrities, like Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick, Michael Cudlitz, and Jake Tapper weighed in on social media, Lena Dunham posted a commemorative photo of Schneider and her partner, Joan Townsend, to her Instagram account on Sunday morning, lamenting the actress’ onscreen ordeal five years after her death.
“[This is a photo of] Maria Schneider, who checked herself into the psych ward for a few days so she could be with her committed lover Joan Townsend,” the Girls creator wrote. “Even there they were harassed and photographed. RIP beautiful lady. I’m so sorry that art became pain rather than release for you.”
Dead of Summer actress Zelda Williams not only took issue with the way the scene was allegedly shot, but also with Bertolucci’s judgment as a director responsible for the well-being of his cast and crew.
“You’re a director & want to film real pain? Real terror? Real shame? Do documentaries. Don’t put your actors thru surprise hell w/o consent,” she tweeted. “And if you’re a director who can’t DIRECT actors to get what you want, you’re a shit director or you didn’t cast for what you needed. End.”
See what other entertainment personalities are saying about the Last Tango in Paris controversy below.