The director behind the rape scene controversy says it's a "ridiculous misunderstanding."

His comments about the infamous rape scene in Last Tango in Paris sparked a storm of controversy that swept through Hollywood and cast a dark shadow over the classic 1973 film. But now director Bernardo Bertolucci says it’s all just a “ridiculous misunderstanding”.

The uproar was sparked over the weekend when footage resurfaced of the Italian director admitting to conspiring with lead actor Marlon Brando to conceal plans for the ‘butter scene’ from then 19-year-old actress Maria Schneider in an attempt to capture her reaction as “a girl, not an actress”.

The graphic sequence features Brando’s character using a stick of butter as lubricant to rape a young French woman, played by Schneider.

“We were having, with Marlon, breakfast on the floor of the flat where I was shooting,” he told the interviewer. “There was a baguette, there was butter and we looked at each other and, without saying anything, we knew what we wanted.”

celebrities react to last tango in paris
Bertolucci (left) and Brando (centre) conspired on the unscripted scene without Schneider (right). Image: Getty.

The comments drew headlines around the world and prompted several high-profile celebrities - from Anna Kendrick to Chris Evans - to publicly express their outrage over the perceived exploitation of a young actress.

In response, Bertolucci has issued a statement, translated and published by Variety. It begins:

“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'.

last tango in paris director response
Bernardo Bertolucci claims it's just a "ridiculous misunderstanding". Image: Getty.

“I specified, but perhaps I was not clear, that I decided with Marlon Brando not to inform Maria that we would have used butter,” he noted. “We wanted her spontaneous reaction to that improper use. That is where the misunderstanding lies.

Bertolucci slammed assumptions that Schneider was unaware of the violence as "false".

He argued, “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."

Bertolucci's claim seems to be at odds with comments previously made by Schneider, who passed away in 2011.

In a rare interview nine years ago, the Frenchwoman told The Daily Mail that the first she knew of the scene was on the day of filming.

"That scene wasn't in the original script. The truth is it was Marlon who came up with the idea," she said.

"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."

She said while the attack was simulated, while it was all just an act, her tears were real.

"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 apologise. Thankfully, there was just one take."

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