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.”
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'.