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Maria Schneider dies at 58; actress in 'Last Tango in Paris'

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She was a voluptuous, 19-year-old newcomer with long, curly brown hair framing a youthful face when she was cast in writer-director Bernardo Bertolucci's “Last Tango in Paris," in which she played a young engaged Parisian woman looking for an apartment to rent.

Her character begins an anonymous sexual relationship in an empty apartment with a grief-stricken middle-aged American (Brando) whose French wife has just committed suicide.

The X-rated film, which critic Pauline Kael called “a landmark in movie history" and which critic Roger Ebert said was “one of the great emotional experiences of our time," was banned in a number of countries for its sexuality and nudity.

“It's amazing," Schneider said in a 2007 interview with the London Daily Mail. “I've made 50 films in my career and 'Last Tango' is 35 years old, but it's still the one that everyone asks me about."

The movie's infamous sex scene, involving butter, was not in the original script.

“The truth is, it was Marlon who came up with the idea," Schneider 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.

“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 Brando and by Bertolucci. After the scene, Marlon didn't console me or apologize. Thankfully, there was just one take."

In his review of the film when it was released in the United States in 1973, The Times' Charles Champlin wrote that Schneider “is a triumph of casting—petulant, self-indulgent, and convincingly terrified as someone who has gotten in beyond her depth."


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