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Maria Schneider (actress)

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Maria Schneider (March 27, 1952 – 3 February 2011) was a French actress. She was known for playing Jeanne, opposite Marlon Brando, in the 1972 film Last Tango in Paris; and Girl in the 1975 film The Passenger, with Jack Nicholson.

Early life Edit

Schneider was born Marie Christine Gélin, the daughter of French actor Daniel Gélin and Romanian-born Marie-Christine Schneider, who ran a bookstore in Paris.[1] She met her father only three times and took her mother's last name and was raised by her mother near the French border with Germany.[2]

As a teenager she adored films, going to the cinema up to four times a week, and she left home at 15 after an argument with her mother. Schneider made stage acting debut at age 15.[2] where she scratched out a living as a film extra and a model.[3] While working as an extra she met Brigitte Bardot, who knew her father and offered Maria a room in her house. Through Bardot, Maria also met important figures in the film business. Warren Beatty introduced her to the William Morris agency, and her first break came in 1970, when she appeared in Madly, starring Alain Delon and directed by Roger Kahane.[4]

Career Edit

Schneider performed several nude scenes in Last Tango in Paris, which was controversial at the time. In an interview in 2007,[5] she described Last Tango in Paris director Bernardo Bertolucci: "He was fat and sweaty and very manipulative, both of Marlon and myself, and would do certain things to get a reaction from me." As for her working relationship with Brando, she said that, while their relationship on the set was paternal, it was Brando who came up with the anal sex scene where butter was used as lubricant, and it was not revealed to her until just before it was filmed:

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 Marlon and by Bertolucci. After the scene, Marlon didn't console me or apologize. Thankfully, there was just one take.[5]
Last Tango ... first major role. In fact, it's a total coincidence. I was friends with Dominique Sanda. She would make the film with Jean-Louis Trintignant, but she was pregnant. She had a large picture with her of both of us. Bertolucci saw it. He made me do a casting...I regretted my choice since the beginning of my career would have been sweeter, quieter. For Tango, I was not prepared. People have identified with a character that was not me. Butter, about saucy old pigs...Even Marlon with his charisma and class, felt a bit violated, exploited a little in this film. He rejected it for years. And me, I felt it doubly.[6][7]

Schneider and Brando remained friends until his death, although they did not speak of the movie "for a while." She also said that her experience with the film – and her treatment as a sex symbol rather than as a serious actress – motivated her never to work nude again. She also appeared in films such as Michelangelo Antonioni's The Passenger and Franco Zeffirelli's Jane Eyre.

She worked in over 50 films and television productions between 1969 and 2008. During her career she was a strong advocate for improving the work of women in film.

I'm still struggling for the image of women in film and I'm still working, not as much as I would like to because for a woman in her late forties, it's hard to find work. Not only in France. I had a chat with Anjelica Huston last year. We spoke about the same problem, you know. I don't know where it comes from? The writers, the producers, or the directors. But I think it's a pity even for the public. We get a response to see a mature woman in film. We see many, many macho men in film. An actress like Meryl Streep doesn't work as much as Robert De Niro.[8]

In 2001, she was the guest of honor at the 23rd Festival Créteil Films de Femmes.[9] In a master class at the festival, she called film "a tracing of memory", and said that women must be recognized as actors and directors. She also brought attention to the importance of assisting senior French actors who become unemployed and impoverished. She was chosen to be Vice-President of La Roue Tourne, an organization in Paris designed for this purpose.[10] According to Schneider, Marcel Carné, director of Children of Paradise (1945) and one of the most important directors of the late 1930s, would have died in poverty but for La Roue Tourne supporting him for the last ten years of his life.

Schneider was awarded the medal of Chevalier, Ordre des Arts et des Lettres for her contributions to the arts on 1 July 2010 by Minister of Culture and Communication, Frédéric Mitterrand, who was her fellow actor in Jacques Rivette's film, Merry-Go-Round, released in 1981.

Personal life Edit

In 1974, Schneider came out as bisexual.[11][12] In early 1976, she abandoned the film set of Caligula and checked herself into a mental hospital in Rome for several days to be with her lover, photographer Joan Townsend.[13][14] This, coupled with her refusal to perform nude, led to Schneider's dismissal and she was replaced by Teresa Ann Savoy.

The 1970s were turbulent years for Schneider, marked by drug addiction, overdoses, and a suicide attempt. Schneider said that she disliked the instant fame accorded to her from Last Tango in Paris. She suffered abuse and began taking drugs.

I was rock 'n' roll. About drugs, we did not know at the time, it was so dangerous. There was an ideal, to change society, and especially a thirst for novelty...I have lost seven years of my life and I regret it bitterly...I started using drugs when I became famous. I did not like the celebrity, and especially the image full of innuendo, naughty, that people had of me after Last Tango. In addition, I had no family behind me, who protect you ... I suffered abuse. People who come up to tell you unpleasant things on planes. I was tracked down, and I felt hounded.[15][16]

By the 1980s, however, her life had improved:

"I was very lucky – I lost many friends to drugs – but I met someone in 1980 who helped me stop. I call this person my angel and we've been together ever since. I don't say if it's a man or a woman. That's my secret garden. I like to keep it a mystery."[5]

Death Edit

She died from cancer on February 3, 2011 at age 58.[17][18][19] Remembering her, Bertolucci said, "Her death came too soon, before I could hold her again tenderly, and tell her that I felt connected to her as on the first day, and for once, to ask her to forgive me."[20] "Maria accused me of having robbed her of her youth and only today am I wondering whether there wasn't some truth to that," he added.[21][22]

Her funeral was held on February 10, 2011 at Église Saint-Roch, Paris, attended by actors, directors and producers in French cinema such as Dominique Besnehard, Bertrand Blier, Christine Boisson, Claudia Cardinale, Alain Delon, Andréa Ferreol, as well as her surviving partner, Pia, half-siblings Fiona and Manuel Gélin, and her uncle, Georges Schneider. Delon read a tribute from Brigitte Bardot, who took care of the teenaged Schneider and helped her begin her career in cinema.[23] Schneider was cremated afterwards at Père Lachaise crematorium, and her ashes were later to be scattered at sea at the foot of the Rock of the Virgin in Biarritz, according to her last wishes.[24][25][26][27]

References Edit

  1. Klemesrud, Judy. "Maria Says Her 'Tango' Is Not; Movies", The New York Times, 4 February 1973. Retrieved on 12 May 2010. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 http://movies.yahoo.com/person/maria-schneider/biography.html
  3. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/04/movies/04schneider.html?_r=1
  4. Maria Schneider (English (UK)). Telegraph. Retrieved on 28 March 2012.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Das, Lina. "I felt raped by Brando", 19 July 2007. Retrieved on 3 February 2011. 
  6. Moira Sullivan, "Maria Schneider: Forget Last Tango"(Translation of "Autoportrait: Maria Schneider: Belle et Rebelle"), Jackie Buet, Elizabeth Jenny, Créteil Films de Femmes, 2001 [1]
  7. Jackie Buet, Elizabeth Jenny,"Autoportrait: Maria Schneider: Belle et Rebelle"Créteil Films de Femmes, 2001,[2]
  8. Moira Sullivan,"Interview with Maria Schneider Honored at the 23rd Créteil Films de Femmes International Film Festival, April 4, 2001.[3]
  9. Jackie Buet, Elizabeth Jenny,"Maria Schneider: Belle et Rebelle",[4] Créteil Films de Femmes, 2001.
  10. "La Roue Tourne"
  11. Hadleigh, Boze (2001), The Lavender Screen: The Gay and Lesbian Films, Citadel Press, p. 81, ISBN 0-8065-2199-6 
  12. Abrams, Richard M. (2006), America Transformed: Sixty Years of Revolutionary Change, 1941–2001, Cambridge University Press, pp. 165–6, ISBN 0-521-86246-9 
  13. Ebert, Roger. "Interview with Maria Schneider", Chicago Sun-Times, 14 September 1975. Retrieved on 21 April 2007. 
  14. Maria Schneider Pt. 3: Memoirs of a French Whore, A Woman Like Eve Alt Film Guide, 3 February 2011.
  15. Moira Sullivan, "Maria Schneider: Forget Last Tango" (Translation of "Autoportrait: Maria Schneider Belle et Rebelle"), 2 February2001.[5]
  16. Jackie Buet, Elizabeth Jenny, "Autoportrait: Maria Schneider Belle et Rebelle"[6] Créteil Films de Femmes, 2001.
  17. "Last Tango In Paris star Maria Schneider dies at 58", 3 February 2011. 
  18. Maria Schneider obituary The Guardian, 3 February 2011.
  19. Moira Sullivan,Tribute to Maria SchneiderSenses of Cinema, 14 March 2011.
  20. Prigioniera di quell'"Ultimo tango"—Addio a Maria Schneider La Repubblica, 3 February 2011.
  21. Bertolucci wanted to say sorry for 'Last Tango in Paris' France 24, 3 February 2011.
  22. Remembering Maria Schneider The Daily Beast, 6 February 2011.
  23. "Brigitte Bardot rend hommage à Maria Schneider", 10 February 2011
  24. Mort de Maria Schneider : Son dernier adieu Pure People, 2011-025-07.
  25. Obsèques de Maria Schneider: L'hommage de Brigitte Bardot et Alain Delon Pure People 10 February 2011.
  26. María Schneider; sin tangos pero con emoción en París Prensa Latina 10 February 2011.
  27. Regardez l’adieu bouleversant à l’actrice disparue Gala Magazine 10 February 2011.

External links Edit


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