Last Tango In Paris was undoubtedly one of the most influential - and controversial - films of the last century. Starring Marlon Brando, then aged 48 and exuding aggressive masculinity, and Maria Schneider, a 19-year-old French unknown, it featured one of the most infamous movie sex scenes ever filmed.
Denounced as obscene, the film - a tale of lust between an older man and younger woman who meet for anonymous and increasingly racy sexual encounters -was banned in many countries, including areas of Britain. It also scandalised the remaining movie-goers who actually got to see it.
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Last Tango In Paris: Maria Schneider was only 19 when she acted in one of the most infamous movie sex scenes ever filmed
Now Last Tango In Paris is being re-released to mark the 35th anniversary of Bernardo Bertolucci's iconic movie. Despite its notoriety, the film won Oscar nominations for both Bertolucci and Brando and catapulted Schneider to worldwide fame.
Brando's performance was notably intense and described as verging on the autobiographical.
Yet, while Last Tango brought Schneider immediate recognition, the fall-out from the movie for the young actress was spectacular.
Unprepared for the worldwide attention the film brought, she soon embarked on a path of self-destruction with fraught romantic entanglements, suicide attempts and a lapse into drug addiction.
That she is alive - and seemingly at peace these days - is testimony to her fortitude.
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Maria with co-star Marlon Brando: Last Tango In Paris is a tale of lust between an older man and a younger woman who meet for anonymous sexual encounters. In real-life Maria viewed Brando as a father figure
"It's amazing. 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," she says.
Schneider lives in Paris, and at 55, retains the enviable figure that she so magnificently paraded, mostly nude, in Last Tango.
The baby-faced prettiness is still there, if a little more knowing these days, her long, curly hair is pinned up and her face devoid of make-up.
"Marlon was shy about his body, but nudity wasn't a problem for me in those days as I thought it was beautiful," she says, her voice husky and smoke-tinged.
"People still recognise me in the street and say I haven't changed, which is good.
"However, I never went naked in a movie again after Last Tango, even though I was offered many such roles. People today are used to such things but when the film opened in 1972, it was scandalous."
Watching the film now with its over-wrought score, its scenes replete with meaningful silences and its sexual content, much of Last Tango, unlike Schneider, has aged.
Older and wiser: Maria now 55
"I watched it again three years ago after Marlon died and it seems kitsch," she exclaims.
"I think Bertolucci is over-rated and he never really made anything after Last Tango that had the same impact.
"He was fat and sweaty and very manipulative, both of Marlon and myself, and would do certain things to get a reaction from me. Some mornings on set he would be very nice and say hello and on other days, he wouldn't say anything at all.
"I was too young to know better. Marlon later said that he felt manipulated, and he was Marlon Brando, so you can imagine how I felt. People thought I was like the girl in the movie, but that wasn't me.
"I felt very sad because I was treated like a sex symbol - I wanted to be recognised as an actress and the whole scandal and aftermath of the film turned me a little crazy and I had a breakdown.
"Now, though, I can look at the film and like my work in it."
In the film, Schneider plays Jeanne, a girl engaged to a somewhat annoying filmmaker, Tom (Jean-Pierre Leaud), who goes to view an apartment in Paris. There she chances upon Paul (Brando), an American expatriate whose wife has committed suicide.
They have a passionate affair knowing nothing about one another (Paul insists they don't even reveal their names), with a tragic ending.
They engage in some steamy clinches, the most famous involving Schneider face down on the apartment floor while Brando applies butter to her nether regions and performs a sex act on her.
"That scene wasn't in the original script. The truth is it was Marlon who came up with the idea," she says.
"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 Marlon and by Bertolucci. After the scene, Marlon didn't console me or apologise. Thankfully, there was just one take."
Many believed that the sex scenes between Brando and Schneider were for real, but she insists: "Not at all. There was no attraction between us. For me, he was more like a father figure and I a daughter.
"Marlon said to me: 'You look just like Cheyenne (his daughter, who subsequently committed suicide in 1995) with your baby face.'
"He gave me advice about the movie industry.
"When I celebrated my 20th birthday during filming, my trailer was filled with flowers and there was a note saying: 'From an unknown admirer.'
"We stayed friends until the end, although for a while we couldn't talk about the movie. Undoubtedly, my best experience about making the film was my encounter with Marlon.
"I almost refused to do the film. I had an offer to star in another film, with Alain Delon, but my agency, William Morris, said: 'It's a leading role with Marlon Brando - you can't refuse.'
"I was so young and relatively inexperienced and I didn't understand all of the film's sexual content. I had a bit of a bad feeling about it all."
Her instincts were right. Together with the scandal the film created, the media interest in Maria was huge.
"To be suddenly famous all over the world was frightening. I didn't have bodyguards like they do today. People thought I was just like my character and I would make up stories for the press, but that wasn't me."
The whole circus, she says, "made me go mad. I got into drugs - pot and then cocaine, LSD and heroin - it was like an escape from reality. It was the Seventies and at that time, it was all going on.
"I didn't enjoy being famous at all and drugs were my escape. I took pills to try and commit suicide but I survived because God decided it wasn't the time for me to go.
"I suppose it was like a suicide when I overdosed two or three times on drugs, but each time I woke up when the ambulance arrived.
"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."
Schneider's "angel" is likely to be a woman.
She has admitted relationships with women before and, in 1975, went to a mental hospital in Rome and committed herself as a voluntary patient in order to be with her then lover, photographer Joan Townsend.
"She was schizophrenic," Schneider explains. "I wanted to help. She eventually went back home to the States but now, I don't know what has happened to her." Schneider never married, nor did she have children.
"It just wasn't in my destiny and I have no regrets," she says, although she admits to a deep distrust of men.
"Even before my experiences on Last Tango, I found it hard to trust men. I only met my father when I was 15 (French actor Daniel Gelin, who had an affair with Schneider's mother Marie Christine when she was 17) and all the role models in my family were women."
She grew up near the Franco-German border and after an argument with her mother, ran away from home at 15.
Maria moved to Paris, making ends meet by working as an extra and a model and lived alone despite the fact that her father was in Paris - he was unwilling or unable to take in his daughter.
It was Brigitte Bardot, a former co-star of her father's, who came to her rescue. Bardot was horrified that his daughter was left to fend for herself.
"She gave me a room at her place," Maria says, "and it was through her I joined the William Morris Agency. Sometimes, I call her now to see how she is and she is very bitter at the movie industry."
After Last Tango, Schneider's career didn't fare as well as she might have hoped.
In 1975 she made The Passenger with Jack Nicholson, but otherwise, good roles have been sparse. She was due to film Caligula alongside Peter O'Toole and Helen Mirren but walked off when she realised its pornographic content.
She was offered the role of Mary in Franco Zeffirelli's TV spectacular, Jesus of Nazareth, but turned it down - a decision she regrets.
One expects Schneider to be embittered by her experiences, but she is extremely chatty and giggly, although her animosity towards Bertolucci remains undimmed.
"I've not really forgiven him for the way he treated me and although we met in Tokyo 17 years ago, I ignored him," she says cheerfully. "Plus, he and Marlon made a fortune from the movie and I made about £2,500. And Bertolucci was a Communist, too!"
Schneider now runs The Wheel Turns, an organisation which helps ageing actors and performers who suddenly find work drying up.
Schneider herself continues to work, mainly in France and Italy, although she says: "It is not so easy for actresses over 50, and the irony is that when a woman gets old enough to have something interesting to say, people don't want to hear her speak."
She says her pleasures these days are very simple.
"I like to see friends and go to the market and cook. But I never use butter to cook any more," she laughs. "Only olive oil."
• For details on cinemas screening Last Tango In Paris, go to: www.parkcircus.com
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-469646/I-felt-raped-Brando.html#ixzz1CwCYcgEr