'Last Tango' director Bertolucci (77) dies after long illness
ITALIAN director Bernardo Bertolucci, whose 1972 movie 'Last Tango In Paris' shocked audiences with a notoriously explicit scene that came back to haunt him in his later years, has died aged 77.
Bertolucci died yesterday at his home in Rome after a long illness, his publicist said. He had been in bad health for years and used a wheelchair since the early 2000s following a back operation.
'Last Tango', which starred Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider, was banned in several countries, including Italy, where it was not released for viewing until early 1987.
It won Bertolucci an Oscar nomination and burnished his international reputation, but his follow-up '1900', a five-hour historical epic starring Robert De Niro, Gerard Depardieu, Donald Sutherland and Burt Lancaster, marked the start of a period of commercial flops.
He burst back with 'The Last Emperor' in 1987, shot by his long-time cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, which took all nine Oscars for which it was nominated.
Born in Parma in central Italy, Bertolucci began writing poetry as a child and won a national poetry prize as a student in Rome.
At 15, he borrowed a camera to make 16mm silent shorts, and in 1961 he dropped out of college to become assistant director to the young Pier Paolo Pasolini on 'Accattone'.
The turning point in his career came in 1970, when he made two outstanding films, 'The Spider's Stratagem' and an adaptation of Alberto Moravia's novel 'The Conformist'.
'Last Tango' aroused controversy because of its explicit sex - in particular an anal rape scene, with Schneider telling a newspaper in 2011 that she had felt "humiliated" by the scene.
The controversy resurfaced in 2016 when a video emerged of Bertolucci telling a class: "I had been, in a way, horrible to Maria because I didn't tell her what was going on."
Responding to outrage, the director said Schneider had known everything about the scene in advance, except the use of butter, which he had discussed with Brando just before shooting.