Maria Schneider (actress)

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Maria Schneider
Maria schneider actress.jpg
Schneider at Créteil Films de Femmes Festival in Paris, 2001
Born Maria-Hélène Schneider
(1952-03-27)27 March 1952
Paris, France
Died 3 February 2011(2011-02-03) (aged 58)
Paris, France
Cause of death Cancer
Nationality French
Occupation Actress
Years active 1969–2008
Partner(s) Pia Almadio
Parent(s) Daniel Gélin (deceased)
Marie-Christine Schneider

Maria-Hélène Schneider, better known as Maria Schneider, (27 March 1952 – 3 February 2011) was a French actress. She became known, at the age of 19, for playing Jeanne opposite Marlon Brando in Bernardo Bertolucci's film Last Tango in Paris (1972); and the Girl in Michelangelo Antonioni's The Passenger (1975), opposite Jack Nicholson.

Early life[edit]

Schneider was born in Paris to Daniel Gélin, a French actor, and Marie-Christine Schneider from Romania, who ran a bookshop in Paris.[2] Gélin was married to actress and producer Danièle Delorme during his affair with Schneider;[3] he never acknowledged Schneider as his daughter.[4] Schneider was brought up by her mother in a town near the French border with Germany; she met her father only three times.[5]

As a teenager, she adored films, going to the cinema up to four times a week. She left home at 15 after an argument with her mother and went to Paris, where she made her stage acting debut that same year.[5] She eked out a living as a film extra and a model.[6] While working as an extra, she met Brigitte Bardot, who knew her father. Bardot offered Schneider a room in her house. Through Bardot, Schneider met people in the film business and Bardot introduced her to the William Morris Agency.[7] She was 18 when she had her first break in 1970, appearing in Madly, starring Alain Delon.[8]


Schneider gained international renown for her performance at the age of 19 in the sexually explicit and controversial Last Tango in Paris (1972), directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. She performed several nude scenes in a graphic portrayal of anonymous sex with an older man. In an interview in 2007,[7] Schneider described the director Bertolucci by the following: "He was fat and sweaty and very manipulative, both of Marlon and myself, and would do certain things to get a reaction from me."[7] As for her working relationship with Brando, she said that he had a paternal relationship with her on the set. But Brando suggested the acted sodomy scene,[7] and Bertolucci did not reveal this scene to her until just before the filming of it. In 2007 she said:

Schneider and Brando remained friends until his death, although they did not speak of the movie "for a while". She has said that due to her experience with the film – and her treatment afterward as a sex symbol rather than as a serious actress – she decided never to work nude again. She also appeared in films such as Michelangelo Antonioni's The Passenger (1975), Boris Szulzinger's Mama Dracula (1980), and Franco Zeffirelli's Jane Eyre (1996).

Schneider worked in more than 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.

Personal life[edit]

In 1974, Schneider came out as bisexual.[12][13] 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.[14][15] This, coupled with her refusal to perform nude, led to Schneider's dismissal from the film. 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.[16]

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.[17][18]

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.[7]


She died from cancer on 3 February 2011 at age 58.[19][20][21] 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."[22] He added, "Maria accused me of having robbed her of her youth and only today am I wondering whether there wasn't some truth to that."[23][24]

Her funeral was held on 10 February 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 and Andréa Ferreol, her girlfriend Pia Almadio, half-siblings Fiona and Manuel Gélin, and her uncle Georges Schneider. Delon read a tribute from Brigitte Bardot.[25][26] Schneider was cremated afterwards at Père Lachaise crematorium, and her ashes were to be scattered at sea at the foot of the Rock of the Virgin in Biarritz, according to her last wishes.[27][28][29]

Legacy and honours[edit]

  • 2001, Schneider was the guest of honor at the 23rd Festival Créteil Films de Femmes.[30] 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.
  • 2001, Schneider was chosen as Vice-President of La Roue Tourne, an organization in Paris organized to support senior French actors and directors.[31] 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.

On 1 July 2010, Schneider was awarded the medal of Chevalier, Ordre des Arts et des Lettres for her contributions to the arts by Minister of Culture and Communication, Frédéric Mitterrand. He had acted with her in Jacques Rivette's film, Merry-Go-Round (1981).

In pop culture[edit]

Schneider was referred to in the title of the song The Vanishing of Maria Schneider on dEUS' 2008 album Vantage Point.

The song "Maria" from the 2012 album Banga by Patti Smith was written in memory of Schneider.



Year Film English Translation/
Also Known As
Role Language
1969 Les Femmes Cameo appearance French
L'Arbre de Noël The Christmas Tree Cameo appearance French
1970 Madly French
1971 Les jambes en l'air a.k.a César Grandblaise Sarah Grandblaise French
1972 Hellé Nicole French
La Vieille Fille The Old Maid Mome French, German
What a Flash! Cameo appearance French
Ultimo tango a Parigi Last Tango in Paris Jeanne French, English
1973 Cari genitori Dear Parents Antonia Italian, English
Reigen (de) Dance of Love Das süße Mädel German
1975 La Baby-Sitter Scar Tissue Michèle English
Professione: reporter The Passenger The Girl English, German, Spanish
1977 Violanta Laura French
1978 Voyage au jardin des morts Hypolyte French
Io sono mia I Belong to Me Suna Spanish
1979 La Dérobade Memoirs of a French Whore Maloup French
Een vrouw als Eva A Woman Like Eve Liliane Dutch
1980 Weiße Reise White Travel German
Haine Hate French
Mama Dracula Mother Dracula Nancy Hawaii French, English
1981 Une saison de paix à Paris a.k.a Sezona mira u Parizu Elen French, Serbian
La chanson du mal aimé French
Merry-Go-Round Leo English
1982 Cercasi Gesù Looking for Jesus
a.k.a L'imposteur
Francesca Italian
Balles perdues Stray Bullets Véra French
1984 Princess & the Photographer a.k.a Yoroppa tokkyu English, Japanese
1987 Résidence surveillée Céline Fontaine French
1989 Bunker Palace Hôtel Muriel
1991 The Conviction
Écrans de sable Sarah French
1992 Au pays des Juliets In the Country of Juliets Raissa
Les Nuits fauves Savage Nights Noria French
1996 Jane Eyre Bertha English
1998 Something to Believe In English
2000 Les Acteurs The Actors Herself French
2002 La Repentie The Repentant French
2004 Au large de Bad Ragaz
2006 Perds pas la boule! Thelda French
Quale amore Italian
2007 La Vie d'artiste The Life of the Artist Cameo appearance French
La clef The Key Solange French
2008 Cliente Client Marie-Hélène French

TV series[edit]

Year Series English Translation/
Also Known As
Role Notes
1984 Buio nella valle TV miniseries
1985 A Song for Europe a.k.a. A Crime of Honor TV film
1987 Résidence surveillée
L'or noir de Lornac TV series
1988 Silvia è sola TV film
1993 Contrôle d'identité TV film
1995 Navarro Samira TV series
Episode: "L'ombre d'un père"
1998 Angelo nero TV film
Il cuore e la spada Queen Maga of Ireland TV film
2004 Maigret TV series
2008 A.D. La guerre de l'ombre TV miniseries


  1. ^ "Maria Schneider dies at 58; actress in 'Last Tango in Paris'", Los Angeles Times, 4 February 2011. "The daughter of French actor Daniel Gélin and a Romanian mother, Schneider was born in Paris on 27 March 1952, and grew up with her mother near the French border with Germany."
  2. ^ Klemesrud, Judy (4 February 1973). "Maria Says Her 'Tango' Is Not; Movies". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 May 2010. 
  3. ^ David Thomson. A Biographical Dictionary of Film. Andre Deutsch. 
  4. ^ "L'actrice française Maria Schneider est décédée", Ozap
  5. ^ a b "Maria Schneider" Archived 8 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine., Movies, Yahoo
  6. ^, New York Times
  7. ^ a b c d e f Das, Lina (19 July 2007). "I felt raped by Brando". Daily Mail. Retrieved 3 February 2011. 
  8. ^ "Maria Schneider". Telegraph. Retrieved 28 March 2012. 
  9. ^ 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]
  10. ^ Jackie Buet, Elizabeth Jenny, "Autoportrait: Maria Schneider: Belle et Rebelle" Archived 28 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine., Créteil Films de Femmes, 2001
  11. ^ Moira Sullivan, "Interview with Maria Schneider Honored at the 23rd Créteil Films de Femmes International Film Festival", April 4, 2001
  12. ^ Hadleigh, Boze (2001), The Lavender Screen: The Gay and Lesbian Films, Citadel Press, p. 81, ISBN 0-8065-2199-6 
  13. ^ Abrams, Richard M. (2006), America Transformed: Sixty Years of Revolutionary Change, 1941–2001, Cambridge University Press, pp. 165–6, ISBN 0-521-86246-9 
  14. ^ Ebert, Roger (14 September 1975). "Interview with Maria Schneider". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 21 April 2007. 
  15. ^ Maria Schneider Pt. 3: Memoirs of a French Whore, A Woman Like Eve Alt Film Guide, 3 February 2011.
  16. ^'s/Parties/La%20Main%20Bleue/slides/Main%20Bleue%20111.html
  17. ^ Moira Sullivan, "Maria Schneider: Forget Last Tango" (Translation of "Autoportrait: Maria Schneider Belle et Rebelle"), 2 February2001.[2]
  18. ^ Jackie Buet, Elizabeth Jenny, "Autoportrait: Maria Schneider Belle et Rebelle""Archived copy". Archived from the original on 28 September 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-08.  Créteil Films de Femmes, 2001.
  19. ^ "Last Tango In Paris star Maria Schneider dies at 58". Daily Mail. 3 February 2011. 
  20. ^ Maria Schneider obituary The Guardian, 3 February 2011.
  21. ^ Moira Sullivan,Tribute to Maria SchneiderSenses of Cinema, 14 March 2011.
  22. ^ Prigioniera di quell'"Ultimo tango"—Addio a Maria Schneider La Repubblica, 3 February 2011.
  23. ^ Bertolucci wanted to say sorry for 'Last Tango in Paris' France 24, 3 February 2011.[dead link]
  24. ^ "Remembering Maria Schneider" The Daily Beast, 6 February 2011.
  25. ^ Obsèques de Maria Schneider: L'hommage de Brigitte Bardot et Alain Delon Pure People 10 February 2011.
  26. ^ "Brigitte Bardot rend hommage à Maria Schneider", 10 February 2011
  27. ^ Mort de Maria Schneider : Son dernier adieu Pure People, 2011-025-07.
  28. ^ María Schneider; sin tangos pero con emoción en París Prensa Latina 10 February 2011.
  29. ^ Regardez l’adieu bouleversant à l’actrice disparue Gala Magazine 10 February 2011.
  30. ^ Jackie Buet, Elizabeth Jenny, "Maria Schneider: Belle et Rebelle",[3] Créteil Films de Femmes, 2001.
  31. ^ "La Roue Tourne"

External links[edit]