Maria Schneider was a French actress. At age 19 she became famous for Bernardo Bertolucci's film Last Tango in Paris (1972), and The Passenger (1975).
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.
Her film debut was an uncredited role in The Christmas Tree (1969).
In Last Tango in Paris she performed several nude scenes. After the film release she decided never to work nude again.
In early 1976, she abandoned the film set of Caligula and was replaced by Teresa Ann Savoy.
Her and Brando remained friends until his death.
Schneider died of breast cancer on 3 February 2011 at age 58.
She was originally cast to play the part of "Conchita" in Luis Buñuel's last film That Obscure Object of Desire (1977). She did not get along with the Spanish director and rejected his stereotypical ideas of women for the role he had in mind. After a few days of shooting she was replaced by actresses (Ángela Molina and Carole Bouquet).
Festival Guest of Honor at the Créteil International Women's Film Festival, France. 
Raised by her mother, French model Marie Christine Schneider, near the French border with Germany.
Abandoned a film set and became a voluntary patient at mental hospital in Rome (1975) in order to be her with her girlfriend photographer Joan Townsend. This was at a time before recognition of visiting rights in same sex relationships by hospitals and institutions.
She did finally finish "The Babysitter" and moved to Los Angeles, going on meetings and auditions but refusing to lie down on the casting couch. "She could have had a much bigger career," observed director Penelope Spheeris, a close friend at the time. "But I have a lot of respect for her. Think about it: To be such a sex symbol, to be so profoundly beautiful and have so much charisma and then not be available to men? Hollywood just doesn't stand for that. I don't care what people say, this town is run by men. Always".
Esther Anderson went out with Marlon Brando and was with him when he starred in Last Tango in Paris (1972). She became great friends with Schneider, who featured in the controversial sex scene with Brando at the tender age of 19. "I was with Maria when she saw the film for the first time . . . she was absolutely shocked. She had no idea what they were going to do with her. She ran from the cinema screaming and I had to run after her into the street and comfort her. That film ruined her life".
Personal Quotes (14)
When I read "Last Tango In Paris", I didn't see anything that worried me. I was 20. I didn't want to be a star, much less a scandalous actress--simply to be in cinema. Later, I realized I'd been completely manipulated by [Bernardo Bertolucci and [Marlon Brando].
[asked why she backed out of Caligula (1979)] I am an actress, not a prostitute!
[on Last Tango in Paris (1972)] I felt very sad because I was treated like a sex symbol, I wanted to be recognized as an actress, and the whole scandal and aftermath of the film turned me a little crazy and I had a breakdown.
[on the response of the French press to her being chosen as guest of honor at Créteil Films de Femmes 2001] Very interesting. Because finally after I've been doing this now for 30 years, finally I find some cheerful articles, and you know people kind of understand me better now today than they used to. Because the media threw stones at me. When you read the articles back in the 1970s they were terrible back then. And now seeing the kind of choices I made, they kind of understand me better. And respect me better, maybe it's the age, I don't know.
I wanted to paint, and I studied Latin and Greek. I was a good student, I wanted to make excavations and illustration for children's books, because it is an artistic craft. My mother was a librarian. I was living with her. Then there was May 68 and while my brother became bourgeois, a physician, and demonstrated with red flags, I cried because I could not study. I had quite a violent conflict with my mother, so I left home at fifteen and a half. I earned my living by selling drawings and illustrations for restaurant menus. I have also been a young model for jeans.
[on the butter scene in Last Tango in Paris (1972)] That scene wasn't in the original script. The truth is it was Marlon Brando who came up with the idea. 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 Brando 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 Bernardo Bertolucci. After the scene, Marlon didn't console me or apologize. Thankfully, there was just one take.
Marlon Brando was shy about his body, but nudity wasn't a problem for me in those days as I thought it was beautiful.
It's amazing. I've made 50 films in my career and Last Tango in Paris (1972) is 35 years old, but it's still the one that everyone asks me about.
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.
I've not really forgiven him [Bernardo Bertolucci] for the way he treated me and although we met in Tokyo 17 years ago [in 1990], I ignored him. Plus, he and [Marlon Brando] made a fortune from the movie and I made about £2,500. And Bertolucci was a Communist, too!
I almost refused to do the film [Last Tango in Paris (1972)]. 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.
[asked if the the sex scenes in Last Tango in Paris (1972) were real] Not at all. There was no attraction between us. For me, he was more like a father figure and I a daughter. Marlon Brando said to me, 'You look just like Cheyenne (his daughter Cheyenne Brando, who 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 like to see friends and go to the market and cook. But I never use butter to cook any more. Only olive oil.