Following a long illness, French actress Maria Schneider has died in Paris at the age of 58.
Almost 40 years ago, she made an indelible impact on Hollywood, moving from model to actress and starring opposite Marlon Brando in Bernardo Bertolucci's controversial 1972 drama, 'Last Tango in Paris.' On paper, working with two cinematic greats should help foster a long and fulfilling career, but as the Guardian describes it, the role "came to both define and destroy her."
The sex in the movie earned the film an X-rating by the MPAA (now downgraded to NC-17), and though she once described those in the production as very close, in later years, she talked of the "suffering" and "compromising" of the film, calling Bertolucci a manipulator.
But the greats of Italian cinema continued to offer the actress her most widespread work. Only a few years later, she worked with Michelangelo Antonioni on 'The Passenger,' a film she called "the dearest to my heart." And though much of the rest of her career dealt with French television and film, she returned to the Italian directorial eye in 1996, playing Bertha in Franco Zeffirelli's 'Jane Eyre.' (Not to mention walking off the set of Tinto Brass's 'Caligula.')
It's easy to wonder what might have been with Schneider, an actress whose English work is almost entirely with the icons of the silver screen, but like many greats, her career was plagued with personal demons. After 'The Passenger,' she fell into a deep addiction to heroin. Her substance abuse kept her from work, there was a suicide attempt, and at one point she checked into a mental asylum. In the 1980s, however, she turned her life around, due to the help of her "personal angel," her "secret garden."
Rest in peace, Ms. Schneider. You are missed.