The recent revelation that actress Maria Schneider wasn’t advised about what was happening in the Last Tango in Paris rape scene has turned the focus to soaps and how they have handled a difficult storyline.
Former General Hospital star Natalia Livingston shared with The Wrap that her own rape scene on the show in 2006 was handled with caution and care. It shows a stark contrast to how Schneider was treated by director Bernardo Bertolucci and co-star Marlon Brando.
For GH writers, they approached Livingston with the storyline before it was ever put down on paper.
“The writers were very thoughtful in the way that they approached me with the rape story. It was a big deal to them, as it was to me. It wasn’t anything that they took lightly,” she said to The Wrap. “One of the writers had her own experience with rape, and it was really, really important to her that the story be told as truthfully and realistically as possible and that we were able to help the victims in some way.”
To complicate an already sensitive issue, Livingston was dating co-star Tyler Christopher, who played her attacker in the scene.
“I was dating Tyler at the time we shot the scene, which added another layer to everything and made it even harder to film those scenes,” she explained. “When you’re in a relationship, anything physical between the two of you is such a private, personal, in many ways sacred thing. But then you add a storyline like this where you have to act out this horrible, horrible thing with someone you love in your real life, and then they have to do it in front of the whole world. It’s a really hard thing.”
The actors worked together with the directors to give them specifics as to where on her body they were going to film her. Livingston said she knew “exactly what was going to happen, and Tyler knew exactly what he had to do.” There was no “creative license.”
On the set of Last Tango in Paris, it’s clear that Schneider did not have control over what was happening to her body in that scene. Brando and Bertolucci decided to use butter as a sexual lubricant without her knowledge. It was a physical and emotional violation to the actress.
In a 2007 interview, Schneider admitted that filming the scene as a 19 year old inexperienced actress left her traumatized.
“Marlon said to me: ‘Maria, don’t worry, it’s just a movie,’ but 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,” she said to the Daily Mail.
On the set of GH, Livingston described filming as an “out-of-body experience,” which took a little time to recover from, but not in a dramatic way like Schneider.
“After those scenes, there was a recovery period that Tyler and I experienced as actors, where our interactions had to be so soft and gentle,” Livingston shared. “We had to take our time in that way.”
These drastic differences in how a rape scene is approached highlight the need for understanding by everyone involved in the script — from inception of the idea to the execution of the scene. It harkens back to the fact that soaps have tackled social issues for decades in a way that is beneficial not only to the audience watching, but also to the actors.
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