Bernardo Bertolucci, Oscar-Winning 'Last Tango in Paris' Director, Dies at 77

Oscar-winning director Bernardo Bertolucci has died at the age of 77 following a battle with cancer.

News of his death was confirmed to Variety by Bertolucci’s publicist, Flavia Schiavi, who said that the 77-year-old passed away at his home in Rome at 7 a.m. Monday. He had been suffering from cancer.

A product of Italian New Wave cinema’s golden era, the Parma-born Bertolucci got his start in the business as a poet, winning an award for poetry at the age of 21 before deciding to become a filmmaker. He began as an assistant for Pier Paolo Pasolini, a poet, on Pasolini’s first feature Accattone. Just a year later, in 1962, Bertolucci released his feature film, The Grim Reaper, and two years after that, his semi-autobiographical Before the Revolution was in the Cannes Critics’ Week lineup.

It was Bertolucci’s 1972 film Last Tango In Paris that earned him international attention and infamy. Starring Marlon Brando as a middle-aged American in emotional exile who meets a young Frenchwoman, portrayed by Maria Schneider, while in Paris searching for an apartment, the film was equally praised and condemned, becoming regarded as one of the most important films of the 20th century while also drawing controversy for its graphic and violent content.

The film would go on to land Bertolucci in trouble with the law, with Bertolucci losing his civil rights for five years after his homeland brought him up on charges of obscenity. The political exile inspired his “faraway movies,” including The Last Emperor.

Following news of his death, those in Hollywood paid tribute to the late multi-Oscar winner.

“He was like a brother to me. We spoke very regularly. It is a tough day. He was a wonderful man, one of the greats and the best of collaborators. He was a monumental and inspirational figure, the last of the great Italian filmmakers from that era,” The Last Emperor and The Dreamers producer Jeremy Thomas told Deadline.

“RIP, Maestro, Bernardo Bertolucci. From The Conformist to Last Tango to The Last Emperor, your brilliance resonates with yours truly,” Carl Weathers tweeted.

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Throughout his career, Bertolucci earned a number of accolades, including the Cannes Film Festival’s Honorary Palme d’Or for lifetime achievement and the Venice Film Festival’s Honorary Golden Lion.

Bertolucci is survived by his third wife, screenwriter and director Clare Peploe. He will be laid to rest in a private funeral later this week followed by a memorial ceremony open to the public that is currently being organized.