Maria Schneider was born on March 27, 1952, the daughter of French actor
Daniel Gelin and Romanian born Maria-Christine Schneider. Gelin denied
that he was the father, so Maria was raised by her mother in eastern France close to the German border.
Originally studying Greek and Latin, she left home at 16 following an argument with her mother. First trying her hand at modeling and acting, Maria was
finally discovered by Brigitte Bardot, where she had appeared as an extra in the
filming of Les Femmes. After appearing in several French films such as
Les Jambes en L'Air, Helle, and Madly, Maria's international breakthrough came
playing opposite to Marlon Brando in Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in
Paris in 1972. Although only 19 years of age, she appeared in full
frontal nudity, which was very controversial for the time, and the film gained substantial notoriety following an improvised rape scene which had been
orchestrated by Brando.
Thrust into the limelight at a very young age, Ms. Schneider fell into
life in the fast lane. She began to struggle with drug addictions,
including heroin, but still managed to be cast in Michelangelo
Antonioni's classic The Passenger with Jack Nicholson, her last notable film for some time. Following that,
her career began to slide downhill, and she was tagged as
unreliable; walking off the set of Caligula, which she viewed as pornography, and fired from Bunel's Cet Obscur Objet du Desir and Joseph Losey's Les
Routes Du Sud. During the filming of Cari Genitori (Dear Parents) Maria became involved
romantically with American heiress Joan "Joey" Townsend, and became the
object of further scandal when she followed her lover into an Italian mental institution. Unfortunately, Maria also turned down the role of Mary in Zeffirelli's beautiful Jesus of
Nazareth, a decision which she later regretted. In 1979 Maria starred in Een Vrouw Als Eva which has been credited as
one of the first films to portray lesbian relationships in a positive
light. She was nominated for a Cesar for her supporting role in La
Derobade in 1979, a strong film about prostitution. Openly bisexual, she was later romantically linked with Italian actress Stefania Sandrelli during the filming of the feminist Io Sono Mia. In the early 1980s Ms. Schneider became involved in a relationship with Maria Pia Almadio, whom she credited as helping her overcome her drug addiction and getting her life back on track. She called Pia her "angel" and kept her private life out of magazines and newspapers for decades. Maria would remain with Pia until the end of her life. Now clean and sober, Maria Schneider appeared in close to 50 films over her career. She was active in The Wheel Turns, an organization which helps aging French actors. In
2001 Maria was honored at the Creteil Films de Femmes International Film
Festival as well as receiving honors in Italy for her work in Last
Tango. Finally, in June 2010, Maria was awarded the Ordres de la Legion
d'honneur et des Arts et Lettres by the French Minister of Culture in
recognition of her works in cinema. She died of cancer the following year.
Following a funeral service at Saint-Roch Church in Paris on February 10, 2011 which was attended by Alain Delon and other notable French actors, Maria Schneider was cremated at the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris and her ashes sprinkled into the sea at the base of Rocher de la Verge in Biarritz, France.
I created this page in memory of a very beautiful and intelligent actress.