Bernardo Bertolucci Biography
Born: March 16, 1940
Date of Birth: March 16, 1940
Born in Parma, Italy, Bernardo Bertolucci attended Rome University and developed a love of both poetry and cinema early in life thanks to his father, the late poet and film critic Attilio Bertolucci. By the time he was 12, Bernardo was a published poet. He won a national literary prize (Viareggio Prize) for his first book of verse, In Cerca del Mistero (In Search of Mystery), when he was 20 and just two years later he made his feature film directing debut.
Bertolucci began to gain attention in North America in 1970 when he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Screenplay for Il conformista (1970). But it was Last Tango in Paris that created an uproar for its explicit scenes involving a middle-aged man (played by Marlon Brando) who has anonymous sex with a young woman (Maria Schneider). The film was called "the most powerfully erotic movie ever made" by The New Yorker’s film critic Pauline Kael. However, though Bertolucci received Best Director nominations from the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes and the Directors Guild of America, the film was banned in his homeland and Bertolucci not only received a four-month suspended sentence, but had his civil rights revoked for five years. His stars were also displeased by the film, with Brando claiming he felt "raped" and Schneider, who was only 19 during filming, said later the movie ruined her life.
Eventually, the director redeemed himself with The Last Emperor (1987), his visually stunning portrayal of the final Emperor of China. The film made over US$100 million at the North American box office and won nine Oscars and four Golden Globes, including Best Screenplay and Best Director for Bertolucci at both ceremonies.
His next film, The Sheltering Sky (1990), starred Debra Winger and John Malkovich. Though Bertolucci was again nominated for a Golden Globe, this time he didn’t take home the prize. Little Buddha, (1993) starring Keanu Reeves, didn’t achieve the success of his earlier films, though his next project, Stealing Beauty (1996), was nominated for a Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival. In 1997 Bertolucci was honored with a Lifetime Achievement award from Camerimage, but he wasn’t yet ready to retire. In 2004, he made headlines again when The Dreamers (2004), about three sexually curious teenagers, was given the go-ahead to run uncut in the United States, complete with close-ups of both male and female genitalia.
Bertolucci, who is married to British filmmaker Clare Peploe, divides his time between homes in Rome and London.