Bernardo Bertolucci, the Italian director known for a colorful style and for directing such disparate films as Last Tango in Paris and The Last Emperor, died in Rome Monday.
He was 77.
THR reports Bertolucci's spokesperson announced his death was from cancer.
Bertolucci directed his first film in 1962 — at just 22 — a murder mystery fueled by flashbacks entitled La commare secca.
With his very next production, Prima della rivoluzione (1964), the self-proclaimed Marxist began dabbling in the type of political drama that would character some of his work, most notably the widely praised, heavily stylish anti-fascist film The Conformist/Il conformista (1970).
Bertolucci's most controversial claim to fame — or notoriety — was 1972's Last Tango in Paris. The Marlon Brando (1924-2004) starrer depicted sexuality and sexual violence in such a raw and frank manner it was condemned and celebrated, and frequently censored. An anal rape scene in the film — in which Brando's character uses butter as a lubricant — became at first a sensation and later a flashpoint that seriously married Bertolucci's reputation when actress Maria Schneider (1952-2011) alleged in 2006 that it was not in the script and left her feeling "a little raped" by Brando and the director, who had not told her in advance it would happen. decades later, she spoke of being traumatized by the scene, and she seemed to be the only participant who was damaged by the scandal of the scene, turning to drugs and sinking into depression.
Ultimately, Last Tango in Paris was first slammed for being too erotic, and later slammed for gorifying — even committing — sexual assault.
Bertolucci followed it with the lumbering period piece 1900 (1976), starring Robert De Niro (b. 1943) and Gérard Depardieu (b. 1948), which at over 300 minutes was infamous for bieng one of the longest feature films ever released.
He continued working in Italy, mostly to acclaim, then reached the pinnacle of success with his 1987 epic The Last Emperor, the first film authorized by the People's Republic of China to shoot in the Forbidden City.The drama about the rise to the throne of China's last monarch was nominated for — and won — nine Academy Awards, including Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay for Bertolucci.
Other films of note include The Sheltering Sky (1990) with Debra Winger (b. 1955) and John Malkovich (b. 1953); Little Buddha (1993) with Keanu Reeves (b. 1964); Stealing Beauty (1996) with Liv Tyler (b. 1977), Joseph Fiennes (b. 1970) and Jeremy Irons (b. 1948); and The Dreamers (2003), which married the director's passion for florid period pieces with his reputation for unrestricted sexuality, earning an NC-17 rating for nude romps by its stars Michael Pitt (b. 1981), Eva Green (b. 1980) and Louis Garrel (b. 1983).
Bertolucci's last film, Me and You (2012), was based on a young adult novel, and was a simple romantic drama.
He is survived by his wife of 39 years, screenwriter Clare Peploe (b. 1942).