A spare, heartbreaking memoir and tribute to Maria Schneider, the 1970s movie starlet who catapulted to fame in the controversial film Last Tango in Paris—only to live the rest of her life plagued by scandal—as told from the perspective of her adoring younger cousin.
The late French actress Maria Schneider is perhaps best known for playing Jeanne in the provocative film Last Tango in Paris, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci and released to international shock and acclaim in 1972. It was Maria’s first major role, alongside film legend Marlon Brando, when she was barely eighteen years old. The experience would haunt her for the rest of her life, traumatizing her and sparking a tabloid firestorm that only ceased when she began to retreat from the public eye nearly two decades later.
To Maria’s much younger cousin, Vanessa Schneider, Maria was a towering figure of another kind—a beautiful and fearsome fixture in Vanessa’s childhood, a rising star turned pariah whose career and struggles with addiction won the family shame and pride in equal measure. Here, Vanessa recounts the challenges of their overlapping youths and fraught adulthood and reveals both the tragedy and inevitability of Maria’s path in a family plagued by mental illness and in a society rife with misogyny.
Unsentimental and suffused with deep love, My Cousin Maria Schneider is the story of a talented artist and the cousin who admired her, and of exploitation and how its lingering effects can reverberate through a lifetime.