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.
About the Author
Vanessa Schneideris a French journalist and author of the bestselling and award-winning memoir Tu T’Appelais Maria Schneider,published in France in 2018. Vanessa is also the author of two novels, La Mère de ma mère and Do Not Go Crazy. Tu T’AppelaisMaria Schneider is the first of her books to be translated into English. She is currently a staff writer at M magazine in France and regularly contributes to the programs C dans l’air on France.5 and As We Talk on France International.
Molly Ringwald’s writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Guardian, and Vogue, and she is the author of the bestselling novel-in-stories When It Happens to You. She previously translated Lie with Me, a novel by Philippe Besson.
“Elegantly translated from the French by Molly Ringwald, My Cousin Maria Schneider is both a beautiful eulogy and a much-needed corrective — an opportunity to finally set the record straight... a generous account of a rare and complicated cinematic star.”—Thessaly La Force, The New York Times
"“The new memoir My Cousin Maria Schneider, by Vanessa Schneider, Maria’s 17-year-younger relative and a veteran journalist for Le Monde, tells a nuanced tale of what it was like to orbit Maria, a “precious, broken family jewel,' and is deftly translated from the French by Molly Ringwald, herself once a teenage acting sensation.”—Air Mail
“The book, written in the present tense, as if Vanessa is writing directly to her cousin, has a sad immediacy. Still, there are wonderful moments of enduring joy, connection and discovery.”—The Washington Post
"A terrific translation by fellow actress Ringwald makes this concise, harrowing book a powerful read."—Library Journal
"A touching tribute... Maria Schneider, with all her adventures and struggles, deserves to be better remembered, and her cousin shows us why. This stunning tale of Maria Schneider and her battles is stark yet consistently loving—and unforgettable."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Translated by actress Ringwald, this is an intriguing addition to the growing body of literature reexamining women's agency through a post-#MeToo lens.”—Booklist
“With devastating power and great originality of style, this gorgeous memoirshows the film industry’s brutality toward young women and the ways in which shame can waft into a sensitive girl’s bedroom like a draft under a door. In Molly Ringwald’s luminous translation, Vanessa Schneider’s love letter to her famous actress cousin—and to her own 1970s French bohemian childhood—delivers the emotional impact of great fiction while also faithfully telling an important true-life story about misogyny in our time.” —Ada Calhoun, author of Why We Can’t Sleep and Also a Poet
"Composed like a posthumous love letter to her cousin, Vanessa Schneider's memoir captures their sisterly bond with tenderness and grace. It is an exquisite portrait of a tragic heroine, whose story offers a heartrending example of the cruelty of powerful men” —Violaine Huisman, author of The Book of Mother
"Bertolucci made Maria Schneider a star and ruined her life when he cast her in Last Tango in Paris (1972). At 19, she was an authentic sensation and the hottest thing on screen. She was also an exploitable sex object—Bertolucci and Brando, Maria’s co-star, never told her that Brando was going to shove butter between her legs—and the butt of a very dirty joke. Aided by translator Molly Ringwald (who understands better than most how perilous the film business can be for young actresses), Vanessa tells Maria’s story with empathy and indignation. By the end of the book, the reader understands what it’s like to live a life in which public and private, personality and persona violently clash, a life without a safety net."—Lili Anolik, author of Hollywood's Eve
"In this lovingly written memoir we read our way through the operatic coming of age story of Maria Schneider, the young French actor, who dives gracefully into the combat zone of the extremely competitive film industry, surfaces many times, and then loses sight of land in her own struggle with drugs. I had to know, had to read about Maria as told by her younger, adoring and devoted cousin, Vanessa."—Deborah Harry, author of Face It, co-founder and frontwoman of Blondie
"Misogyny haunts Vanessa Schneider’s gently disturbing memoir. As she grows up alongside her older movie star cousin, Maria Schneider, she grapples with a world that valorizes Maria’s onscreen rape by one of Hollywood’s greatest legends. Molly Ringwald’s translation from the French bears witness to an intimate and delicate reckoning. May all the girls we didn’t protect haunt us forever."—Writer Director Stewart Thorndike
International praise for My Cousin Maria Schneider
“Schneider breathes life back into Maria through this beautiful text—a story with its share of joys and monsters, where emotion is always just beneath the surface.”—Marie-France
“An elegy that never gushes... taut with restrained emotion.”—Livres Hebdo
“A devastating book.”—Vogue France
“As disturbing as it is moving, this book reminds us that Maria Schneider was also, beyond the legend, a woman full of life.”—Madame
“Vanessa Schneider’s writing rings strong and true.”—Challenges