Politically pioneering Italian director of The Conformist and Last Tango in Paris, who went on to win the best director Oscar for The Last Emperor, dies from cancer
Bernardo Bertolucci, the multi-award-winning Italian director of Last Tango in Paris, The Last Emperor and The Dreamers, has died at the age of 77 after a spell with cancer, his publicist confirmed. He had been confined to a wheelchair for over a decade, after surgery on a herniated disc in 2003 was unsuccessful and rendered him unable to walk.
Bertolucci continued to contribute as a writer and ideas man, notably on Sergio Leone’s epic spaghetti western Once Upon a Time in the West. But his directorial career took off with Before the Revolution (1964), a Parma-set account of a Marxist student’s affair with his aunt, and the highly influential The Conformist (1970), both of which foregrounded Bertolucci’s commitment to radical leftwing politics. “I lived in a kind of dream of communism,” he later remarked.
The Last Emperor, backed by British producer Jeremy Thomas, became Bertolucci’s biggest awards success, with the film-makers having secured unprecedented permission to film inside Beijing’s Forbidden City. Having pulled off a success on such a big scale, Bertolucci remained with Thomas, and the pair went to make The Sheltering Sky, Stealing Beauty, and The Dreamers. In the latter film, Bertolucci returned to the heady mixture of radical politics and eroticism with which he had made his mark decades before.
Bertolucci’s final completed feature was Me and You, adapted from a novel by Niccolò Ammaniti. He had been married since 1978 to film-maker Clare Peploe and had no children.
•This article was amended on 26 November 2018, to correct the year of Bertolucci’s birth.