Asia Argento, the Italian actress who helped expose Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein last October, quietly settled her own sexual assault scandal as the #MeToo movement swelled, the New York Times reported Monday.
According to the Times, Argento — who helped to set off the movement alongside a host of Weinstein victims and her then-boyfriend, Anthony Bourdain — paid $380,000 last year to a 22-year-old actor named Jimmy Bennett, who alleged she sexually assaulted him in a hotel room several years ago. Argento was 37 at the time, while Bennett was 17. The age of consent in California, where the alleged assault occurred, is 18.
The legal documents obtained by the Times detail the encounter, which allegedly began when Bennett was dropped off at the hotel by a family member, who Argento later dismissed “so she could be alone with the actor.” According to the documents, Argento then gave Bennett alcohol, kissed him, removed his pants, performed oral sex on him, and initiated intercourse. When the encounter was over, “she then asked him to take a number of photos,” the Times reports. Then, according to the documents, they had lunch and Bennett went home.
Bennett’s decision to come forward was apparently sparked by Argento’s prominent role in the #MeToo movement. “His feelings about that day were brought to the forefront recently when Ms. Argento took the spotlight as one of the many victims of Harvey Weinstein,” his attorney, Gordon K. Sattro, wrote in a 2017 letter to Argento’s legal team.
The actress Rose McGowan, a Weinstein victim and another prominent voice of the #MeToo movement, said Monday that she was broken-hearted by the news but cautioned people to wait for more details before judging.
“I got to know Asia Argento 10 months ago. Our commonality is the shared pain of being assaulted by Harvey Weinstein. My heart is broken. I will continue my work on behalf of victims everywhere,” McGowan tweeted. “None of us know the truth of the situation and I’m sure more will be revealed. Be gentle.”
It’s not clear how the pair met, but a decade before the alleged assault, Bennett played Argento’s son in the film “The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things.” After the film, Bennett believed a “mother-son relationship had blossomed from their experience on set together,” Sattro said in the same letter. Social media posts unearthed by the Times seem to confirm Argento publicly referred to Bennett as her “son” multiple times on the day of the alleged assault.
Argento has two biological children: a 17-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old son.
Details of the settlement, including an unpublished selfie of the two in bed dated May 9, 2013, were leaked to the Times from an unidentified source using an encrypted email. According to the Times, Argento, two of her agents, and her attorney all declined to comment or respond to the allegations, but a source told the paper Bourdain “helped Ms. Argento navigate the matter” before he committed suicide in June. Argento began paying out the settlement in April, making an initial payment of $200,000, the Times reports. The remaining $180,000 was to be paid out by the end of 2019.
Because the full story spans several decades and gives new context to some of the biggest entertainment headlines of the century, VICE News broke down the new allegations into a larger timeline outlining Argento, Bennett, Weinstein, and Bourdain’s involvement over the years.
1997: Weinstein allegedly assaults Argento in a France hotel room, setting off a sexual relationship that lasts several years.
2000: Argento’s film “Scarlet Diva” is released, which includes a thinly fictionalized scene depicting Weinstein’s initial hotel room assault.
2004: “The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things” begins production with Argento starring and Bennett cast as her son. According to IMDB, the film was rated R for “intense depiction of child abuse/neglect,” including scenes where Bennett’s character is physically and sexually abused.
August 9, 2012: Argento writes on Twitter that her 11-year-old daughter has had a crush on Bennett “since she was 2!”
March 22, 2013: Argento tweets “love you for life” at Bennett
March 23, 2013: Argento tweets a photograph of herself and Bennett, referring to the actor as her son.
May 9, 2013: Argento posts several photographs on Instagram showing her and Bennett together in at least two different locations, with captions referring to the actor as “my son.” She also tweets around 11 a.m. that she is “Waiting for my long lost son @JimmyBennett in the hotel room.”
May 9, 2013: Argento and Bennett take a selfie in bed together in a California hotel room. According to legal documents obtained by the Times, the pair had sex even though Bennett was under the age of consent.
June 8, 2013: Bennett sends Argento a Twitter message saying “Miss you momma!!!!” with a photo of him wearing a bracelet she had made for him after their film wrapped, the Times reports.
Dec. 4, 2013: Argento tweets that she misses Bennett
October 2014: Bennett sues his parents, alleging they stole $1.5 million he had earned as a child actor, leaving him broke and behind on his rent, the Times reports.
December 2014: Bennett’s case against his parents is reportedly settled.
2016: Bourdain and Argento meet on the set of his travel and food show “Parts Unknown” and later begin dating.
Oct. 10, 2017: A New Yorker article detailing Harvey Weinstein’s decades of sexual abuse, including his alleged assault of Argento, is published, setting off the #MeToo movement.
November 2017: Bennett files a notice of intent to sue with Richard Hofstetter, Bourdain’s attorney who was also representing Argento at the time, reportedly alleging “intentional infliction of emotional distress, lost wages, assault and battery.”
Nov. 6, 2017: The New Yorker reports Weinstein hired a private firm backed by former Mossad agents to dig up dirt on his alleged victims and intimidate them.
Nov. 14, 2017: McGowan turns herself in to Virginia police on charges of drug possession stemming from a January incident where two bags of cocaine were allegedly found inside a wallet McGowan left behind on a plane. McGowan says she believes the drugs were planted and related to her accusations against Weinstein, telling the New Yorker the wallet was recovered not long after she had tweeted about being raped by a studio head, and under suspicious circumstances. For one thing, she says, she believes the wallet was stolen from her bag when she got up to use the restroom. And though police initially declined to tell her what they had found, asking her only to return to Virginia to claim the wallet, she later received an anonymous message saying, “You left your wallet on your Saturday flight with your 2 bags of coke.”
April 2018: Argento makes a $200,000 payment to Bennett, with an agreement to pay another $180,000 by the end of 2019. The Times reports "Mr. Bourdain helped Ms. Argento navigate the matter."
May 19, 2018: Argento delivers a passionate speech at the Cannes film festival calling for the shunning of sexual predators and denouncing those who had “still not been called to account for their conduct against women.” Bourdain posts multiple video clips of the speech praising Argento and the #MeToo movement.
June 7, 2018: Photographs are published of Argento in Rome kissing and caressing a reporter.
June 8, 2018: Bourdain commits suicide in France.
July 2018: Argento likes a selfie Bennett posted on Instagram, the Times reports.
Aug. 20, 2018: The Times publishes the first account of the assault allegations against Argento
Cover image: Asia Argento speaks at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., on April 13, 2018. Photo by Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images.