Asia Argento poses for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film ‘The Man Who Killed Don Quixote’ and the closing ceremony of the 71st international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, May 19, 2018.(Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)

 

Probably the iconic event of the whole #MeToo purge was this speech by Asia Argento at Cannes where she called out Harvey Weinstein by name and hinted there were others like him present.

“I want to make a prediction: Harvey Weinstein will never be welcomed here ever again,” she said at Cannes on Saturday night. “He will live in disgrace, shunned by a film community that once embraced him and covered up for his crimes.

“And even tonight, sitting among you, there are those that need to be held accountable for their conduct against women for behavior that does not belong in this industry, does not belong in any industry or workplace,” Argento added. “You know who you are. But most importantly, we know who you are, and we’re not going to allow you to get away with it any longer.”

Now the worm, so to speak, has turned:

The Italian actress and director Asia Argento was among the first women in the movie business to publicly accuse the producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. She became a leading figure in the #MeToo movement. Her boyfriend, the culinary television star Anthony Bourdain, eagerly joined the fight.

But in the months that followed her revelations about Mr. Weinstein last October, Ms. Argento quietly arranged to pay $380,000 to her own accuser: Jimmy Bennett, a young actor and rock musician who said she had sexually assaulted him in a California hotel room years earlier, when he was only two months past his 17th birthday. She was 37. The age of consent in California is 18.

That claim and the subsequent arrangement for payments are laid out in documents between lawyers for Ms. Argento and Mr. Bennett, a former child actor who once played her son in a movie.

The documents, which were sent to The New York Times through encrypted email by an unidentified party, include a selfie dated May 9, 2013, of the two lying in bed. As part of the agreement, Mr. Bennett, who is now 22, gave the photograph and its copyright to Ms. Argento, now 42. Three people familiar with the case said the documents were authentic.

According to Rolling Stone:

Argento and Bennett first met in 2004, when the then-seven-year-old was cast as her son in the film The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, based on the book by J.T. Leroy, which Argento directed. In the film, Bennett’s character is assaulted by his mother’s boyfriend. Argento and Bennett kept in touch via social media in subsequent years, jokingly referring to each other as mother and son in tweets and Instagram comments, and Bennett, according to the Times, considered Argento a mentor.

Then, in May 2013, a few months after Bennett turned 17, he and a family member met up with Argento at her hotel room at the Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey, California. According to the Times’ summary of Bennett’s account, Argento asked to be alone with Bennett, and the family member left. According to Bennett, Argento gave him alcohol, then proceeded to kiss him, perform oral sex on him and had sexual intercourse with him. In California, where the age of consent is 18, these acts are considered “unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor” or “statutory rape.”

Just as a sign of the times, there was a time when hit movies featured derivatives of this plot line. Multiple Oscar-nominated film Summer of ’42 features a romance between a 15-year old and a woman in her twenties.

Bennett is suing for $3.5 million in damages for the intentional infliction of emotional distress, lost wages, assault and battery. He claims that his income, more than $2.7 million in the five years before the 2013 meeting with Argento, has dropped to $600K/year since. [I was going to insert a “bad sex” joke here but the #MeToo cops never think it as funny as I do, so I won’t.]

To tell you the truth, other than piling on occasionally to try to help others count coup or take a scalp of some Hollywood progressive I was and remain pretty agnostic on the #MeToo furor. Any movement getting its intellectual content from Rose McGowan is dubious and the existence of the “casting couch” was hardly a newsflash. Just as there is little to no doubt that some of the figures involved are guilty of coercing sex, it is equally obvious, in my opinion, that there was a crap load of willing-buyer-willing-seller going on and that a lot of people in show business, male and female, are willing to trade sex for a career boost. And there were also sour grapes and buyer’s remorse as well as people feeling truly violated. So this story strikes me as particularly ironic and karma-loaded.

During the Al Franken mess, I said that I was willing to bet that we would eventually see senior women in the House and Senate caught up in their own sex-for-job/promotion scandals. Now that the dam has broken with Argento, we’re going to see more of this coming to light.