Asia Argento has denied claims that she had sex with an underage male actor and then paid him off.
The New York Times reported on Sunday that Jimmy Bennett, 22, accused the Italian actress/director of sexually assaulting him in a hotel room in 2013, when he was 17 years old and she was 37. According to the Times, Argento reached a financial agreement with Bennett in the months following Argento’s decision to come forward with sexual assault accusations against disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein.
In a statement obtained by journalist Yashar Ali and shared on Twitter on Tuesday, Argento denied the allegations against her, writing, “I am deeply shocked and hurt having read the news that is absolutely false. I have never had any sexual relationship with Bennett.”
Bennett worked with Argento as a child actor, portraying Argento’s character’s son in a 2004 film Argento directed, “The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things.” Argento and Bennett reportedly referred to each other on social media as mother and son numerous times over the years, the Times reports, including on the day the alleged assault is said to have taken place, when Argento wrote on Instagram that she was “waiting for my long lost son my love [Jimmy Bennett].”
Argento’s statement, however, claimed that she was linked to Bennett for several years “by friendship only,” but the relationship ended when, “subsequent to [her] exposure in the Weinstein case,” Bennett requested an “exorbitant” amount of money. The young actor/musician was “undergoing severe economic problems” at the time, Argento claimed.
“Bennett knew my boyfriend, Anthony Bourdain, was a man of great perceived wealth and had his own reputation as beloved public figure to protect,” she continued. Fearing negative publicity, Bourdain insisted that everything be handled privately, Argento said, and the two decided to “deal compassionately with Bennett’s demands” and honor his request.
“Anthony personally undertook to help Bennett economically, upon the condition that we would no longer suffer any further intrusions in our life,” Argento wrote.
“This is, therefore, the umpteenth development of a sequence of events that brings me great sadness and that constitutes a long-standing persecution,” Argento’s statement continued. “I have therefore no other choice but to oppose such false allegations and will assume in the short term all necessary initiatives for my protection before all competent venues.”
The Times received information regarding Argento and Bennett’s agreement from an anonymous source, who included, along with legal documents that were later verified by three people related to the case, a selfie showing Bennett and Argento lying in bed together. As part of the agreement, Bennett turned over the photo and its copyright to Argento, the Times reports. Argento, meanwhile, agreed to pay Bennett $380,000 over the course of a year and a half, beginning with an initial payment in April totaling $200,000, according to the Times.
Argento did not respond to the Times’ request for comment, the outlet reported.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department announced on Monday that the department’s Special Victims Bureau is currently reaching out to Bennett “and/or his representatives” in an attempt to “appropriately document any potential criminal allegations.”
[Photo: Asia Argento attends the closing ceremony and screening of “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” during the 71st annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 19, 2018 in Cannes, France. By Andreas Rentz/Getty Images]