Asia Argento left the crowd stunned during the Cannes Film Festival’s Closing Ceremony on Saturday.
The Italian actress and director was among the first to speak publicly about Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual misconduct, having shared her story for inclusion in The New Yorker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Weinstein exposé. During her latest speech at the internationally acclaimed film festival on Saturday, Argento took aim not only at the fallen Hollywood exec, but at the culture of silence that allows predatory behavior to pervade all industries unchallenged.
“In 1997, I was raped by Harvey Weinstein here at Cannes. I was 21 years old. This festival was his hunting ground,” Argento said, with director and Cannes jury member Ava DuVernay standing beside her. DuVernay is also a member of Time’s Up Women of Color committee. “I want to make a prediction: Harvey Weinstein will never be welcomed here ever again. He will live in disgrace, shunned by a film community that once embraced him and covered up for his crimes.”
She went on, “Even tonight, sitting among you, there are those who still have 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. 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.”
In The New Yorker’s Weinstein piece published last year, Argento alleged that Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her in 1997. She explained to the publication that she never spoke out about what happened out of fear that Weinstein would “crush” her.
“I know he has crushed a lot of people before,” Argento said. “That’s why this story — in my case, it’s twenty years old, some of them are older — has never come out.”
Filomena Cusano, Weinstein’s attorney in Italy, told NBC News that she was at the festival during Argento’s speech on Saturday and called the allegations against her client “completely false.”
“Mr. Weinstein and Ms. Argento had a consensual relationship; Ms. Argento then starred in Mr. Weinstein’s film B. Monkey in 1998, in which Argento was excellent, and she herself said was a fantastic role for her,” Cusano said in a statement to NBC News. “After that, she wrote a script for Mr. Weinstein about Italian director Vittorio De Sica that he wishes could have been produced. This is clearly a painful moment for Ms. Argento, but it is a false narrative. Harvey has only respect for her and wishes her well.”
Argento responded to Cusano’s statement in a series of tweets on Monday, writing alongside one screenshot of Cusano’s quotes, “Note to media: stop asking Spa Boy or his representatives for ‘comment’ every time you write an article about me or my fellow survivors. Rape and sexual assault is the only violent crime where the media plays this stupid charade.”
She wrote in another tweet, “You don’t ask a sociopath to comment, because the sociopath will lie. Consensual relationship, my ass. I was raped by this monster, dammit. AFTER I had shot B. Monkey. Stalked and sexually-harassed for years. Enough! #BelieveWomen”
[Photo: Asia Argento raises her arm as jury member Ava DuVernay watches on stage during the Closing Ceremony at the 71st annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 19, 2018 in Cannes, France. By Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images]