Asia Argento, the actress whose rape allegations against Harvey Weinstein helped trigger the #MeToo movement, has paid the price for her bravery. "I can't say it helped my life very much," the 47-year-old told AFP. Argento's revelations four years ago that she had been raped by the US producer in 1997 at the age of 21 set off a wave of allegations across the film industry and far beyond. "It became a tsunami," she said. "It didn't help me, it put me in a huge depression, but my conscience told me I had to tell the truth."
The daughter of great Italian horror filmmaker Dario Argento, she is now recounting that episode and the rest of her tumultuous life in an autobiography, "Anatomy of a Wild Heart". It caused a stir when it was published in Italy in January for recounting another alleged sexual assault - this time by Rob Cohen (director of "The Fast and the Furious"). Argento accuses Cohen of drugging and raping her during the filming of "xXx" in 2002. Cohen has denied the accusation, but faces other sexual assault claims, including by his own daughter.
'Loses its meaning'
Despite the whirlwind it caused, Argento has no regrets about speaking out against Weinstein. "When I discovered that there were several women who experienced the same thing... that this guy was a serial predator... I couldn't escape this voice that told me: 'How will you feel if you know all this and you dont' say anything,'" she told AFP.
"And it wasn't a failure, because I succeeded in sending this guy to prison." Weinstein was found guilty in 2020 of dozens of charges of rape and sexual assault, and sentenced to 23 years in prison. He is appealing the verdicts. But she has mixed feelings about the MeToo movement, fearing it has become "almost a fashionable thing". "When we hear a word too many times, it loses its meaning. When we speak about something too much, it becomes hysterical."
Argento has faced her own accusations, accused by former child actor Jimmy Bennett of sexually assaulting him when he was 17. Argento denies the charges, saying Bennett, who once played her son in a movie, was obsessed with her and was trying to extort money from her boyfriend, the celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. According to her lawyer, Bourdain chose to pay Bennett $380,000 for his silence but she froze the remaining payments after Bourdain's death by suicide in 2018. Today, she avoids the subject, telling AFP: "These are things that don't belong to my present. I don't carry any resentment."
'Not my fight'
Argento does, however, resent the idea of being "a symbol" of any women's movement. "I thought my mother had carried out the fight for women's liberation, sexual liberation... To find myself now talking about the same thing, it bothers me a little. "It's not my fight, I did what I had to do, it doesn't interest me." Her autobiography is the account of a tumultuous life, a wild but painful childhood in Rome, trapped with a neglectful father and violent mother.
It hardly calmed down after that as she found success in acting, directing and music in a swirl of drugs, love affairs and tragedy - not least the shocking death of Bourdain. For the "eternally misunderstood", as she sees herself, the writing has been an act of therapy. "When I vomited all this on to the paper, I could take a step back and look at it with some distance, like looking at a painting. "If others can see what I am, and recognize themselves in this painting of my life, I might feel less alone." - AFP