LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — In a harsh and critical statement, actress and filmmaker Asia Argento denied a report Tuesday that she had sex with a 17-year-old Italian actor in Marina del Rey back in 2013, and said it was her late boyfriend Anthony Bourdain’s idea to pay him off.
The New York Times reported Sunday that, following the beginnings of the #MeToo movement, Argento paid a $380,000 settlement to Jimmy Bennett not to disclose allegations that the two had sex five years ago, when she was 37 and he was 17.
Bennett had played Argento’s son in the 2004 film “The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things.”
The Times reported it was sent encrypted information about the dealings between lawyers for Argento and Bennett, including a selfie of the two lying in bed from 2013. As part of the settlement, Bennett, now 22, agreed to give Argento the photograph and its copyright, the paper reported.
The 42-year-old Argento released a statement Tuesday to New York Magazine.
“I strongly deny and oppose the contents of the New York Times article dated 20 August 2018, as circulated also in national and international news,” it read in part. “I am deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false. I have never had any sexual relationship with Bennett.”
Argento went on to accuse Bennett of having a financial motive, including claiming he took advantage of the “great perceived wealth” of her late boyfriend Anthony Bourdain, the acclaimed travel host who committed suicide in June. Argento said it was Bourdain’s idea to pay Bennett the hush money.
“I was linked to him during several years by friendship only, which ended when, subsequently, to my exposure in the Weinstein case, Bennett — who was then undergoing severe economic problems and who had previously undertaken legal actions against his own family requesting millions in damages — unexpectedly made an exorbitant request of money from me,” Argento wrote. “Bennett knew my boyfriend, Anthony Bourdain, was a man of great perceived wealth and had his own reputation as a beloved public figure to protect.”
“Antony (sic) insisted the matter be handled privately and this was also what Bennett wanted. Anthony was afraid of the possible negative publicity that such person, whom he considered dangerous, could have brought upon us. We decided to deal compassionately with Bennett’s demand for help and give it to him. Anthony personally undertook to help Bennett economically, upon the condition that we would no longer suffer any further intrusions in our life.”
In legal documents obtained by the Times, Bennett claims that on May 9, 2013, Argento served him an alcoholic drink at a room in the Marina Del Rey Ritz-Carlton and subsequently performed oral sex on him. The two then had intercourse before she asked him to take photos of them. According to the Times, the meeting was a reunion for the actors.
Argento also referred to Bennett as “my son, my love” in a social media post.
Argento was one of the first women to publicly accuse Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault and rape last year. The settlement is reported to have happened just months after the Weinstein accusations were made public.
According to the Times, Bennett’s initial notice of intent to sue asked for $3.5 million. He claimed he had become broke, earning far less in subsequent years because of the trauma he endured.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said that though it has no report of the alleged incident, it is reaching out to Bennett and his attorneys for an interview.
Bennett declined to comment.