Asia Argento has broken her silence to speak of her rift from Rose McGowan, the fellow MeToo activist whom she once considered a ‘sister’ – and the bombshell allegation Argento had underage sex with Jimmy Bennett.
The actress speaks out in the second part of an exclusive DailyMailTV interview in which she has already spoken of her agony at Anthony Bourdain’s death and told of her agony at being accused of driving him to suicide by cheating on him, revealing that they had an open relationship.
Now she speaks out about her horror at being accused of sexually assaulting Bennett when he was 17, repeating in the interview that she was the victim, that Bennett jumped on her and that she ‘froze’.
And she revealed she was told by McGowan’s partner Rain Dove Bourdain died with a prostitute after injecting heroin through his neck – and was presented with what Dove told her were her lover’s ashes.
Argento shared text messages with McGowan and with Dove which she say back her astonishing tale.
In the texts Dove tells her the prostitute was wearing a hijab, that someone had obtained Bourdain’s toxicology report, and that he had hanged himself because he did not want it to be known he had overdosed. None of those claims were true.
And Argento addresses personally and emotionally the allegations of sexual assault made against her by former child actor Bennett, 22, who worked with the Italian actress and director when he was just nine.
She broke down in tears as she told DailyMailTV: ‘I was the one who was assaulted. It was painful.’
Speaking out: Asia Argento has hit back at her accuser Jimmy Bennett and her once close friend Rose McGowan in a searing interview with DailyMailTV
MeToo sisters: Asia Argento and Rose McGowan shared an intense bond after both accusing Harvey Weinstein of rape and being at the forefront of speaking out about sexual harrasment and violence
Partners: McGowan and her partner Rain Dove, 28 are now at odds with Asrgento. Anthony Bourdain’s grief-stricken partner accuses Dove of trying to smear Bourdain as dying with a prostitute and overdosing on heroin. In fact he hanged himself alone
The revelation in August that Argento had sex with Bennett and then agreed to pay him $380,000 four years later hit the actress and the MeToo movement like a bomb going off.
Argento initially denied they had had sex. When texts leaked two days later that showed her saying ‘he jumped me’, Argento said through an attorney that she was the victim, not Bennett.
A week later, McGowan released a lengthy statement saying that her partner Dove had told her that Argento had slept with Bennett.
‘Rain also shared that Asia had stated that she’d been receiving unsolicited nudes of Jimmy since he had been 12. Asia mentioned in these texts that she didn’t take any action on those images,’ McGowan claimed.
Today Argento blasts those clams as lies, saying that she never received such messages from Bennett.
In a searing and emotional interview Argento said: ‘I didn’t speak earlier because I was in unimaginable pain for the loss of my partner. I just thought I would never be able to get up again.
‘What made me take the strength to talk to you today is the rage I felt when both Rose McGowan and Rain Dove started and kept on saying these lies about me, saying that I received nude photographs from Bennett since he was 12 years old.
‘The fact that she has not retracted these lies and the fact that she didn’t say she was sorry made me decide to bring a lawsuit [which she has yet to file] against her because it’s unacceptable.
‘This has destroyed my life. These lies have destroyed my life.’
It is a stark statement when set in the context of just how much Argento has endured in the past year as she has gone from accuser to accused; MeToo heroine to a woman rejected by the movement; and most of all, from in love to bereaved.
Last October she was among the first alleged Weinstein victim to speak up and be named in a New Yorker article that started a swell that built to what Argento calls the ‘MeToo tsunami.’
People who had never heard of the Italian – who has won numerous awards in her native country including a David di Donatello, the Italian equivalent of an Oscar – were suddenly talking about her and the fact that she was dating beloved celebrity chef and CNN host, Anthony Bourdain, only added to the luster of her global celebrity.
Bennett was among those watching Argento’s growing fame. One month after the New Yorker article Bennett wrote to Argento, who played the role of his mother in the 2004 movie The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things.
In his letter he threatened to make public a sexual encounter between them that took place in California when he was 17 and she was 37. The legal age of consent is 18 in California.
For Argento it was, she said, a painful reminder of a ‘traumatic experience’ she thought she’d lain to rest years earlier.
She said, ‘I had to go to a therapist. When me and Anthony were together we told each other everything and I told him also about this experience that happened in 2013.
‘I was the one who was assaulted [so getting the letter] was painful. ‘
In leaked texts exchanged between Argento and Rain Dove, Argento described Bennett as a ‘horny kid’ and stated, ‘he jumped me.’
Bennett himself gave a television interview in Italy this week about the incident only to be ridiculed by the host who pointed out that he did not seem traumatized and asked him if he had ejaculated during the ‘rape.’
But Argento retains some sympathy for her accuser. She told DailyMailTV of Bennett: ‘I understood why [he made his approach] at the time when it did because it was right after the article had come out talking about Harvey Weinstein and the whole MeToo tsunami exploded.
‘So it was calculated. Also I was going out with somebody whose wealth and fame far exceeded my own so it was clear that it was an attempt to get money from him.’
Counter-claimArgento has denied claims that she sexually assaulted actor Jimmy Bennett when he was 17. She claims the teen assaulted her in 2013 and the ‘traumatic’ experience led her to seek therapy
Her side: Asia Argento said that although Bennett (pictured as a young boy in 2004) assaulted her, she ‘felt sorry for the child I had met, that I cared so much about,’ because he ‘needed money’
Her side: Jimmy Bennett appeared on an Italian television program in his first TV interview where he was ridiculed for claiming he was sexually assaulted by a woman
Asia said that her strategy was not to deal with this ‘terrorism’ but to simply let it out. At first, she said, Bourdain went along with her decision.
She recalled, ‘But then he told me it was better for him [to pay Bennett]. We understood because there was some PI investigation that he had problems financially.
‘His parents had taken $1.2million from him. He wasn’t working, his life was a mess.
‘He had been accused by an ex girlfriend of child pornography, child molestation.
‘And in a way it saddened me even though he assaulted me. I felt sorry for the child I had met, that I cared so much about. I knew in my heart he was in pain and he needed money.
‘I was going out with somebody whose wealth and fame far exceeded my own so it was clear that it was an attempt to get money from him.
‘This guy had problems financially… he had been accused by an ex-girlfriend of child pornography child molestation so in a way it saddens me even though he assaulted me.
‘So Tony said ok let’s give this guy money [01:09:04] so that he will leave us alone in our relationship.’
In fact Bennett’s ex-girlfriend – an actress – had sought a restraining order against him in spring 2014, in which she told a judge in a written statement that she has sought to press charges of unlawful sex with a minor – when she was 17 – and child pornography – persuading her to send nudes when she was 17 – against him.
Los Angeles Police Department has not confirmed it received a complaint.
Bennett and his parents settled a court case in which he alleged they swindled him out of $1.5 million in earnings.
‘Ashes’: Asia Argento says she was presented with his package of what she was told were Bourdain’s cremains. In fact they were not
Bourdain agreed to pay Bennett $380,000 though Argento insisted that there be no non-disclosure agreement because she did not want to be accused of silencing anyone.
It was a gesture of goodwill she has lived to regret.
Both she and Bourdain wanted to ‘get him out of our lives,’ she said.
Ultimately Bourdain had paid Bennett $250,000 at the time of his suicide at the beginning of July.
Argento has since stopped any further payments.
But however much she felt pained by Bennett’s approach and ‘extortion’ it was to be Rose McGowan’s actions that cut Argento to the quick.
Argento’s first contact with McGowan was a pivotal moment in her life. She explained, ‘I was following Rose on social media and she was referring to this ‘monster’ and I immediately made the connection [to Weinstein].
‘So I texted her and we spoke one night. It was exactly a year ago and it was my first Me Too. She was the first person, another Weinstein victim, I was talking to.
‘For me it was a cathartic moment. And for that I’ll always be grateful to her because it gave me strength.
‘It felt like a relief sharing such a terrible experience that was a shame in my life, even though the shame should have been on the predator I lived it in silence for many years.’
The women’s friendship was forged through their shared trauma and their united goal to use it to bring about a cultural change.
I thought, ‘My sister is coming here, to see me, to lift me.’ I thought it was incredibly kind of her to come and help me
To Argento, McGowan was ‘a sister.’ They even got matching tattoos -a simple dot on Argento’s ankle that is a marked contrast to the intricate ink of Argento’s many other tattoos. (She now plans to have it erased).
And when the unthinkable happened and Argento received the devastating news that Bourdain, her lover and confidante of two years, had taken his own life in a French hotel room McGowan’s phone call was one of the very few she answered.
She recalled, ‘Rose said she was in Europe that she would come and see me.
‘What I didn’t know is that she… told, this notion that she was coming to ‘my rescue’ in an interview.’
Today, she said, she views McGowan’s actions as nothing but a ‘publicity stunt.’
She said, ‘I was completely numb, paralyzed, obviously I wasn’t reading. I didn’t even want to read the details of Anthony’s death. I was frightened to know.
‘I found out later that she had given this information to the news so already it was like a publicity stunt but I didn’t see it.
‘I thought, “My sister is coming here, to see me, to lift me.” I thought it was incredibly kind of her to come and help me.’
The day after Bourdain died Argento went back to work on Italian X-Factor on which she was a judge. She had a choice, she said, – work or never get up again. Today she credits that work with saving her life.
When the unthinkable happened and Argento received the devastating news that Bourdain, her lover and confidante of two years, had taken his own life in a French hotel room McGowan’s phone call was one of the very few she answered
Looking back at those days immediately after Bourdain’s death Argento reflected, ‘At this time I was so lost in my mind that I was very easily manipulated and brainwashed’
She has been forced to step down from the role in the wake of the Bennett allegations.
Looking back to the days directly after Bourdain’s death, Argento reflected, ‘At this time I was so lost in my mind.’
According to Argento it was a bizarre interlude during which she traveled to Berlin to meet Rose. There she met McGowan’s partner Dove for the first time.
Dove identifies as gender non-binary and uses the pronoun they.
She said’ ‘Rose suggested we go to Berlin and in this moment mind you if somebody would tell me paint yourself orange and walk around the square naked I would have done it if it would have made me feel better.
‘She said, “Let’s change the air. Let’s go to Berlin, nobody will bother you there.”‘
Rose suggested we go to Berlin and in this moment mind you if somebody would tell me paint yourself orange and walk around the square naked I would have done it if it would have made me feel better
According to Argento it very quickly became clear that this trip was not the retreat she had imagined.
The women drifted from apartment to apartment meeting up with people McGowan claimed were friends but who were strangers to Argento.
Disoriented and wrung out with grief all Argento wanted to know was why her lover had killed himself. She wanted answers.
So when she was offered them she set aside all logic and judgment even though they were presented in the most unexpected and disturbing fashion.
In a tale that sounds straight out of a spy movie Argento said Dove told her she was an operative for a secretive network of wealthy women.
The model claimed that one particular Italian woman wanted to fund her on a mission ‘to bring Anthony home.’
Dove identifies as gender non-binary and uses the pronoun they; Argento calls Dove ‘she’.
Dove told Argento that they were going to get Anthony’s ashes, even at the time Argento admitted: ‘I thought she [Dove] was absolutely crazy.’
Dove left, returning the following day with a fantastical tale that they had taken two private jets and a helicopter to complete her ‘mission.’
Dove placed a box on a table in front of Argento and told her it contained ashes salvaged from Bourdain cremains.
Argento recalled: ‘She said, “I went to the morgue where a woman from the network works and she had…empathy for you and that’s why she decided to take a little bit of the ashes [for you]. It was very dangerous. I could have been arrested.’
Messages: These are texts Rain Dove sent Asia Argento in which the non-binary model told her they had obtained toxicology and medical examination results and identified a prostitute Anthony Bourdain was with who had come from Russia. All those claims were untrue.
She believed it: Texts shared by Asia Argento show how she (in blue) had come to be convinced that her lover died with a prostitute while on drugs. She now knows that to be untrue
Bennett claims: Asia Argento tells DailyMailTV that her strategy was not to deal with ‘terrorism’ but Anthony Bourdain said she should pay him off with $380,000, which the chef provided, to ‘get him out of our lives’
‘So she puts this little box there [in front of me] and I don’t touch it.’
Dove then told Argento a profoundly disturbing tale. Argento recalled, ‘She [Dove] said the truth about Anthony’s death had been hidden by CNN so as not to ruin his image which for them is very valuable.
‘He had relapsed on heroin according to the toxicology that Rain Dove said she had seen. Two days before he had relapsed. My brain is thinking, two days before he sounded strange.’
When Argento had asked Bourdain if he was okay that day, he had brushed off her concerns by saying he had simply eaten and drunk a lot.
Argento continued, ‘So I believed her [Dove] in this second. Then she told me Anthony was with a prostitute.
[Dove] said the truth about Anthony’s death had been hidden by CNN so as not to ruin his image which for them is very valuable. ‘He had relapsed on heroin according to the toxicology that Rain Dove said she had seen. Two days before he had relapsed. My brain is thinking, two days before he sounded strange.
‘She gave me strange details, that she was Middle Eastern, that CCTV showed she was wearing a hijab. They were together and Anthony was very angry with CNN because he thought they were painting him as a reality TV star and he wanted to be recognized as a humanitarian.’
Dove claimed that Bourdain was so angry he was ‘screaming.’
Argento said: ‘I had never witnessed this aspect of him. I’m trying to imagine this version of Anthony.
‘She said he took a syringe, jabbed it into his neck and injected heroin. The woman said that she saw him fumbling with the bathrobe belt and she left.
‘Then she said, “I think he killed himself because he was afraid he would die of an overdose and that would look terrible for him.”‘
In a detail that Argento clearly finds difficult to voice she said, ‘She said, “He had a giant bruise on his neck and he didn’t break his neck he died of suffocation.”‘
Shared: Asia Argento’s sent these texts to Rain Dove in the form of screengrabs in which she and the CNN host discussed how to deal with Jimmy Bennett
Sitting talking today Argento recognizes how crazy this all sounds.
But then, she said, ‘I am believing her because I am so fragile and I am looking for answers and she is giving me them, something to hold on to, a reason that he did it.’
DailyMailTV has spoken with another witness who was present in Berlin who backs up Argento’s account about what Dove said and did.
Text messages from Dove to Argento also back her story and show that McGowan was aware in July of Dove’s actions, but telling Argento that she was not part of it.
Argento said: ‘I am a woman completely destroyed at this point. I don’t know what day it is. I thought maybe this was Rose’s Army that she spoke about. I thought maybe it exists.’
And when the Bennett allegations surfaced she turned to that army of women – which she called ‘the network’ for help.
I was frozen and he was on top of me and after the act it felt weird.
She said’ ‘I asked Rain if the network could help me some way.’
In response, Argento said, Dove started to tease out details of what had happened between her and Bennett – an event she is reluctant to label rape; but she is certain she was the victim.
She shared texts which show her disclosing the details of her and Bourdain’s dealings with Bennett to Dove.
She said: ‘I said in the messages I was frozen and he was on top of me and after the act it felt weird.’
A picture of Argento in bed with Bennett proved particularly damaging to her claims of innocence but she maintained she was ‘in shock’ when it all took place.
Argento says the texts, first published by TMZ, were sold. Texts show Rain Dove denying that they had sold the texts.
McGowan, through lawyers, vigorously denies to DailyMailTV that she was involved in obtaining or making money from the texts.
Dove has maintained that they were not behind the leak of texts in which Argento told her that her interaction with Bennett had turned sexual but that HE was the aggressor.
That leak came hot on the heels of a public statement issued on Argento’s behalf denying everything.
For Argento, she feels she is the victim again, this time of betrayal.
She said: ‘I am a single mother, I don’t have work, I can’t support both my children financially.’
But as she cops with the ‘hole’ opened up by Bourdain’s death, she told DailyMailTV that there is hope.
‘I am wounded,’ she said. ‘But I will recover.’