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Harvey Weinstein effect: Italian director Asia Argento says ‘all predators will go down’

What began with just a handful of women standing up against one of Hollywood’s most powerful producer has turned into a movement of its own.

hollywood Updated: Nov 20, 2017 13:10 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Harvey Weinstein,Asia Argento,Sexual harassment
Italian actress Asia Argento on stage prior to handing the Best Screenplay award during the closing ceremony of the 66th Cannes film festival in Cannes. (AFP File Photo)

The revelations began with 13 women. Italian director-actor Asia Argento was one of the first to publically claim that film mogul Harvey Weinstein had raped her in 1997, when she an aspiring actress at 21.

Since the October exposé by the New Yorker, more than 40 women have accused Weinstein (65) of rape or sexual harassment, including actresses Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Lupita Nyong’o and Rose McGowan.

Argento -- whose social-media avatar is a photo of herself with a fist raised high -- says of the domino effect: “The consciences are waking,” the 41-year-old actor told the Guardian. “Every time one of these pigs fall, it’s a badge of honour.”

What began with just a handful of women standing up against one of Hollywood’s most pugnacious power players has turned into a movement of its own. From accusations against House of Cards actor Kevin Spacey to the #metoo campaign on social media, some of the silences and stigmas around sexual harassment have been shattered and the flood gates are open.

“There is no turning back,” Argento said on Twitter. “All predators will go down.”

The Italian says she was raped by Weinstein, who has denied the claims, in a hotel room at Cote d’Azur. He changed into a bathrobe and asked her to give him a massage. After she reluctantly agreed, he pulled up her skirt and forcibly performed oral sex on her, Argento said, describing it as a “horrible trauma” and a “nightmare”. She said she had other consensual sexual relations with the producer until 2002 but she had felt obligated to submit to his advances.

“After the rape, he won.” Argento said.

Harvey Weinstein (left) and women who have alleged they were sexually abused or harassed by him -- (from left to right) Rose McGowan, Angelina Jolie, Asia Argento, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd, Lea Seydoux, Mira Sorvino, Rosanna Arquette, Louisette Geiss, Kate Beckinsale, Lauren Sivan, Jessica Barth, Elizabeth Karlsen, Emma De Caunes, Judith Godreche. (AFP Photo)

“Weinstein was a serial predator, and he did it with hundreds of women, and if the scandal did not come out sooner, it was because he was stifling everything, newspapers and journalists,” Argento said in an interview in the La Stampa daily.

But in her native Italy, the recognition of sexual harassment as a serious issue is limited, says Argento. The editor of a right-wing newspaper Libero described her trauma as a “little lick... and a little lick is always pleasurable”.

“Here people don’t understand. They’ll say, ‘Oh it’s just touching tits’. Well yeah, and this is a very grave thing for me. It is not normal. You can’t touch me, I am not an object,” she told The Guardian.

Argento has since tweeted that she was also abused in Italy, the country whose former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was popularly known to host sex parties while he was in office. “An Italian director/actor pulled out his penis when I was 16 years old and was in his trailer to discuss the ‘role’,” Argento said, not naming the harasser.

The Italian, who plans to move next summer, revisited the Weinstein rape in a scene of her 2000 film -- Scarlet Diva -- in which a producer asks a young actress played by Argento for a massage and then throws himself upon her. “People would ask me about him because of the scene in the movie,” she told the New Yorker.

Weinstein, she says, must have recognised himself in the film because he said to her after, “Ha Ha, very funny.” But he also said sorry for “whatever happened”, Argento says.

(With agency inputs)

First Published: Nov 20, 2017 13:10 IST