Italian actress Asia Argento made waves at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday as she described being sexually assaulted by Harvey Weinstein. During her speech at the closing ceremony, Argento started by repeating a story she told the New Yorker last year: “In 1997, I was raped by Harvey Weinstein here at Cannes. I was 21 years old.”
Calling the festival “his hunting ground,” Argento predicted that “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 finished her minute-long speech with a warning.
“And even tonight, sitting among you, there are those that need 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,” Argento said. “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.”
The room exploded in applause.
“For all the brave women who came forward denouncing their predators, and for all the brave women who will come forward, we got the power,” Argento tweeted after her speech. Mira Sorvino and Rose McGowan, who have both accused Weinstein of sexual harassment and assault, also tweeted their support. So did Argento’s partner, chef and television personality Anthony Bourdain.
Argento, now 42, was one of the first women to publicly accuse Weinstein of sexual assault.
Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her in a French hotel during the 1997 Cannes Film Festival, Argento told the New Yorker. She was in Cannes to promote the movie “B. Monkey,” a crime drama she starred in that was distributed by Miramax, the company Weinstein co-founded with his brother, Bob.
She said one of Weinstein’s producers invited her to a party at a nearby hotel, only she arrived to find there was no party — only Weinstein waiting for her in a hotel room.
Her story echoes that of many of Weinstein’s accusers: She said he praised her work, before leaving the room and returning in a bathrobe with a bottle of lotion in his hand. He eventually coerced her into giving him a massage, during which “he pulled her skirt up, forced her legs apart, and performed oral sex on her as she repeatedly told him to stop. Weinstein ‘terrified me, and he was so big,’ she said. ‘It wouldn’t stop. It was a nightmare,’” the New Yorker reported.
She didn’t tell anyone because she feared the producer would destroy her career, Argento explained.
“I know he has crushed a lot of people before,” Argento told the magazine. “That’s why this story — in my case, it’s 20 years old, some of them are older — has never come out.” She characterized coming forward as a terrifying experience — “Just talking to you about it, my whole body is shaking.”