Jimmy Bennett, the actor and musician who has accused Asia Argento of sexual assault, gave his first TV interview on Sunday to the Italian show Non è lArena, (Outside the Arena) hosted by Italian journalist Massimo Giletti. In the lengthy interview, Bennett—who was accompanied by his lawyer, Gordon K. Sattro—maintained that in 2013, Argento sexually assaulted him in a hotel room in California. He was 17 at the time; she was 37. They had known each other for years at that point, with Bennetts lawyer noting that his client once characterized their connection as more of a “mother-son relationship.” That changed during the alleged assault, Bennett said in the Italian interview. At first, he alleged, he thought her kisses were a normal way of “showing her affection.” But then they went on longer and longer.
“She was trying to get somewhere else,” he said, before faltering. “Its hard for me to talk about this in front of strangers.”
Bennett then detailed what allegedly happened next, claiming that Argento put her hands all over his body, pushed him onto the bed, and took his pants off. Argento, for the record, has denied having a sexual relationship with Bennett. She has also claimed that the $380,000 settlement she gave Bennett was paid by her late partner, the TV star Anthony Bourdain, who died in June.
The interview was a difficult one for Bennett. It took place in Argentos native country and was conducted in front of a live studio audience. Giletti stood at a distance, on a stage, while Bennett and Sattro sat to the side. Behind Giletti was a massive photo of Argento, which Bennett had to see every time he answered a question and looked at the television host. There was also a language barrier: Giletti asked his questions in Italian, and Bennett and Sattro waited for translations via earpieces before answering the questions. In addition, per a translation from The New York Times, Giletti questioned whether men can even be sexually assaulted by women. “A womans violence against a man or a boy is technically difficult to understand,” he said, the Times noted. “Do you understand what I mean? A man has to take an active role, even if he is subjected to it.”
Giletti also questioned Bennett about the selfie he and Argento took after the alleged assault took place, which shows the pair shirtless in bed, arms around each other. The interviewer asked why the then-17-year-old didnt look upset in the photo; the audience applauded the question. As the interview progressed, Bennett expressed his discomfort with Gilettis questions.
“Even now Im afraid to answer any questions just because of the way that I feel like the interview has gone,” he said. He also addressed the photos of Argento that surrounded him. “I dont feel comfortable having Asias photo placed everywhere . . . its kind of hard to focus, Im not going to lie.”
In a subsequent interview with the Times, Sattro said the sit-down “was really challenging, but it was better than to have a softball interview. I dont see it as a bad thing. People are going to have to judge him for themselves. Jimmy thought, I wanted to say my piece.”
Since the first report about the alleged assault and subsequent settlement went public last month, Argentos professional career has taken a hit. She was dropped from X Factor Italy and also exited a gig curating a Dutch music festival. Former friends like Rose McGowan have also distanced themselves from her.
Her lawyer, Mark Jay Heller, has since claimed that Bennett was actually the aggressor in the encounter: “It was Asia that was attacked by Jimmy Bennett. Jimmy Bennett was the perpetrator and Asia Argento was the victim,” he said. Bennett, meanwhile, planned to file a police report with the L.A. County Sheriffs Department earlier this month, alleging sexual assault.
Get Vanity Fairs HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.Full ScreenPhotos:Donald Trumps Vandalized and Abused Hollywood Star: A Brief History
In 2007, Donald Trump was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, joking that it was his favorite piece of real estate. A little less than a decade later, the star would be the source of unending controversy.Photo: By M. Tran/FilmMagic.
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Yohana DestaYohana Desta is a Hollywood writer for VanityFair.com.