Asia Argento: courting controversy on and off the screen

Rome (AFP) –


Asia Argento has never been one to shy away from controversy.

Branded "provocative" by some, "strong and courageous" by others, the divisive Italian actress who played a leading role in the #MeToo campaign, now finds herself accused of sexual assault.

"The actress, like the prostitute, is just an instrument used to satisfy the dream of another, director or client," she said in a magazine interview in 2013.

"What a sublime job it is to give pleasure," added the actress.

Four years later she would become one of Harvey Weinstein's main accusers at the heart of a huge scandal involving multiple allegations of rape or sexual harassment.

Argento won plaudits around the world last year after publicly declaring to have been raped by the Hollywood film producer in a hotel on France's Cote d'Azur in 1997 when she was just 21 years old.

Earlier this month the New York Times reported she paid actor Jimmy Bennett $380,000 in hush money after having sex with him in Los Angeles hotel in 2013, when he was 17 -- and still underage.

Argento, now 42, has denied the allegations, dismissing them as part of "a long-standing persecution".

The tattooed actress with a husky voice has always had her critics -- particularly in her traditionally conservative home country -- and last year she even threatened to quit Italy altogether because of what she called a "climate of tension".

- Actress turned director -

Born in Rome in 1975, Argento followed her film director father Dario Argento into the industry and went on to play more than 40 roles in arthouse pictures to commercial movies.

A striptease scene in a 2007 film by Abel Ferrara caused a scandal when she kissed a Rottweiler, and her role as a prostitute in another film by the same director also caused a stir.

"I was always offered the role of the prostitute," she recently told the French magazine Les Inrockuptibles. "I do not have a problem with nudity on screen."

However, in 2014 Argento decided to step behind the camera and pursue a career in directing, declaring: "I do not want to be an actress anymore -- it does not give me any more satisfaction and I do not think I'm good at it."

She went on to collaborate on several feature films with her father including "Trauma" (1993), "The Stendhal Syndrome" (1996) and "The Phantom of the Opera" (1998).

The twists, turns and tragedy of Argento's private life have seen her splashed across Italy's celebrity magazines.

She married singer Marco Castoldi -- better known as Morgan from the group Bluevertigo -- with whom she had a daughter, Anna Lou, in 2001. She also has a son with the Italian actor Michele Civetta.

And last June, her partner, the celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, ended his life aged 61 in his hotel room in Alsace in northeast France.