“In 1997, I was raped by Harvey Weinstein here at Cannes. I was 21 years old. This festival was his hunting ground,” the Italian actress began a scorching address that called out predators in the film industry.
Weinstein, the now former head of the Weinstein Company, had been accused by numerous women of sexual harassment and sexual assault that spanned decades. Argento was one of the first to come forward through a story published in October by The New Yorker. In statements released through his representatives, Weinstein denied “any allegations of non-consensual sex.”
“I want to make a prediction,” Argento continued on Saturday with Cannes jury member Ava DuVernay by her side. “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.”
But she didn’t stop with Weinstein. “Even tonight sitting among you there are those who still have 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,” she 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.”
French journalist Hugo Clément shared footage of Argento’s speech to social media, showing the audience cheering her on once she closed out her remarks.
A rep for Weinstein sent EW a statement from his lawyer in Italy, Filomena Cusano.
“Being present, I would correct the notion that there was only applause when Ms. Argento spoke. There was an equal amount of stunned silence in the hall,” she said. “The allegations made are completely false. Mr. Weinstein and Ms. Argento had a consensual relationship; Ms. Argento starred in Mr. Weinstein’s film B. Monkey in 1998, in which Argento was excellent, and she herself said was a fantastic role for her. After that, she wrote a script for Mr. Weinstein about Italian director Vittorio De Sica that he wishes could have been produced. This is clearly a painful moment for Ms. Argento, but it is a false narrative. Harvey has only respect for Ms. Argento and wishes her well.”
Weinstein’s rep accompanied this statement with a photograph taken in 2004 of Argento smiling next to Weinstein.
Argento had admitted in the New Yorker piece, as relayed by writer Ronan Farrow, that she had “consensual sexual relations with [Weinstein] multiple times over the course of the next five years” following the alleged assault, but that they were “one-sided and ‘onanistic.’” According to Farrow’s piece, she felt Weinstein would “ruin her career if she didn’t comply.”
Since she came forward with claims against Weinstein, Argento wrote in the Guardian how she has been “slut-shamed, victim-blamed, bullied, and threatened on a daily basis.” She had also appeared in New York with Italian actresses Laura Boldrini and Ambra Battilana Gutierrez for the Women in the World summit where she spoke publicly about her own experience in the industry and the #MeToo movement.
“What has been done cannot be undone. What has been revealed can no longer be hidden,” Argento wrote. “What has been said can no longer be unspoken. For speaking truth to power, I have been called a whore, a liar, a traitor, and an opportunist. The one thing I will not be though, the one thing none us will be, is silenced.”
Cannes jury president Cate Blanchett led a demonstration at the film festival last week with 81 other women to speak out against gender discrimination. The Oscar winner called for “our institutions to actively provide parity and transparency in their executive bodies and provide safe environments in which to work,” as well as “our governments to make sure that the laws of equal pay for equal work are upheld.”
“The stairs of our industry must be accessible to all,” Blanchett added from the steps of the Palais. “Let’s climb.”
This article has been updated with a statement from Weinstein’s lawyer.