Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein accused of rape

Outrage and finger-pointing grip Hollywood as the Harvey Weinstein scandal deepens, with reports emerging that the mega-producer fought for his job just hours before being fired from his studio for alleged sexual abuse.
 Actress Asia Argento poses at the Cannes film festival in 2017.
Actress Asia Argento poses at the Cannes film festival in 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Italian film star Asia Argento and two other women claim that disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein raped them, in a bombshell New Yorker expose published on Tuesday (Oct 10).

The women's allegations against the 65-year-old movie mogul, according to the magazine, include unwanted oral sex and forced oral and full sex. Weinstein denies all charges, according to a statement from his spokeswoman Sallie Hofmeister, circulated among US media.

The accusations will be seen as a hugely damaging escalation of the scandal engulfing the Oscar-winning producer, as the numerous allegations which led to his weekend sacking from The Weinstein Company had so far been limited to complaints about harassment.

New Yorker writer Ronan Farrow spent 10 months interviewing 13 women who reported they were harassed or assaulted by Weinstein.

The investigation was published as fresh misconduct allegations emerged from Hollywood A-listers such as Angelina Jolie, Rosanna Arquette and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Argento, the 42-year-old daughter of iconic horror director Dario Argento, said Weinstein forced oral sex on her 20 years ago.

She told the publication she had maintained her silence until now for fear that Weinstein would "crush" her, adding: "I know he has crushed a lot of people before."

She said Weinstein, who has weighed up to 136kg, terrified her due to his immense size.

"It wouldn't stop. It was a nightmare," she added, revealing that she had felt forced to pretend she was enjoying the attack in hopes that it would be over with sooner.

Lucia Evans, an aspiring actress, said she met Weinstein at the Miramax office in New York in 2004 and that he forced her to perform oral sex on him.

"I said, over and over, 'I don't want to do this, stop, don't,'" she told the New Yorker.

"I tried to get away, but maybe I didn't try hard enough. I didn't want to kick him or fight him."

'PEOPLE GIVE UP'

Evans said she was overpowered and "just sort of gave up."

"That's the most horrible part of it, and that's why he's been able to do this for so long to so many women: people give up, and then they feel like it's their fault," she added.

Another woman, who was too afraid to allow her name to be published, told the New Yorker Weinstein brought her to a hotel room for a meeting.

He changed into a bathrobe, she said, and "forced himself on me sexually".

She felt "horror, disbelief, and shame," and thought about going to the police, but decided it would be a case of "he said, she said," and worried about how powerful his legal team would be, and how much she had to lose.

Another instance involved model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, once a finalist in the Miss Italy contest, whom the New Yorker said Weinstein met in March 2015 at a reception for a show he was producing in New York.

According to the New Yorker, Gutierrez says Weinstein "lunged at her, groping her breasts and attempting to put a hand up her skirt" at a meeting in his offices in Tribeca.

She reported the incident and the New York Police Department asked her to wear a wire to his play Finding Neverland. Audio of their conversation in the hallway of his room at the Tribeca Grand Hotel was released by the magazine.

In the tape, Gutierrez is heard asking Weinstein: "Why yesterday you touch my breast?"

"Oh, please, I'm sorry, just come on in, I'm used to that. Come in, please," he replies.

"You're used to that?" she asks, to which he again asks her to come into his room.

CLINTON 'SHOCKED AND APPALLED'

She refuses, and Weinstein pleads: "I won't do it again, come on, sit here. Sit here for a minute, please?"

Authorities decided not to press charges, according to the New Yorker, after it emerged the young woman had attended one former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's infamous "bunga bunga" sex parties and, as a teenager, had made a sexual assault allegation and then declined to cooperate with prosecutors.

Weinstein was fired late on Sunday from his own film studio, three days after a bombshell New York Times report alleged that the Oscar-winning producer behind such hits as The King's Speech and The Artist had preyed on young women hoping to break into the industry.

His accusers said he had promised to help advance their careers in exchange for sexual favours, pressuring them to massage him and watch him naked.

The Times, as well as various entertainment media, separately reported on Tuesday that the litany of Weinstein's harassment victims also included Gwyneth Paltrow, who was 22 when the magnate hired her for the lead in the Jane Austen adaptation Emma.

Hollywood A-lister Angelina Jolie, Pulp Fiction star Rosanna Arquette and French actress Judith Godreche, all say they too were victims of his unwanted advances, the Times reported.

"I was shocked and appalled by the revelations about Harvey Weinstein," former Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton said in a statement on Tuesday.

"The behaviour described by women coming forward can not be tolerated," she added. "Their courage and the support of others is critical in helping to stop this kind of behaviour."

 

Prominent Harvey Weinstein accusers

1. Actress Ashley Judd

The 49-year-old is the first high-profile figure to go on the record about Weinstein.

Her story dates back to the 1990s, when, she said, he lured her to his hotel room for a "meeting" then tried to coerce her into giving him a massage or watching him shower. "Women have been talking about Harvey amongst ourselves for a long time, and it's simply beyond time to have the conversation publicly," she told The New York Times.

2. Former employee Laura Madden

She and Judd were quoted by The New York Times on Oct 5, in a blockbuster story that aired decades of previously unknown sexual harassment accusations against Weinstein.

3. Actress Rose McGowan

The 44-year-old is one of eight women Weinstein settled with, The New York Times said.

In 1997, he reached a US$100,000 settlement with McGowan, then 23, after an episode in a hotel room during the Sundance Film Festival. The settlement was "not to be construed as an admission" by Weinstein, but intended to "avoid litigation and buy peace", according to the legal document reviewed by The Times.

4. Filipina-Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez

In 2015, Weinstein invited Gutierrez, then 22, to his TriBeCa office to discuss her career. Within hours, she called the police. She told them Weinstein had grabbed her breasts after asking if they were real and put his hands up her skirt, the police report says.

5. Italian actress and director Asia Argento

The 42-year-old is one of three women interviewed by The New Yorker - two on the record - who accused Weinstein of rape.

She said he had forcibly performed oral sex on her in 1997 in a room at the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc when she was 21.

6. Actress Mira Sorvino

Now 50, she won an Oscar for her role in the Weinstein-produced Mighty Aphrodite in 1996. She told The New Yorker she had been subjected to unwanted sexual attention from Weinstein when she was promoting the film.

7. Actress Gwyneth Paltrow

The 45-year-old is one of the biggest stars to go on the record about Weinstein. In a New York Times story published on Tuesday (Oct 10), she said that when she was 22, he invited her to his hotel suite for a work meeting and later proposed a massage.

She said she had fled in terror and later relayed the incident to her boyfriend at the time, actor Brad Pitt. Pitt confirmed that he later confronted Weinstein at a theater premiere and told him to never to touch her again.

8. Actress Angelina Jolie

The 42-year-old told The New York Times she "had a bad experience with Harvey Weinstein in my youth and, as a result, chose never to work with him again and warned others when they did".

9. Actress Heather Graham

The 47-year-old's story dates to the early 2000s, when she had a meeting with Weinstein.

She wrote in Variety: "He mentioned that he had an agreement with his wife. He could sleep with whomever he wanted when he was out of town. I walked out of the meeting feeling uneasy. There was no explicit mention that to star in one of those films I had to sleep with him, but the subtext was there."

10. British model Cara Delevingne

On Wednesday, the 25-year-old posted a written account of her experience with Weinstein. She said that early in her career, she met the producer in his hotel room, where she found him with another woman. "He asked us to kiss," Delevingne wrote, adding that she had quickly got up and tried to leave.

"He walked me to the door and stood in front of it and tried to kiss me on the lips," she said, describing feelings of guilt because she later secured a part in one of his films.