Asia Argento, the Hollywood actress and "MeToo" activist accused of sexual assault on an underage boy, has privately admitted having sex with the fellow actor despite issuing a public denial.
Argento, 42, became a figurehead for the campaign against sexual harassment after she was one of the first women to accuse Harvey Weinstein, the movie mogul, of abuse last October.
She herself has been accused by former child actor Jimmy Bennett of sexual assault by having sex with him in 2013, when he was under the age of consent in California, which is 18.
Those allegations, which have sent shock waves through the "MeToo" movement, were first reported by the New York Times at the weekend.
It led to an initial furious denial from the Italian actress, who claimed she "never had any sexual relationship" with Bennett.
— CNN (@CNN) August 22, 2018
But last night TMZ, the celebrity website, revealed text messages between Argento and a friend in which she admitted a sexual encounter, though she said the teenager "jumped me".
Argento also claimed in the text messages that she did not know Bennett was a minor until she received a "shakedown" letter from his lawyer demanding money.
She reportedly wrote: "I had sex with him, it felt weird. I didn't know he was a minor until the shakedown letter. The public know nothing, only what the NYT wrote. The shakedown letter. The horny kid jumped me."
The actress added: " It (sic) wasn't raped. but I was frozen. He was on top of me. After, he told me I had been his sexual fantasy since he was 12."
Argento said in the text messages that she didn't report the incident at the time because she "felt bad" for "this Hollywood failed child actor".
She said when the "shakedown" letter arrived she wanted to talk publicly about being extorted but her boyfriend, the late chef Anthony Bourdain, wanted to pay Bennett off.
The actress claimed Bennett kept sending her nude images, and that she has 80 pages of information on him from a private investigator Bourdain hired.
TMZ also published a photograph of Argento and Bennett apparently in bed together, both of them topless.
The existence of the picture had been reported before it was published it. In her text messages, sent in the early hours of Monday morning, Argento said such a picture did not "mean" anything, and was misleading because Bennett was actually standing up.
Also published by TMZ was a note from Bennett to Argento in which he wrote: "Asia, I love you with all my heart.”
Argento agreed to pay $380,000 to Bennett after he threatened to sue her for having sex with a minor.
The money was paid in the months after she made public her allegations against Weinstein, leading the movie mogul's lawyers to accuse her of "hypocrisy".
In a statement to The New York Times, Jimmy Bennett says, "I did not initially speak out about my story because I chose to handle it in private with the person who wronged me. My trauma resurfaced as she came out as a victim herself. I have not made a public statement in the past days and hours because I was ashamed and afraid to be part of the public narrative."
He continues, "At the time I believed there was still a stigma to being in the situation as a male in our society. I didn't think that people would understand the event that took place from the eyes of a teenage boy. I would like to move past this event in my life, and today I choose to move forward, no longer in silence."
Argento and Bennett first met in 2004 when Argento herself cast Bennett, then aged seven, to play her son in "The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things".
The actress currently works as a judge on the Italian version of The X Factor.
In the text messages she wrote: "If I lose my job I will move to Africa or the Amazon forest."
She also backed out of her role organising a performance on "Future Feminism" at an upcoming Dutch music festival.
In a statement the organisers of the "Le Guess Who?" festival said that "due to the volatile nature of the accusations surrounding Ms Argento she has chosen to withdraw from her curatorship of this year's edition, while these issues remain open".
Argento’s representatives did not return a request for comment.
Other Hollywood actresses who have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct said Argento must be held accountable if allegations against her were true.
Mira Sorvino, the Oscar-winning star, said she was "reeling and heartsick".
She added: "Child sexual assault is a heinous crime and is against all that I and the MeToo movement stands for."
Ashley Judd said: "Accountability is at the very heart of the MeToo movement.
"We hold any and every abuser accountable, regardless of their gender, race, socioeconomic status, public visibility or popularity. Sexual violence is wrong, full stop."