The untold truth of Asia Argento

Known to American audiences primarily for her work in the 2002 Vin Diesel flick, xXx, Italian actress Asia Argento was a star in her home country long before that. She started acting at age 9 and appeared in some of her father, legendary horror director Dario Argento's most controversial films.

She resurfaced in U.S. headlines when she began dating the late chef and travel show host Anthony Bourdain. She also became one of the vocal accusers of disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, alleging that he sexually assaulted her in 1997.

But there's much more to Argento than a high-profile relationship and her unfortunate association with an allegedly predatory film producer. She is a fascinating counterculture figure and explosive creative talent who has often been as misunderstood as she is intentionally subversive. On top of it all, she's really just a mom who's trying to provide the best possible life for her kids. This is the untold truth of Asia Argento.

Her childhood was no kid's movie

Though she eventually took up the family business — Asia Argento's mother is actress Daria Nicolodi — it wasn't out of loving tutelage on behalf of her parents. In fact, Argento claims she didn't have a relationship with her father (above right) outside of film sets, which they didn't even share until she was 16 years old.

Speaking with Filmmaker Magazine, Argento said, "I never acted out of ambition; I acted to gain my father's attention. It took a long time for him to notice me. … And he only became my father when he was my director." Even after that, it was a strange relationship, as her characters in his films were, according to The Guardian, "undressed, raped and generally psychologically traumatised on screen."

Argento told Rolling Stone that she never discussed the scandalous roles with her father in anything other than professional terms. "We don't speak about these things. We speak almost only about cinema, especially about silent movies, with which we have this mutual obsession." In the same interview, she described her disdain for childhood, in general, calling it "disgusting," and claiming, "But I always had this feeling of never being a part of anything, not even of my family. My parents forgot about me. I did everything I could to get their attention." Yeesh.

Her art knows no bounds

In nearly any interview with Asia Argento, you will be hard-pressed to keep up with her obscure references to the cinema, music, and literature from which she draws her inspiration — Brian Jonestown Massacre frontman Anton Newcombe, anyone? Nope, we didn't have a clue either. Anyway, as the direct product of her cinephile father and her mother, whom she described to Force Exposure as a "savant aficionado of music," Argento is a jack of all creative trades.

Rolling Stone described her "talents" as "alarmingly broad," citing her creative endeavors in a list that puts even someone like James Franco to shame. "She writes novels and short stories, paints, sings in bands, directs movies and documentaries, wins Italian versions of the Oscar … and can speculate with more than coffeehouse intelligence on excess, God and redemption," the mag wrote. And that was in 2002, about a decade before she released her first full-length album that Force Exposure characterized as "poetically direct, vital and glowing, between dream and madness."

For Argento, her creative pursuits are all about personal expression. Of her album, she told Force Exposure, "I'm a poet and it's not really a message, it's the urge of communicating with people who I don't want necessarily to have a dinner or a glass of wine with but I know that for me it's important and it might be for them too."

Love without borders

Asia Argento went public with her relationship with the late travel show host Anthony Bourdain in May 2017, according to People. The pair fired off the same photo on their respective Instagram accounts, with Argento captioning her post: "#PerfectMoment." Argento and Bourdain met when she appeared on an episode of his CNN show, Parts Unknown, which was filmed in her hometown of Rome. They seemed to be smitten ever since.

However, in the wake of Bourdain's untimely death — he took his own life in a hotel room in Strasbourg, France on June 8, 2018 — unsavory tabloid stories surfaced, suggesting infidelity by Argento. Friend of the couple, actress Rose McGowan, seemingly responded to the allegations in an open letter published by People. In it, she referred to Argento and Bourdain as "free birds," saying they "loved without borders of traditional relationships, and they established the parameters of their relationship early on." 

Of course, there is no indication that any relationship issue contributed to Bourdain's suicide. In fact, in her remembrance post of the beloved chef, Argento wrote, in part, "He was my love, my rock, my protector. I am beyond devastated…"

[If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call or chat online with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).]

If the trailer is a rockin', Asia's probably just bored

Ever wonder how true the stereotype is that actors just hook up like crazy on the set? Well, in Asia Argento's case, it's not only very true but also no big deal. In fact, while speaking with Index Magazine (Warning: Extremely NSFW link), the Italian superstar casually chatted about her co-star conquests.

Referring to her dalliances with her screen partners as "the most boring affairs," Argento also said, "It's okay while you're shooting the film, especially if you're on location. You're tired, you're stuck with these people. But I would never be able to spend time with them outside the set."  

Then she named names, referring to "Johnny Rhys Meyers" as a "dull lover," and complaining that "he was always talking about what he did in his last film, or what he was going to do in the next one. … He could be much better." Ouch.

She told Hollywood to pound sand

Like any self-respecting artist, Argento became disillusioned with Hollywood the second she crossed paths with Vin Diesel. Okay, that was an unfair dig on Dom, who, for the record, Argento once described to Rolling Stone as "the king." However, the film they did together led Argento down a path to Hollywood conformity that she just couldn't stomach.

Speaking with The Guardian about her breakout success in the American film market thanks to her role in the 2002 action blockbuster xXx, Argento said that she quickly adapted to all of the Tinseltown cliques afterward, like "wearing Prada," "going to the gym," and having "an agent in LA" in an attempt to become "a sexy bombshell." But that wasn't the role model she wanted her daughters to have, so she ditched the haute couture and headed back to Europe.

The mother of two (Anna with Italian singer Morgan, and Nicola with ex-husband Michele Civetta) has spoken about rejecting materialism while providing for her daughters. She said her only real splurge is "a good school" for her girls and that she does not "own anything of any value so if the thieves come to my house, you're f***ing welcome and they'll get nothing."

Hey DJ, spin that record no one's ever heard of!

We previously mentioned Argento's first full-length album, Total Entropy, which she released in 2013. According to Forced Exposure, it is a "collage of tracks from different places, using different musicians and producers, sessions, styles," the result of a 12-year endeavor that started with Argento's "obsession" with a broad range of genres. "I like all sorts of music except s**t, I do not like s**t or incompetent people," she said. There's also a format for which Argento has no love: CDs. "I don't know about you but I throw them around like Frisbees."

Like any music aficionado worth their weight in concert ticket stubs, Argento is a passionate collector of vinyl. She said she keeps three turntables at home and maintains a relationship with the son of a local record shop owner who makes house calls with "needles and other stuff" that she needs to upkeep her collection. She even puts her stacks of wax to use by dropping the needle during a weekly "kids day" at her house, during which she DJs for "12 kids at a time." In her words: "It's a pretty good way to manipulate young egg-shell minds."

She cleverly called out Harvey Weinstein a long time ago

In October 2017, Argento bravely went on the record with New York Magazine to accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. She claimed the disgraced film producer forced himself onto her in 1997 at the Cannes Film Festival during what she thought was supposed to be a party at his hotel room. Instead, she was allegedly met by Weinstein alone. She claims he propositioned her for a massage, then assaulted her. She also claimed that for years after the alleged assault, she had consensual, but coerced "sexual relations" with Weinstein out of what she felt was professional obligation.

Argento channeled her angst over Weinstein into creative expression. In her 2000 directorial debut, Scarlet Diva, which she also wrote and starred in, Argento included a scene where her character is propositioned and pursued by a scumbag film producer but escapes without being assaulted.

Speaking with Rolling Stone about the re-release of the film 18 years later and in the wake of more than 80 women joining her in accusing Weinstein of various forms of sexual misconduct, Argento said many people immediately recognized the character in her movie. "I was asked many times, 'Is that Harvey Weinstein?'" she told the mag, adding, "I thought this had happened only to me. The cream, the massage, the room, the tricks — I didn't know this was Weinstein's modus operandi." Unfortunately, the catharsis achieved by calling Weinstein out would be short-lived.  

Being a whistleblower had unfortunate backlash

In the United States, the #MeToo movement accelerated after the Weinstein accusations. Not only were other powerful men, including former Today anchor Matt Lauer, director Brett Ratner, and comedian Louis C.K. also accused of sexual misconduct, but men and women from all walks of life publicly shared their stories of victimization. There was, and remains, controversy each time new accusations arise, but the general feeling has been that the power structure in many industries has been shaken to the core. In Argento's home country, however, it was another story.

Speaking with Rolling Stone, Argento said that after she accused Weinstein of sexual assault, the Italian press came after her, "saying I'm a prostitute every day for months on TV, on the first page of newspapers." She also claimed she had to "sue 15 people" over the alleged libel. The Telegraph even reported that an Italian politician said, "I have the feeling that he was actually assaulted by her." 

Argento moved to Germany to escape the negative coverage. "Italy is far behind the rest of the world in its view of women," she told The Telegraph. "…I'll come back when things improve to fight alongside all the other women."

If smoking makes you cool, she's the new Joe Camel

By now, we've pretty well established that Asia Argento is one of the cool kids, so it shouldn't be a shock to learn that she feels like smoking is part of her DNA. Sure, we're all aware by now of the terrible health risks, but nothing completes the image of a multifaceted, tortured artist like a few nonchalant tugs on a cancer stick. Argento is unabashed about the nasty habit, to boot.

Speaking with Forced Exposure, she said, "I need to smoke, I tried quitting smoking but it's part of me." One thing that is surprising about her penchant for taking a puff is that she started at just 9 years old. "No you cannot take this away from me, never!" she said. "Maybe one day I'll be disgusted I don't know but for now do not take away my cigarettes." She even confessed to sneaking a few drags in an airport bathroom, a behavior she described as "very gangster."

So to circle back to our original point, smoking is bad and don't do it, but if you absolutely must, smoke 'em like you're Asia Argento.