Who is Jimmy Bennett? Asia Argento reportedly paid off underage sexual assault accuser who played her onscreen son

Suzy Byrne
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
Asia Argento and Jimmy Bennett in 2003. (Photo: Jeff Vespa/WireImage)

Asia Argento, a leading voice in the #MeToo movement after being one of the first actresses to accuse disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein of rape, is now the accused, according to an exposé in the New York Times. Earlier this year, the Italian actress reportedly paid off Jimmy Bennett, who accused her of sexually assaulting him in 2013 when he was 17 and she was 37.

According to the Times investigation, Argento made a deal to pay Bennett, who was 7 years old when he was cast as her son in the 2004 film The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, $380,000 stemming from a May 9, 2013, incident in a Marina del Rey, Calif., hotel room, where he says she performed oral sex on him before initiating intercourse. Bennett, now 22, said the incident left him feeling “extremely confused, mortified, and disgusted,” and led to a downward spiral in his life. He sought a settlement from her — initially asking  for $3.5 million in damages — one month after she went public about Weinstein in Ronan Farrow’s New Yorker piece in October. (Bennett hasn’t addressed the Times report, nor has Argento.)

Asia Argento at the Cannes Film Festival in May. (Photo: Loïc Venance/AFP/Getty Images)

Argento — a divorced mother of two who was Anthony Bourdain’s girlfriend at the time of his death by suicide in June — documented the May 2013 meet up with Bennett on her social media accounts. In photos, which still remain live, she called it the “happiest day of my life” and called him “my son, my love until I live.”

So who is Jimmy Bennett? Some things to know:

Bennett played her son in The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things

Argento co-wrote and directed the film that saw her character, Sarah, become involved with a series of men who treat her and her son, Jeremiah (the younger version of which was played by Bennett), terribly. She abandons the boy, who goes on to have an even more horrible life, including being raped by her ex-boyfriend and being raised in a cult. Not exactly light material. Later in the film, the character is aged and is later played by Dylan and Cole Sprouse.

Watch the trailer:

Bennett earned the showbiz nickname “Jimmy Two-Takes”

According to the Times, Bennett charmed Harrison Ford and Bruce Willis and earned the nickname “‘Jimmy Two-Takes’ because he rarely flubbed his lines.” He started working in Hollywood in 2002, doing episodic TV work before nabbing a role in Eddie Murphy’s Daddy Day Care in 2003. He shared the screen with Willis in Hostage (2005) and Ford in Firewall the following year. In the 2009 Star Trek reboot, he played the young James T. Kirk. He also starred in the ABC’s No Ordinary Family, playing a teenager gifted with superpowers after a plane crash.

In 2010, Bennett told the Los Angeles Times that Ford had taken him under his wing. “He’s amazing,” Jimmy said. “Always has great advice on acting. Always looks out for me. A really great guy.” In the New York Times profile, Argento is described as “both a mentor and a mother figure to Mr. Bennett,” and the two were “intermittently” in contact as he grew up. “Jimmy’s impression of this situation was that a mother-son relationship had blossomed from their experience on set together,” Bennett’s lawyer stated.

This interview he did with Jimmy Kimmel showed that child star charisma

He seemed like a seasoned pro here during this 2006 interview with Jimmy Kimmel. He talked about “Steve” being funny as hell — as in Steve Carrell — and talked about farting on his Poseidon mom Jacinda Barrett. “Really you’re 10? I think you’re a 40-year-old that smokes is what I think” was Kimmel’s assessment.

Bennett was doing well financially before his 2013 hotel room encounter with Argento

The New York Times story says that when Bennett requested a settlement from Argento — initially seeking $3.5 million in damages for the intentional infliction of emotional distress, lost wages, and assault and battery, but receiving much less — it was noted in the notice of intent that he had made more than $2.7 million in the five years before the 2013 meeting with Argento. His income later dropped to an average of $60,000 a year, which he said was due to the trauma that followed the sexual encounter.

But he had financial and family issues

In 2014, Bennett sued his mother and stepfather for allegedly cheating him out of $1.5 million in his earnings. He claimed his parents had locked him out of the family home, keeping his possessions. The lawsuit said he was broke and two months behind on his rent. The case was settled in December 2014, but the terms were not disclosed.

Jimmy Bennett at the premiere of 21 and Over on Feb. 21, 2013 — a few months before the reported sexual assault occurred. (Photo: Getty Images)

Bennett’s family owns the Rockin’ Crepes restaurant in Huntington Beach, Calif., where Bennett worked as a kid when he wasn’t acting. A 2010 profile of the eatery in the Los Angeles Times included a chat with Bennett in which the reporter noted that, for his age — almost 15 — Jimmy has an amazing amount of poise and genuine sense of calm, which he thinks may help him on auditions.” He told the paper, “I try and stay as focused as I can, and low key. It’s how my personality is, but I think that helps me stand out from other actors who, at my age, might be a little crazier.”

He’s a singer

His family’s eatery had a rock ’n’ roll theme — and he has always loved rock himself. He’s been performing for years and released a single, “Over Again,” in 2011. 

He had a big release party — and rocked out.

Bennett has an eye condition that prevents him from driving

The New York Times piece noted that Bennett has an eye condition that prevents him from driving. So when he met up with Argento, he was driven to the hotel by a family member. According to the notice for intent, Argento asked the family member to leave so she could be alone with Bennett. She then gave him alcohol to drink, showed him letters she had written him on hotel stationary, and presented him with an engraved bracelet she had given him to commemorate the movie they made together. “Then she kissed him, pushed him back on the bed, removed his pants and performed oral sex,” stated the article. “She climbed on top of him and the two had intercourse.”

After they had lunch, Bennett was driven home, according to the notice of intent, and that’s when he began to feel “extremely confused, mortified, and disgusted” by what had happened. Meanwhile, Argento took to her social media to share a photo of them together, captioning it, “Happiest day of my life reunion with @jimmymbennett xox.” She added that “jimmy is going to be in my next movie and that is a fact, dig that jack.”

Argento has not addressed the allegations, but Rose McGowan, who bonded with Argento as a fellow Weinstein accuser and acted as Argento’s spokesperson after Bourdain’s death, said her “heart is broken” by this revelation.

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