Actress-director Asia Argento, and models Samantha Panagrosso and Zoe Brock have come forward with new details heightening the scrutiny on Fabrizio Lombardo, the former head of a short-lived Miramax Italy unit, and who allegedly acted as a procurer of women for Harvey Weinstein.
Two of the three women Variety spoke to also claim they were sexually assaulted by Weinstein. Panagrosso, in the latest set of allegations against Weinstein, says she was groped by the Hollywood mogul in a hotel swimming pool in Cannes, and then assaulted in the cabin of a yacht during the 2003 film festival. Brock alleges she was tricked into going back to Weinstein’s hotel, and Argento alleges she was raped by Weinstein after being taken by Lombardo to Weinstein’s room, a claim he has denied.
Lombardo has denied Argento’s claims in a statement. Variety has reached out to his Italian lawyer for further comment.
In an interview with Variety, Argento reiterated her allegation shared on Twitter that during the 1997 Cannes Film Festival, Lombardo took her to Weinstein’s room at the Hotel du Cap. Argento alleged in the New Yorker last week that she was subsequently raped by Weinstein.
“Lombardo that evening came to pick me up at my hotel, which was the Hilton on the Croisette,” Argento told Variety. “And he picks me up and we drove with him, going towards this party at the du Cap.”
“And during this drive I remember [Lombardo] kind of touching my knee, not that he put his hand up my skirt, but thinking he had the license to touch my knee because I was wearing a short dress, which I found repulsive.
“Then he brought me to the room and when we were inside the room I said ‘what the heck, there’s no party, how come?’ and it was like ‘don’t worry everybody is coming, we arrived too early.’ And we sit there and I am kind of nervous, and we sit there and we’re chatting and they give me champagne, Harvey doesn’t drink I remember, and after a while Lombardo says ‘oh wow nobody is coming, let me go and check out where the other guests are.’ [It was a] f*****g lie because nobody came.”
Lombardo denied this accusation. “The insinuation that I accompanied Asia Argento to Mr. Weinstein’s suite in a well-known hotel is highly surprising and regrettable as it is both untrue and is clearly the fruit of a distant and distorted memory,” he said in a statement.
Argento says she remembers clearly. “How could I forget my rape, I remember every detail,” she said.
“With him maybe…he has brought hundreds of girls to Harvey’s room so he does not remember me, but I remember him,” she noted.
New Zealand model Brock also claims she was tricked into going back to Weinstein’s hotel room during the Cannes Film Festival in 1997.
She says Lombardo was in the car with her, Weinstein, and his assistant Rick Schwartz, as the group went back to the Hotel du Cap on the pretense of going to a party, before Lombardo left the room and Weinstein made unwelcome advances, after Schwartz too left. She has given her account in a detailed blog post.
She told Variety that Lombardo saw her one or two days later, said he had heard what happened, and offered his sympathies. His then-girlfriend Claudia Gerini then invited her back to Rome, where, Brock says, the couple tried to persuade her to join them in a threesome.
Panagrosso told Variety that she met Weinstein while staying on a friend’s yacht during the Cannes Film Festival in 2003 and he sat next to her at a dinner at which Weinstein made salacious comments and advances.
“The next day we had lunch at the Eden Roc hotel. I was in the pool after lunch and he came into the pool and started to grope me under the water, to my legs and stuff, and I said ‘you have to stop this is not ok.’”
She says she later refused a dinner invitation but Weinstein came into her cabin. “He pushed me on the bed, tried groping me and I tried to play it off because I thought he’s not going to do anything because my friends are on the boat. But it got very frustrating to get him out. It was like bargaining. When I said ‘no’ he said ‘maybe if I can’t massage you, will you massage me?’ When I said no to that he said ‘come on why are you being so difficult, all the [other] women are ok with it. I don’t see what you are making such a fuss about. Let me see your breasts at least.’”
In the interview Panagrosso said that Lombardo, who ran a Miramax outpost in Italy between 1999 and 2004, in truth “was not running anything.” She added: “He was just giving that title as a pretext.”
Panagrosso said she first intersected with Lombardo in the Milan fashion world where he was “someone who uses the girls from model agencies to bring them to dinners with powerful people.” She subsequently met him in Cannes “and I talked with him and said: ‘what are you doing?’ And he said: ‘I work for Harvey at the company in Europe.’”
“But honestly the guy was always with girls; bringing girls, I saw him [doing that] so many times.”
After Lombardo was hired in 1999 to open a Miramax office in Italy he soon became known at Miramax as The Talented Mr. Lombardo, according to several sources.
He had become a friend of Harvey Weinstein in the 1990s, he told the New York Times in a 2004 article which questioned Lombardo’s competency as a film business executive. He accompanied Weinstein to the Cannes Film Festival from 1995 and they also spent time together on St Bart’s, the Caribbean resort island, the Times said.
Argento, who as the daughter of prominent Italian horror film director, Dario Argento, has always been part of Italy’s film community, said she was first introduced to Lombardo as a producer, which she found surprising.
“What is funny is I had been working in cinema since I was nine and I know everybody in the Italian industry and I had never seen him before, and they said he’s an Italian producer. I was like ‘wow, I have never seen this guy around,’” she said.
As the Weinstein scandal started to unfold, Lombardo sent Argento two messages which he has told several outlets including The Guardian and Vanity Fair were sent by accident. One is a joke about Silvio Berlusconi wanting a 25-year-old escort, the other is an odd video titled “Have You Ever Been This Drunk?”
Argento told Variety she considers them a deliberate attempt to silence her.
“It was actually a threat to try and say to me I am a drunk and I am a whore,” she said. “And it put fuel in my fire, it gave me strength. How dare you, after what happened, try and scare me to say my reputation will go down, which is how Italy is describing me in the newspapers.”
Argento also underscored that she is being “slut-shamed” in the Italian press. “I am being shamed by the Italian media, which is medieval,” she said. She noted that “Until the ‘60s [in Italy] you could kill your wife and it was called murder of honor, if she had cheated.”
Italian transexual politician and TV host Vladimir Luxuria has tweeted that Argento “should have said ‘no’ to Weinstein” at the time when he allegedly raped her.
“Until 1996 rape was considered a crime against morals, not against a person” Argento said to underscore what she called “the Italian mentality” even today.
Several sources have alleged to Variety that Lombardo procured women for Weinstein while employed by Miramax (which at the time was owned by Disney).
Lombardo, in his statement, is adamant that Miramax’s Italy operation, and his role in the business, was legitimate. During the three years in which Lombardo ran an Italy outpost for Miramax, the company was indeed quite active.
Martin Scorsese shot “Gangs of New York” at Rome’s Cinecitta studios and Miramax was also involved in the production of Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore’s “Malena” and Roberto Benigni’s “Pinocchio.” The company acquired Marco Tullio Giordana’s “The Best of Youth” and Gabriele Salvatores’ “I’m Not Scared.”
But according to several accounts of people who worked on those films in various capacities, Lombardo’s role on both the production and acquisition side was marginal. As an independent, Miramax films were released by other distributors in Italy and therefore the company didn’t need a full-fledged distribution base there.
By all accounts Lombardo did, however, act as an ambassador for Miramax in Italy’s film community. As reported by Variety at the time, Lombardo attended an Amfar gala at the 2001 Venice Film Festival where he purchased the highest priced item, a white gold, topaz and diamond necklace from event sponsor Bulgari, for $27,000.
He then credited Elizabeth Taylor, who chaired the evening, with inspiring him to up the bidding. “I told Liz Taylor if she gave me a kiss I’d go higher, and she did,” Variety reported that Lombardo said.