With her breakout role in the smash hit, Scream, Rose McGowan was poised to become a leading lady for decades to come. However, those dreams were shattered by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who allegedly raped the actress during the 1997 Sundance Film Festival and blacklisted her from opportunities to build on her early success. But with a single tweet in 2016 about a studio executive whose predatory behavior was “an open secret in Hollywood/Media,” McGowan caught the attention of investigative reporter Ronan Farrow.
A year later, she was among the first accusers to go on record for Farrow’s bombshell report in The New Yorker, following The New York Times’ shocking exposé on Weinstein, which led to a deluge of more than 80 women coming forward with their own Weinstein allegations that defined the #MeToo movement. McGowan took up that mantle and has since shown no signs up putting it down. “Men in general, and the bad women out there, hate [me] now at their own peril,” she told Elle in 2018. “Because what I’ve done is give a voice to women, to show them that it’s okay to be angry. People are terrified of me — they’re so threatened by somebody being angry because you know what? You’re angry, too.”
But what else do we know about this “Silence Breaker” who helped slay a Hollywood monster? Here’s the untold truth of Rose McGowan.
Rose McGowan's early life with a cult
Rose McGowan’s parents were members of The Children of God cult — in which actors River and Joaquin Phoenix were also raised. It has since become infamous for allegations of child sexual abuse (via BBC News).
Speaking with Elle in 2018, McGowan called the religious sect “patriarchal” and rife with disturbing misogyny. “I would look at them [the women] at a very young age, and look at him [her father] and look at them, and I would just think, What? You’re worshiping that?” she said. “It didn’t make any sense. I vowed never to worship a man.” When she was 10, McGowan’s family left the cult and relocated to Gig Harbor, Wash. She previously told People, “As strong as I like to think I’ve always been, I’m sure I could have been broken. I know I got out by the skin of my teeth.”
From there, McGowan landed her first job — working at a funeral home at 14 years old. “That’s where I learned set decor and lighting. I’d try to get a vibe off a dead body,” she quipped to Elle. “But looking back, I could’ve lived without seeing certain things. I’ve had a lot of trauma.”
Rose McGowan suffered a tragic loss
At the age of 18, Rose McGowan began dating Chrysalis Music Group A&R exec and rave club owner Brett Cantor — but tragedy struck two years later. Cantor was found dead inside his Hollywood home of multiple stab wounds at the age of 25 in 1993. When Variety reported on his death, law enforcement officials could not establish a motive. At the time of this writing, the case remains unsolved.
Cantor’s death received national attention a year later, when O.J. Simpson’s lawyers asked Judge Ito to review his case due to the nature of his murder. According to New York Magazine, the move was perceived as a desperate attempt to find an alibi and “establish a serial killer,” but an LAPD spokesperson called this “a dead end.”
In her 2018 memoir, Brave, McGowan revealed that Cantor, who signed and discovered Rage Against the Machine, had been “stabbed twenty-three times and almost decapitated” (via Us Weekly). Of the unsolved nature of his murder, she added, “I have been trying for years to remedy that.”
The Rose McGowan 'possible classic' that never happened
With Scream, Phantoms, Jawbreaker, Charmed, Grindhouse, and Machete, Rose McGowan has quite a few cult classics under her belt (Ben Affleck was the bomb in Phantoms). However, there is one more movie in her filmography that she believes would have been added to that list if it weren’t for studio interference: Monkeybone.
The 2001 fantastical comedy, which co-starred Brendan Fraser, was savaged by critics and bombed at the box office, making only 10% of its $75 million production budget. “The movie would’ve been incredible (at least the underworld part) if the men at 20th Century Fox (the suits) hadn’t fired the director, a true artist, Henry Selick 1/2 the way through filming – a profoundly stupid move,” McGowan wrote on Instagram in 2016. “Selick went on to direct Coraline and had already made the classic, James and the Giant Peach, both tremendous pieces of work. The set design, costumes, prosthetics, actors, all at master level, at least in the underworld part of the film. What #FoxStudios turned this film into because of their fear and lack of artistic thinking was a travesty. They truly robbed us, the audience, of a possible classic.”
Rose McGowan's comments caused trouble at a film festival
Rose McGowan was flying high at the 2008 Toronto Film Festival, where her film, Fifty Dead Men Walking, premiered. A crime thriller based on Britain’s former undercover agent Martin McGartland’s infiltration of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), it was expected to ruffle some feathers.
However, people didn’t expect McGowan to do the ruffling. “My heart just broke for the cause,” she said at a news conference before the screening (via Belfast Telegraph). “I imagine, had I grown up in Belfast, I would 100 percent have been in the IRA. Violence is not to be played out daily and provide an answer to problems, but I understand it.”
Her comments did not go over well. Members of the UK’s Unionist Party called them “foolish and offensive,” and the filmmakers were forced to speak out. Producer Guy Collins, for example, stated “we were surprised and disappointed” by McGowan’s comments (via The Telegraph), and noted that her “opinions run entirely contrary to the stated aims of the film.”
Don't ask her to shave her eyebrows unless you can afford it
Rose McGowan played the evil witch Marique in the 2011 reboot of Conan the Barbarian, but in order for her to accept the role, the studio had to offer up some cash for a strange request. “The studio asked if I would shave my eyebrows and my hairline back to here, and I said, ‘Sure, if you give me $5 million,” McGown told Access. The actress joked that the makeup, which took five hours to apply each day, exaggerated her “10-head.”
Even though she was the villain in the sword and sorcery film, McGowan loved working alongside lead actor Jason Momoa. “He’s a doll,” she said. “I call him like, the sweetest barbarian there ever was.” Adding that he was “amazing” in the part, McGowan said it was as if the future Aquaman star “stepped out of the pages of the comic book” like “he was born to battle with a big sword.”
Rose McGowan's romance with Marilyn Manson was actually pretty boring
Rose McGowan and shock-rocker Marilyn Manson were one of the most unlikely couples in celebrity history and broke up in 2001 after a two-year engagement. “There is great love, but our lifestyle difference is, unfortunately, even greater,” McGowan stated at the time (via ABC News). However, she was a little scant on the details of their breakup until the release of her 2018 memoir, Brave. In the book, the actress writes that although she was “really in love with Manson,” she “grew exhausted” of “the lifestyle” (via People). According to Us Weekly, she also called her ex with the scary persona a “very misunderstood person”: In reality, the two were more prone to boring nights in than wild nights out, with Manson “painting watercolors of my Boston terriers while [McGowan] was ordering glassware from Martha Stewart’s online store.”
Although they are no longer together, McGowan doesn’t regret their love affair one bit. “It was a blast, and we were madly in love, and anybody else who thinks differently is wrong,” she wrote. “It was a pretty legendary relationship, not just in the media. It was a pretty legendary relationship behind the scenes, too. We had a whole lot of amazing.”
Rose McGowan regrets her affair with Robert Rodriguez
When director Robert Rodriguez cast Rose McGowan in his cult hit, Planet Terror (of the double feature Grindhouse), in 2006, the pair quickly became an item. The problem? Rodriguez was married to his wife of 16 years, producer Elizabeth Avellan, at the time. The former couple divorced a year later, and Rodriquez proposed to McGowan, but they eventually split in 2009.
In Brave, McGowan admitted her “profound regret” over the affair and acknowledged “the pain and heartache” they’d caused Rodriguez’s family (via Us Weekly). As detailed by Vanity Fair, McGowan had confided in the filmmaker about Harvey Weinstein during their relationship, but accused Rodriguez of committing a relationship-ending sin: “[selling] our film to my monster [Weinstein’s Miramax].” Per Us Weekly, she wrote, “I can’t tell you what it’s like to be sold into the hands of the man who had assaulted me and scarred me for life.”
While he denied this particular accusation, Rodriguez previously stated to Variety that he’d cast McGowan to spite Weinstein, but admitted that making the film blew up in his face: “It cost me … my family, a large dose of sanity, and for years I have grappled with the sobering idea that maybe I made a grave error in standing up at all [to Weinstein].” He added, “The reason I’m saying this is because it’s very clear to me now that when someone does what Harvey Weinstein did, the devastation goes far beyond predator and victim.”
Rose McGowan says her career was 'stolen'
The #MeToo movement emerged in 2017 after both The New York Times and The New Yorker published bombshell exposés that shined a spotlight on the many allegations of rape and sexual assault against Harvey Weinstein. These articles earned Pulitzer prizes for their writers, including Ronan Farrow, and started a national reckoning of abusive powerful men.
Meanwhile, Rose McGowan was struggling. “I’ve been called one of the first to speak out [on the record about Weinstein]. No. I was the first. I called the New York Times. I blew it wide open, not them,” she told The Guardian in 2019. “They won the Pulitzer and I’m the one hard-up for money. It’s disgusting. I was kind of grossed out by how much they enjoyed being lauded.” McGowan went on to say that her “career was stolen,” but also showed solidarity with all the other women who were allegedly blacklisted for refusing Weinstein. “We all got stolen,” she said of Ashley Judd, Annabella Sciorra, and Mira Sorvino. “And we were all very good at our jobs. That’s the other crime in all this.”
Later that year, McGowan opened up about her lack of job offers while sharing a tweet from Eva Longoria, which promoted a Time’s Up petition to show support for the women who may have to testify against Weinstein: “I have been unemployed for almost five years, ever since I started pushing truth & fighting the lies.”
Rose McGowan had a few words for Hillary Clinton
Ronan Farrow’s tireless investigative reporting helped take down Harvey Weinstein, so Catch and Kill was destined to be a bestseller. When excerpts from his October 2019 book were released, we learned that Weinstein reportedly “attempted to leverage his long-term relationship with Hillary Clinton to pressure Farrow” to back off from his investigation (via The Hollywood Reporter). Farrow wrote that when he attempted to score an interview with the former presidential candidate, her publicist, Nick Merrill, replied that the story was “a concern for us.” According to Federal Election Commission filings obtained by the New York Post, Clinton reportedly received more campaign contributions from Weinstein that any other Democrat.
“It was a personal moment of gut punch to me,” Farrow told BuzzFeed News. “People that I thought would support that kind of reporting were actually very leery of it.” Meanwhile, McGowan quickly took to Twitter to pounce. “I knew that Hillary Clinton’s people were protecting the Monster,” she tweeted. “I can’t believe I used to support her. I guess predators are her style.” McGowan added, “Hillary Clinton, did you have any concern for your husband’s victims? And what about HW victims? No? Didn’t think so.”
When Clinton was asked about her relationship with the disgraced movie mogul during a January 2020 interview with The Hollywood Reporter to promote her documentary, she replied in part, “How could we have known?”
Rose McGowan even had beef with Natalie Portman
Hillary Clinton wasn’t the only target of Rose McGowan’s ire, as she routinely goes in on other celebrities, as well. During the 2020 Academy Awards, Natalie Portman wore a black cape with the names of several female directors she believed were robbed of a best director nomination. Standard protest stuff, right? McGowan didn’t think so. In a lengthy Facebook post, she called Portman’s “type of activism deeply offensive,” because Portman herself had only worked with two female directors in her career and runs a production company that has yet to hire a woman director besides, well, Portman.
“The kind of protest that gets rave reviews from the mainstream media for its bravery,” McGowan wrote. “Brave? No, not by a long shot. More like an actress acting the part of someone who cares. As so many of them do.” McGowan went on to claim Portman was just paying “lip service” to the problem without any action, writing, “Fake support of other women is the problem.”
This caught Portman’s attention, who released a statement to People. “It is inaccurate to call me ‘brave’ for wearing a garment with women’s names on it,” she stated. “Brave is a term I more strongly associate with actions like those of the women who have been testifying against Harvey Weinstein the last few weeks, under incredible pressure.”
Wait, what is Rose McGowan's political affiliation?
“I’m a registered Republican in California,” Rose McGowan wrote in a since-deleted tweet in early January 2020 (via Pink News). “I loathe the Clintons. I hate Trump. I will not vote Republican, but I cannot vote Democrat. I’d rather know what evil I’m getting, so I’ll go Republican. This is about WWIII, so none of that s**t matters anyway.”
As one might expect, the actress got immediate push back, which perhaps led to her next now-deleted tweet. “I will never vote Republican. I want the Democrats to win because we are less likely to die,” McGowan wrote, before calling herself “a conscientious objector” of the United States’ “policies, lies, corruption, nationalism, racism, and deep misogyny.” She added, “It is our right and duty as citizens to dissent.”
A month later, McGowan appeared on Evan Ross Katz’s podcast, Shut Up Evan, and revealed that she only pretended to switch political parties to win a $200 bet after her brother dared her to be a Republican for three months (via People). McGowan admitted, “Granted, late-night ideas aren’t always the best.”
Rose McGowan's ready for a career change
We’re used to seeing Rose McGowan’s talents onscreen, but now she’s ready to take those talents behind the camera. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter at the 2019 Odessa Film Festival, McGowan discussed two feature films she plans to direct.
This first was the animated Pomerania, the story about a dog who becomes a queen and goes to war with the citizens of Muttlandia. McGowan stated, “It’s all about race, breed, classism — and it’s very funny.” After that would come the psychological horror film, Sleepwalk. “It’s a very haunting story about a young girl who sleepwalks a lot, and she blurs what is reality and what is false,” McGowan explained. “It’s about how we all do that in our own lives.”
However, McGowan hinted that she chose this new career path out of necessity, claiming that she wasn’t being offered any roles after speaking out against Harvey Weinstein. “People in Hollywood have not been brave enough to step up for me as I stepped up for them,” she explained. “Because I helped to clean out the system and they haven’t been brave in return. So, I do miss performing but I feel like acting is in the past, mostly because of the lack of support that I’ve gotten.”
Rose McGowan's reaction to Harvey Weinstein's conviction
On Feb. 24, 2020, Harvey Weinstein “was found guilty of criminal sexual assault and of rape in the third degree but was acquitted of the more serious charges of predatory sexual assault and of rape in the first degree” during a jury trial in New York, according to ABC News.
A day later, Rose McGowan was among the many celebs who reacted to the news, when she sat down with Ronan Farrow of The New Yorker to describe her thoughts on the justice she’d waited over 20 years to see. “Well, it’s another day in the twilight zone,” she said, adding, “I haven’t exhaled in so long.” When asked how she felt when she learned of Weinstein’s conviction, McGowan replied: “Honestly, joy. And then I thought, I wonder if he’s gonna hire a hitman to kill me? That was my other thought. And then I thought, Should I have coffee this morning?”
McGowan appeared on the Shut Up Evan podcast that same day, where she said she wouldn’t feel closure until Weinstein had died. “I feel like he and I are strapped in this battle together until one of us is dead. That’s how it goes,” she explained (via Yahoo! Entertainment), adding, “It’s a really disgusting feeling. I just would love to be able to be like other people and live my life. That would be really nice, you know?”
If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual assault, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit RAINN.org for additional resources.
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