The name Rose McGowan might be a name you’ve never heard before. Or it might ring a bell, or even be a name you know quite well. Now, Rose may sound sweet, but the once-promising actress has had a sour go in the business. Her name is attached to other names like Marilyn Manson and a certain Hollywood mogul whose name is almost taboo to mention.
Rose McGowan had a promising start in her career. She was in the films Scream, Grindhouse and the TV drama Charmed. But in 2017, she ended her silence over an incident that occurred back in 1997, setting off a chain of events that sent her into exile and her predator to the slammer.
Who Is Rose McGowan?
People know Rose McGowan from the series Charmed (she replaced Shannen Doherty), but her off-screen life has been anything but. Since her screen debut in the early ‘90s, McGowan has made quite the impression. If you remember the horror flick Scream, she was the one who got murdered while stuck in a doggy door.
Or maybe you saw Planet Terror, where she played the zombie-fighting heroine with a machine gun for a leg. For a while there, McGowan was set to become a leading lady in Hollywood. She had the looks, the talent, and the guts. It turns out her guts are what ruined it for her.
One. Single. Tweet.
It took one single Tweet in 2016, exposing a producer for what he did to her during the 1997 Sundance Film Festival, to make all the difference. Calling out his predatory behavior in that Tweet is what caught the eye of investigative reporter Ronan Farrow.
The rest, folks, is history. She set off a movement that will forever change the way Hollywood works. Sounds inspiring, right? Well, not for McGowan. She got blacklisted from further opportunities to work in the industry. Her career crashed and burned – all for calling out a man and his dirty, dirty ways.
A Moment of Silence
A year after that Tweet, McGowan became one of the first accusers to go on record in Farrow’s “bombshell” report in The New Yorker. It was Farrow’s exposé in The New York Times that centered on Harvey Weinstein, leading over 80 women to come forward with their own allegations against the man.
It was the birth of the #MeToo movement. And we have McGowan to thank for that. Not everyone is so grateful, though. “Men in general, and the bad women out there, hate [me] now at their own peril,” she said in 2018.
The Silence Breaker Has a Dark Past
She’s a “Silence Breaker” who helped slay a big, bad Hollywood monster. The woman is clearly brave, which has a lot to do with the life she’s lived. And boy, what a life she has lived. She wasn’t given much choice, either, as she was born into a cult.
Born in Italy in 1973, she automatically became a member of the “Children of God.” Needless to say, her childhood was anything but conventional. She traveled with her parents throughout Europe, attending group communes. They came to the U.S. around 1983, but she didn’t stick around.
Children of God
Believe it or not, McGowan wasn’t the only celebrity raised in this cult. River and Joaquin Phoenix were raised in it, too. McGowan spoke about the polygamous religious cult she grew up in during a 2011 interview with People.
Her father ran the Italian chapter of the cult, which gained popularity during the hippie culture of the late ‘60s. “You were cut off from your outside family,” McGowan explained. No newspapers, no TV – “you were kept in the dark so you would obey.”
A Born Rebel
She said she never fit in as a kid; she was more like “a thorn in their side.” A born rebel, she once lit a bookshelf full of Bibles on fire. Blasphemy. Only later on did the truth about the cult come to light (it became notorious for allegations of child sexual abuse).
Thankfully, McGowan’s parents were able to flee the cult. Her father feared for his daughter’s safety, so they “escaped,” as she put it, to the U.S. when she was nine. They settled in Gig Harbor, Washington.
At 13, She Ran Away
McGowan left home a few years after that. At 13, she was already a runaway. She was taken in “by the most amazing drag queens in Portland, Oregon,” she said. Although they didn’t know where their next meal would come from, she felt loved, respected, and part of a family.
Despite her age, she managed to get into nightclubs. “To this day, I only go to gay clubs. I’m perfectly at home there,” she admitted. But McGowan isn’t gay (although she’s said in interviews that she would “be stoked to do a lesbian love scene”).
At 15, She Emancipated Herself
McGowan was 14 when she landed her first job, working at a funeral home. That’s where she said she learned set decor and lighting. “I’d try to get a vibe off a dead body,” she remarked to Elle. At the time, she was bouncing back and forth from her parents’ homes (they divorced after the move to the U.S.).
At 15, McGowan officially emancipated herself from her parents. She told The Guardian how she had only 25 cents to her name, which is why she had to represent herself in court.
At 16, She Was in the Wrong Hands
“I needed to have control of my own life.” With that came responsibility and homelessness. “I was homeless, I was on my own, and I was very lonely. I was entirely focused on just surviving.” She also had no role models for what a “normal” romantic relationship looked like.
Of course, she found herself in some bad relationships. In a sort of “daddy issues” kind of way, she attracted the attention of much older men. “At the time I thought it was cool, but now I think it’s creepy.”
William Was One of the Creepy Ones
In the early ‘90s, when McGowan was pretty much unknown, she was involved with a man she referred to as “William” for two years. She recalled how he would always buy her exercise equipment and fashion magazines to convince her to get thinner.
In her effort to get her weight down to 84 pounds, like the women in the magazines, she developed an eating disorder. She later noted that she was never was able to get below 92 pounds. “I felt like a failure.”
At 18, She Met Her Knight in Shining Armor
By the time she reached the age of 18, she was living in L.A. McGowan started dating Brett Cantor, an A&R exec (he discovered and signed Rage Against the Machine) and a rave club owner. When she met Cantor, she had been in an abusive relationship with a man 20 years older than her (which we can only assume was William).
She left the older man and started dating Cantor, a man who proved to be her savior. He found her a place to stay just so she could escape her bad relationship.
At 20, She Lost Her Knight
One day, on her way back to L.A. following a road trip to Seattle, she called Cantor’s number. The LAPD answered. A police officer gave her some terrible news. In 1993, just two years into their relationship, 25-year-old Cantor was found dead in his home with multiple stab wounds.
In McGowan’s 2018 memoir, Brave, she revealed that Cantor had been “stabbed 23 times and [was] almost decapitated.” At first, authorities couldn’t establish a motive. In fact, the case still remains unsolved. His death reached national news a year later…
When One Door Closes…
O.J. Simpson’s lawyers requested to review Cantor’s case due to the nature of his murder. But the move was seen as a desperate attempt to find an alibi and “establish a serial killer.” As for the unsolved nature of his murder, she wrote that she’s “been trying for years to remedy that.”
She wrote that Cantor would “always have a piece of [her] heart.” After his death, McGowan fell into a “deep depression” and dreaded the thought of becoming homeless again. Call it cliché, but when one door closes, another one opens…
Another Door Opens
McGowan recalled this one day when she was standing on a street corner, crying when a woman came up to her and gave her the opportunity of a lifetime. Right there, on the street corner, this woman asked her if she wanted to be an actress.
Her thought process at the time was that if she accepted the role, she would have enough money to get her own apartment. “So, I took my first acting job.” That job was a brief acting role in the Pauly Shore comedy, Encino Man.
Indie Films and Fishnet Outfits
McGowan spent much of the ‘90s playing minor roles in independent films, like Nowhere (1997), Going All the Way (1997), and Devil in the Flesh (1998). She was always the seductive and mysterious character.
Then, in 1998, she turned heads at the MTV Video Music Awards, when she wore a super revealing fishnet outfit. It was around this time that she was seen on the arm of shock-rocker Marilyn Manson. While they were dating, McGowan appeared in the music video for Coma White. And even performed backing vocals on the song Posthuman.
Rose and Marilyn: The Unlikely Couple
McGowan and Manson (whose real name is Brian Warner) were one of the most unlikely couples, which is why their relationship didn’t laste. They split after two years, without saying much to the public other than crediting it to their lifestyle differences.
Then, in 2018, she revealed the truth in her memoir. She wrote that although she was “really in love with Manson,” she “grew exhausted” of his lifestyle. Manson, who has been accused of rape by multiple women, is what McGowan refers to as a “very misunderstood person.”
Boring Nights In
She told Andy Cohen on Watch What Happens Live years later that it was Manson’s drug use that caused the split. She had one word: “Scarface.” And we all know what Scarface was about… But behind closed doors, the couple was actually quite boring.
What may come as a shock (it did to me) was that the couple was prone to boring nights in rather than wild nights out. McGowan described how he would be “painting watercolors of [his] Boston terriers” while she was “ordering glassware from Martha Stewart’s online store.”
Despite all the awful allegations against him, McGowan doesn’t regret their relationship. “It was a blast, and we were madly in love, and anybody else who thinks differently is wrong.” The truth is that her connection to Manson actually helped her land some acting roles.
In 2001, she was cast as Paige Matthews in the WB supernatural drama series Charmed, replacing the lead actress Shannen Doherty, who left the show. McGowan suited the role of a witch “since she has major goth cred as Marilyn Manson’s former flame,” one review stated.
Off Set, Her Life Wasn’t So Charmed
Charmed was a big role for McGowan, but it wasn’t such a smooth ride. She ultimately described her experience on Charmed as “soul-crushing.” She really wanted to do films, but Weinstein blacklisted her (and we’ll get to that soon). So, she was forced to enter the world of television.
She accepted the offer to join the cast of Charmed, a series about spell-casting sisters. She was flattered at first, but then encountered “relentless sexism on the set.” One time, she wrote, she was reprimanded for dying her hair red in between seasons as she didn’t receive the studio’s permission.
She Was Treated Like S***
As a result of the new “do,” she was screamed at by an unnamed male director. According to McGowan, he also called her an “idiot” and “b**ch” after she accidentally exited a scene in the wrong direction. One crew member – someone she became friends with – was fired for smoking marijuana on the set.
Afterward, McGowan jokingly asked if she would get fired for doing the same thing. She claims she was then told, “We will garnish your wages for all time, no matter where you go. We will take your money, and we will ruin you and you will never work again.” Ouch.
A Real Jawbreaker
In 1999, she starred in the dark comedy Jawbreaker as Courtney Shayne, a popular but evil high school student. She said she based her performance on Gene Tierney’s character in the 1945 film, Leave Her to Heaven.
It did the trick because she earned a nomination for Best Villain at the 1999 MTV Movie Awards. The movie was both a critical and commercial failure, though. Nevertheless, it found success through VHS release and TV airings, developing a cult following (although McGowan probably doesn’t like to use that word so much).
An Affair With Robert Rodriguez
In 2006, director Robert Rodriguez cast McGowan in his film Planet Terror (of the double feature Grindhouse). It didn’t take long for the two to become more than co-workers. The thing is Rodriguez was married at the time, for 16 years already.
He and producer Elizabeth Avellan divorced a year later, which is when Rodriquez proposed to McGowan. They were engaged for a while, until their split in 2009. In Brave, she confessed to her “profound regret” over the affair. She hated the fact that it caused such pain for Rodriguez’s family.
They Both Regret It
Vanity Fair reported that McGowan confided in Rodriguez about the whole Weinstein ordeal, but then accused Rodriguez of doing something that essentially ruined their relationship. She said he sold their film to her monster (Weinstein’s Miramax).
Rodriguez denied the accusation, telling Variety that he only cast McGowan to spite Weinstein. He admitted that making the film blew up in his face, costing him his family, his sanity, and having to grapple with the “grave error in standing up at all [to Weinstein].” He clarified that the saga goes beyond the predator and his victims.
Her Brief Marriage to Davey Detail
McGowan was engaged twice (to Marilyn Manson and Robert Rodriguez), but she has only been married once, from 2013 to 2016. After one year together, she got engaged to artist Davey Detail. The wedding was small and intimate, with about 60 guests. Their eventual divorce was filed under “irreconcilable differences.”
They had separated a year before the divorce. McGowan herself stated that she wasn’t dedicated to the marriage, which is why it didn’t work out. In court, she refused to give Detail any kind of financial support.
The Shaved Head Before the Storm
Before speaking out against Weinstein, McGowan decided to do something bold. She knew she was going to shake the earth beneath her with what she was about to reveal to the world. First, she needed to be seen. And so, she shaved her head.
“The side effect immediately was that people could hear the words coming out of my mouth,” she explained. “I didn’t look like a traditional woman anymore. All of a sudden, people were paying attention.” They took her seriously as she was “going to war. And I need to scare people.”
In 2016, she alleged that an unnamed “studio head” raped her during the 1997 Sundance Film Festival. She also noted that his predatory behavior was “an open secret in Hollywood/Media.” On the day of the infamous Tweet in 2016, Twitter suspended her account for 12 hours.
Everyone was trying to silence her. She explained that she didn’t pursue legal action because a lawyer told her she’d never win in court. Why? Because she had “done a sex scene in a film.” It was only in the following year that this “studio head” was revealed to be Harvey Weinstein.
The “Meeting” in His Hotel Room
Since then, over 80 women have come forward, including Ashley Judd, Salma Hayek, and Gwyneth Paltrow. She refers to him as the “Monster” in her memoir and explains what went down that night at the film festival.
Weinstein had asked her up to his hotel room to “have a meeting about her career.” But there was absolutely nothing professional about that “meeting.” In October 2017, The New York Times reported that McGowan received a $100,000 settlement from Weinstein. That same month, McGowan called out all the “liars” in Hollywood.
The A-List “Liars”
McGowan accused Ben Affleck of lying when he said he was “angry” over Weinstein’s abuse of women. She called Affleck out for not indicating whether he knew about it, despite the fact that she had told him about Weinstein’s behavior.
She later clarified the conversation she had with Affleck. She had “just come from Harvey’s and he said, ‘Goddamn it, I told him to stop doing that.’” On Twitter, she attacked other men in the industry: “All of you Hollywood ‘A-list’ golden boys are LIARS….You all knew.”
Spying and Silencing
After her bombshell Tweet, Amazon Studios dropped her project. According to Weinstein’s lawyer, David Boies, he hired Black Cube, the private intelligence agency, to spy on McGowan. He also tried to stop outlets (The New York Times and The New Yorker) from reporting their investigations on Weinstein.
In 2021, McGowan claimed that Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Gavin Newsom’s wife, attempted to bribe her to keep quiet about all the allegations. In 2020, Weinstein was finally found guilty of rape and sexual assault and given a 23-year sentence.
The Damage Was Done
“I felt like I had about 500,000 pounds lifted off my shoulders to have that burden lifted; it felt like my cells were dissolving,” she told The Guardian. She told Ronan Farrow of The New Yorker that she’d waited over 20 years for this day to come.
But the damage was already done. In 2018, Jill Messick, McGowan’s manager at the time of the 1997 rape, committed suicide. Messick’s family blamed the media, the public, Weinstein, and even McGowan for her death.
Getting Blacklisted From Hollywood
McGowan, and her fellow silence breakers, were blacklisted after refusing the Monster’s sexual advances. In 2019, she shared, “I miss performing. But my career was stolen. We all got stolen. And we were all very good at our jobs. That’s the other crime in all this.”
While writers like Farrow were winning Pulitzer Prizes for their exposés, McGowan was struggling. “I’ve been called one of the first to speak out. No. I was the first. I called The New York Times… They won the Pulitzer, and I’m the one hard-up for money. It’s disgusting.”
When She Started Looking Different
McGowan may not have gotten nearly enough roles, but she’s been in the public eye for decades. At some point in the 2000s, fans couldn’t help but notice that McGowan looked different. She eventually admitted to having done plastic surgery, but at the time, she maintained that it was reconstructive surgery.
She stated that she had to repair the damage from a 2007 car accident. She said her sunglasses “sliced” her under her eye. In 2018, with her truth-telling memoir, she admitted that it was all a lie.
It Was the “Accident,” She Said
In Brave, she wrote that her appearance was altered due to a botched surgery to fix a sinus issue. She explained how the surgeon pierced the skin below her eye by mistake, requiring reconstructive surgery.
And so, one of her eyes looked “slightly pinched,” which then led to an additional surgery on the other eye in order for both of her eyes to match. She admitted that her publicists told her to say it was a “car accident.” Looking back, she finds it ridiculous. But it was what it was.
She’s a Singer Now
McGowan’s 2020 musical debut, titled Planet 9, came as a surprise to many. She wanted to “assert” her own voice in a musical way. Why Planet 9? Because it was the name of the “utopian world” that she created in her childhood.
On Planet 9, life went on – she forgot she could “go there in times of trouble.” Her music features her baby doll-ish voice singing electro-ish songs. Variety called her music “good, not great.” They even used the word “listless” to describe her music.
Her Beef With Natalie Portman
At the 2020 Academy Awards, Natalie Portman wore a fashion-statement gown, with names of female directors whom she felt were snubbed that year. You know how Hollywood loves the protest stuff. But McGowan wasn’t a fan.
In a long Facebook post, she called Portman a “fraud,” before blasting her for her “fake support of other women.” She called Portman out as “an actress acting the part of someone who cares.” She noted that Portman had worked with only two female directors in her career.
Who’s Really the Brave One?
“Brave? No, not by a long shot,” McGowan wrote. Portman then released a response statement via CNN, saying that she actually agrees with McGowan – that she shouldn’t be called “brave” for wearing a dress with women’s names on it.
Portman acknowledged that “brave” is a term suited for the women who have to testify against Weinstein. Portman played it well, and McGowan said she regretted attacking a single person – that she “lost sight of the bigger picture.”
Marique and the Barbarian
McGowan played an evil witch named Marique in the 2011 remake of Conan the Barbarian, and to get accepted for the part, the studio made a rather strange request. They asked McGowan to shave her eyebrows and her hairline.
She said it would cost them $5 million, joking that the makeup, which took five hours to apply every day, exaggerated her “10-head.” She loved working with the lead actor, Jason Momoa, aka “the sweetest barbarian there ever was.” This was before he became Aquaman.
The Case Against Alexander Payne
In 2018, McGowan sat down with Ronan Farrow again, revealing yet another past incident. She accused another “prominent” man in Hollywood of statutory rape. At the time, she didn’t name the man. But in 2020, she outed filmmaker Alexander Payne as the culprit.
She claimed that they had sex when she was 15 years old. Payne responded by writing a guest column in Deadline Hollywood. He acknowledged the “consensual relationship” but denied any misdeed. He asserted that she was 18 at the time. His words: “While I cannot allow false statements about events twenty-nine years ago to go uncorrected, I will continue to wish only the best for Rose.”
The Drug Charges
There was a rumor going around that Weinstein hired someone to plant cocaine in McGowan’s wallet. Whether it’s true or not, McGowan was arrested at Dulles International Airport for possession of cocaine.
The drugs were discovered by a plane cleaning crew after McGowan had already left the airplane. Initially, she was charged with possession, a felony that can carry a maximum sentence of ten years. She pleaded no contest to a reduced charge. She was given a 12-month suspended sentence and had to pay a $2,500 fine.
Her Move (Exile) to Mexico
Whether it’s related or not, McGowan moved to Mexico City, Mexico, in early 2020, calling it a “magical” place. She also says that she never plans on coming back to the United States. Why? Well, she says she moved because she “knew it was going to get really bad in America.”
Plus, her “lease was up in New York,” so she chose Mexico “since it’s a third of the price.” McGowan may have moved there voluntarily, but it feels more like exile.