It’s been nine years since Rose McGowan saw herself on a now-infamous cover of Rolling Stone magazine — airbrushed, posing alongside her “Death Proof” co-star Rosario Dawson, the two naked women covered only by bullets — when she decided to leave Hollywood.
“I was like, ‘Holy god, what have they done to you,'” said McGowan in a conversation with SeriesFest’s Randi Kleiner, which was part of IFP Film Week in Brooklyn.
McGowan said seeing the cover was the moment she decided to disengage from Hollywood after 15 years as a successful actress. Once in a while she’d show up “at some weird red carpet, where they’d make me look like a Trump beauty pageant winner” — but McGowan says those high-profile events were simply cover, while she was hard at work on a number of artistic endeavors she’d kept from the public.
The actress-turned-director teased a number of these projects during the hour-long talk, not the least of which is a new Amazon show.
“I just sold my show to Amazon, that I wrote and [will direct],” said McGowan.
Neither Amazon, nor McGowan have publicly discussed making a show together, but McGowan has talked before about wanting to make a show about her early childhood experience in the Children of God cult, which her family escaped in 1980.
IndieWire reached out to McGowan to follow up about her Amazon series, but she did not return our texts.
Two months ago, Amazon Studios head Roy Price did post a photo with McGowan. And one big piece of advice McGowan had for the filmmakers at IFP Film Week was to circumvent middle management and talk directly to the boss.
“I’m always asking, how can I circumvent middle management that I’m not interested in, because those are the scared ones who say no because they are all really scared for their job, but that doesn’t create great art,” said McGowan. “Be brave enough, if you want to talk to somebody at a studio just call them.”
— Roy Price (@RoyPrice) July 15, 2016
McGowan says she’s also been working on a music album, a book, and a website that she believes could be the antidote to The Kardashians.
For the album, McGowan already released one song, accompanied by a performance art-styled video.
McGowan has also been working hard on a book, which has a March deadline.
“The book is about being brave,” said McGowan, adding that it would include an overview of her life before Hollywood. It was unclear if this would be part of the book, but McGowan did transition to talking about what it was like “living life as someone who is hunted,” detailing a number of disturbing stories of crazy fans and stalkers, two of which ended up in jail.
McGowan is also getting ready to launch a website that will culminate with the broadcasting of her first live performance, but she said will ultimately “be a portal to an artist’s mind.”
“I’ve never seen the Kardashians, I’m lucky I don’t know what their voices sound like,” said McGowan, “but I think, if I do all this right, this could be an antidote to that world.”
However, the project McGowan is most anxious to launch is her first feature. She was clearly frustrated by how long it has taken to get a feature off the ground after her short “Dawn” was well received at Sundance in 2015.
“Other than you [referring to Kleiner] and the female producer of [unclear which project], there is not a single woman in the industry that has helped me, or even contacted me,” said McGowan. “It sounds like whining, but if a dude had directed [“Dawn”] — I was nominated for the Grand Jury prize [at Sundance] and qualified for the Oscar and have over 57,000 hours of set experience — I think they would have a three-picture deal after that. Because they get that off of a minute and half short [at] Sundance, that’s fine, and they do a Blumhouse horror film, or something, and become part of the basic machine.”
McGowan says she learned how to be a director by learning what not to do working with various directors as an actress. Having grown up a cinephile watching movies with her father, then spending countless down hours on set working and studying with the below-the-line crew members, McGowan says she has a good grasp on what it means to be a director.
McGowan relishes the role she has adopted over the last two years of calling out sexism in Hollywood and the media, which she refers to as “glitching the matrix.”
On Saturday she dropped a few hard jabs at Hollywood sexism, including calling Jared Leto out for sending his “Suicide Squad” cast mates inappropriate “gifts” while getting into character as the Joker.
“They never ask girls, ‘Are you a method actress'” said McGowan. “No, in the sense that I’m not like an asshole like Jared Leto, giving Margot Robbie anal beads, sending that kind of stuff to her on set, which to my mind is just illegal. Can you imagine another universe, or job, where that would be acceptable? No, but in Hollywood they’re like, ‘Oh, he’s a method actor, isn’t that sweet.’ No, asshole. He’s an abuser.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article quoted McGowan as having said she “directed” the show she sold to Amazon. McGowan’s publicist has informed IndieWire McGowan did write and sell a pilot to Amazon, which she does plan to direct, but that it has not yet been shot.