Rose McGowan has suffered some hard knocks, from a cult to homelessness to repeated abuse. The actress, director and musician, who has become a vocal women’s rights advocate, opens up about her trauma in her memoir “Brave,” which comes out Tuesday.
Some of what she discloses — including allegations against Harvey Weinstein — she has discussed before, but seeing the anecdotes all in one place has a startling effect. Her life starts looking like a parade of horrors. She says she is on the other side of all that now, though, and finally in a good place.
Here is a look at some of the surprising revelations from the book.
She was born into a cult
McGowan’s parents were living in Italy with the Children of God when she was born in 1973. She remembers it as the first but not last cult she was a part of, because she believes Hollywood is its own sect, with its powerful men as the leaders. Her early memories include being beaten by cult members when she refused to say she had taken God into her heart and the day her father took a second wife. Ultimately — after the group started advocating for sexual relationships between adults and children — her father fled with his kids and second wife, leaving McGowan’s mother to figure out her own escape.
She was a homeless runaway
Clearly her home life was not entirely healthy. Once her parents both made their way back to the United States, she bounced between living with her father — an often cruel man with manic tendencies — and her mother, who had a thing for abusive men and once had McGowan committed for being a drug addict. The actress was just 13 at the time and claims she had just tried acid for the first time. McGowan says she escaped from that facility and became a teen runaway, living and starving on the streets for a year before settling with her aunt in Seattle.
After McGowan and her mother moved to L.A., her mom pawned her off on an older man
McGowan has fond memories of later moving to Los Angeles with her mother, where the two shared an apartment. The bliss was short-lived. Eventually, she says, her mom met a pathological liar and decided to move away with him, but first she asked McGowan’s new 20-year-old boyfriend, William, if he would take care of her. She was 15 at the time, and she moved in with him. William turned out to be an abusive, possessive drug addict who never kept food in the house. He once choked her and dragged her around by her collar, which caused her to lose two toenails. She eventually escaped by stealing his new Ford Explorer and high-tailing it out of town.
“I forged William’s signature on the car’s ‘pink slip’ and traded it in for a spaceship-like sports car and never looked back,” she writes. “That was the end of William for me. I felt some guilt but my missing toenails reminded me that I shouldn’t feel too bad.”
Her first love was murdered
Shortly after escaping her relationship with William, McGowan says she started dating a club owner named Brett Cantor. Things seemed to be looking up for her, relationship-wise. Then, out of nowhere, he was stabbed to death. The murder is still unsolved, “but I have been trying for years to remedy that,” McGowan writes.
She refuses to name Harvey Weinstein and her ex-boyfriend Robert Rodriguez
McGowan was one of the first stars to go public with allegations against Weinstein, but she does not want to say his name.
“By now we all know the Monster’s name, but I have made a choice not to use it,” she writes. “I refuse to have his name in my book.” Instead she refers to him as “the Studio Head,” “the Monster” or “the Pig Monster.” She also details — in a now sadly familiar tale — her allegations that her first business meeting with him suddenly took a horrifying turn when he forced her into his “Jacuzzi room” and performed oral sex on her against her will.
The rest is widely known. He paid her $100,000, as the New York Times reported, and she believes blacklisted her from the industry.
Interestingly, she also does not name her ex-boyfriend, Robert Rodriguez, who directed her in “Planet Terror” in 2007 (part of a collaboration with Quentin Tarantino called “Grindhouse”), instead referring to him as “RR,” even though their relationship, while he was still married, was well-documented. She has some truly terrible stories about his jealousy and erratic behavior. One involves a kissing scene she was supposed to have with the actor Freddy Rodriguez. McGowan claims the director was so possessive, he shaved his facial hair in the same pattern as the actor so he could do the scene instead.
Rodriguez and Tarantino eventually sold the film to Weinstein.
“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,” she writes. “I had to do press events with the Monster and see photos of us together, his big fat paw pulling me in to his body.”
McGowan was pleased when the movie flopped.
Another man McGowan leaves anonymous is her “Phantoms” co-star Ben Affleck. Although she called him out by name on Twitter, she refers to him only as her co-star in her book when she recounts how she says he responded to her story about Weinstein’s abuse by saying, “Goddamn it. I told him to stop doing that.”
Her first audition was terrible
McGowan was discovered by a producer and sent to audition for Gregg Araki’s 1995 film “The Doom Generation,” which also starred James Duval and Johnathon Schaech. McGowan was charmed by Araki’s “fun, infectious personality,” but she says she was turned off by the portion of the audition that was a “chemistry test” with one of the male leads.
“The actor was lying flat on a couch,” she writes. “I was made to lie on top of him. He was lying on his back and he had an erection.” She does not blame the actor, saying it “wasn’t his fault,” but says her way of dealing with the situation was by disassociating — something she had become good at by that point.
The real story behind those tabloid claims of plastic surgery (and it was not a car accident)
McGowan became a target on sites like Perez Hilton when her appearance seemed to change overnight. Suddenly the tabloids were claiming the actress had gone under the knife. At the time, McGowan said the change was the result of a car crash that left her needing reconstructive surgery. It turns out that was not true at all.
In 2007, when she was recuperating from an injury she suffered on the set of “Planet Terror,” she thought it was a good time to also fix a lifelong sinus problem. The operation went awry, she says, when the surgeon punctured a hole in her skin below her right eye. She needed reconstructive surgery, which left her eye looking slightly pinched, so she also had surgery on her left eye to keep things symmetrical.
“I told my publicists what happened and they said to say it was a car accident,” McGowan writes. “Looking back, I don’t know why it mattered but I took that advice. And so when I was asked by the press, that became the party line.”
Her relationship with Marilyn Manson was quite lovely, thank you very much
Despite the press calling him the antichrist, the singer was a very sweet person, and the pair had a pretty boring, domestic existence, she recalls.
“When he wasn’t creating electrifying music, Manson was painting watercolors of my Boston terriers while I was ordering glassware from Martha Stewart’s online store,” she writes.
The infamous dress she wore to the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards was completely misunderstood
In case you need a refresher on the showstopping gown McGowan wore to the awards show while accompanying Marilyn Manson, it was a sheer piece of cloth in front, which left her breasts and black thong in clear view and strands of chains across her back side. McGowan is still annoyed no one seemed to understand her reasons for wearing it. She really was not trying to be sexy.
“Wearing the ‘naked dress,’ as I call it, was a big middle finger to pretty much everybody,” she writes. “It was a reclamation of my own body after my assault.”
Instead, she laments, the dress was “misinterpreted and sexualized, which was the exact opposite point I was trying to make.”
“Charmed” was not a great experience
Working on the Aaron Spelling series was soul-crushing and exhausting, according to McGowan. In retrospect, she is shocked she worked with only one female director during her five years on the show.
The mostly male crew “would snicker in disrespect when she would direct them,” McGowan writes. “I feel horribly about not fighting for her more, but I didn’t fully understand the dynamics of what was happening. My character was too busy talking to leprechauns to have the time.”
When she met Aaron Spelling, he was drinking blue Gatorade out of a crystal goblet using a bendy straw
Now that is an amazing image.