Rose McGowan: Hollywood Is "Doubling Down on this 'Mad Men' Era Bullshit and It Needs to Stop"

Rose McGowan - H 2015 via AP Images

"I literally feel pity for a lot of the stupid idiots that I have to deal with," the actress and director tells THR of sexism and lack of creative thinking in the industry.

Rose McGowan is on fire. After causing a minor furor in Hollywood when she posted a critical tweet about the wardrobe requirements for her audition for an Adam Sandler film, her latest bombshell is a new video for her song "RM486." Bare-chested, with feathers and fangs ablaze, McGowan is forging new territory with her mind while utilizing the same body that seemingly belonged to her employers a short time ago.

Hosting the fundraiser #YESALLWOMEN Sept. 19 for the East Los Angeles Women’s Center at Dilettante gallery downtown, McGowan held the stage between performances of dance, poetry and the punishing hard rock of Deap Vally. Works by noted artists Barbara Kruger and Zachary Drucker, associate producer and consultant for the Amazon series Transparent, were exhibited and auctioned. For McGowan, the evening’s cause — advocating for women’s rights — hits close to home. At the event she spoke to THR about art as a path to freedom — and the Hollywood attitudes that throw up obstacles on that path:

You are at a turning point in your career and in your life. Can you describe how working with artists to fundraise for organizations like the East Los Angeles Women’s Center connects with the shifts in your creative work?

Let me say first that it is important for all of us to take on the status quo. Because if we don’t, it is never going to change. #Yesallwomen I am involved in because it is exactly what it is — yes, all women — and it’s time that we’re heard and it’s time that we count, more importantly. There’s a lot of people saying, "Yes, we’re very aware of this as a problem." I don’t really care about your awareness. I care about you actually doing something. Your awareness — I can’t take that to the bank. Neither can any other women. And neither can men, frankly, because they are all stuck in this societal role. I feel bad for them a lot of the time. I literally feel pity for a lot of the stupid idiots that I have to deal with. 

You are getting behind the camera more — do you feel that this gives you a different platform to effect change?

Well, it’s not a man’s voice coming out of my mouth. So I would say yes. And frankly, my taste level is higher than what I was put into as an actress. And I realize that I was a part of that. I tried to make their idea of the small thing I was allowed to be better than what it was. I tried. I always thought, "God, if someone actually gave me a three dimensional part I could knock the hell out of this. But as it is, I’m trying to bring you, you shmuck, to home base. You haven’t done a lot for me." And so what I get on the side is abuse on sets. What am I doing this for? It literally came down to what am I doing this for? Who am I doing this for? Cause I am no longer willing to take a man’s limit of imagination and be of service to it. Not unless it’s better. Not unless it’s smarter. Not unless it’s stronger. And they can. That’s the thing — they can. They’re comfortable because you can be lazy and get by here. You can sell a script that is lazy. But that’s not good enough. And it shouldn’t be for the male viewer either.

Do you worry that the way you are speaking out is going to affect your opportunities in the future?

No. I don’t care. I could care less. It’s them that should be worried. It’s the people that have perpetrated acts against me that should be shaking in their boots right now. And I hope they are. Also, THR and Variety are the only things that some people in this town read, as far as newspapers go, and there are a lot of things that go on in your papers that are really a part of this problem. A lot of it. You report on women on what they wear before you report on what their accomplishments are. You guys are a part of this problem. I feel sorry for so many people in this industry who are living such a bullshit existence, because they should be better as humans.

How do you feel that working with artists aligns with your mission and what you want to say?

I think working with artists is incredibly important for everybody in the world, but also, it is a way of seeing the world differently. One of my goals is to create more art to put out there in the world. The Department of Education allocates $33 million a year nationally for arts programs in schools. Thirty-three million dollars — that is a low-budget movie, isn’t it? That is how art is being treated. And the more art we can put out there, the more people’s minds we can change about the world at large. You are a small kid in Oklahoma — you’re in a rural community. Or you are a small kid that’s gay and you don’t know anything other that what is in your small town in Indiana where you are being persecuted. Or you are a girl and you don’t know anything other than this little place where you are allowed to be. This is a passport to freedom — that’s what art is. A passport to thought. And thinking is freedom and that’s what we need more of.

Do you feel like technology is going to allow art to re-enter the film business — like the way you released your film Dawn on YouTube? Do you think it is possible that art will be a greater part of film in the future?

I think it will and I think you can put art in film as it should be. This is art, but people aren’t treating it as such. It is art — it’s supposed to be, that was the whole point. We move people. So don’t you, reading this, want to be a part of that movement? Don’t you want to be the artist in your own life? And I do believe there are artists storming the gates and technology is storming the gates of Hollywood. They’re rattling it and people here seem to doubling down on this Mad Men era bullshit and it needs to stop. Because you’re not doing anybody a favor, least of all you. So that’s what I think.