Rose McGowan Returns to the Screen — in a New Art-Installation Short

The #MeToo activist stands in a 17th century chapel and listens to ambient noise through chunky headphones as modern dancer James Mulford swirls around in the piece, which was shown at London's Institute of Light earlier this month.
Tonia Arapovic/Courtesy of Heist Gallery
Rose McGowan's pop-up performance inside a London art installation.

Rose McGowan retired from acting in 2015 — "It got so boring in front of the camera I had to quit," she announced on Instagram — but turns out she's not done performing. The 45-year-old #MeToo activist is back on the screen in a new art-installation short being shown at London's Institute of Light on Dec. 15 and 16.

It's not much of a part — McGowan stands in a 17th-century chapel and listens to ambient noise through clunky headphones as modern dancer James Mulford swirls around — but still, it's (sort of) showbiz. "Art has always healed me and at the time I joined the project, I needed some healing," she tells THR. "I filmed this during the tidal wave of Weinstein press [in May, when Harvey Weinstein was arrested] and it was good to be able to exorcise some demons."

Weinstein isn't the only demon she's purging: While roaming Europe, she's also writing a screenplay about the free-love commune in Tuscany where she grew up. THR caught up with McGowan via email to get the backstory on the art project, why she wrote an open letter to the media and what she learned from handing over her Instagram account to the public.

Aside from the striking music video for your song "RM486," I believe this marks your first performance in an art project in quite some time. What was filming like? And what were the challenges in responding to James in one piece filmed in one take?

For the last three years I’ve been filming and recording my own art project, Planet 9, but during that time I’ve had collaborations with other artists; Indecision IV is one of those. So much of our communication is nonverbal, and I looked at the one take as a physical conversation.

How did you prepare?

I used my years of technical training and then let go.

You've been a fan of London for a long time and have been involved in the art and fashion scenes there for quite some time, too. As someone who has lived with and been surrounded by art your whole life, how is the art scene there different from other cities?

The London art scene has such a strong pulse and it’s always attracted me. From growing up with an artist father to having sisters that work in the art world, my life has long been intertwined with the art world. The difference is that in London you can go deep. It’s very exciting.

Are you firmly settled in London now?

I’m not firmly settled anywhere, but I do prefer Europe at this time.

You have a separate Instagram account, Rose McGowan Arts, dedicated to art and your own photography. What are your aspirations in that world? Are you moving toward having a show of your own?

I am working toward having my own show. I’ve been creating visual art for a long time. It’s something that helps me transcend my environment.

You recently dedicated your other Instagram account to the public — specifically the voiceless — to offer an opportunity to share others' experiences and perspectives with the word "No." The posts are quite powerful. What did you take away from that experience? Was there a particular post that impacted you most?

Giving my platform away for #NoVember was a great, intense and uplifting experience. I’m so proud of the rainbow community that shared their stories of hope and transcendence.

You also recently wrote a letter thanking the press for their efforts in moving the needle forward during a tumultuous time, a year you dubbed "the Year of the Trigger." How have you seen the media change over the past year?

It’s been really cool seeing the press push itself to have different, more nuanced conversations about difficult subjects. I thought they deserved acknowledgment for that.

In the letter, you note that you got tired of yourself and your own story. How are you feeling now as we inch closer to 2019? What are you looking forward to for next year, both personally and professionally?

A media man in Germany said to me, "You’re the one who lays on barbwire so others can walk on your back.” It wasn’t fun to stay on message, but it kind of had to be that way. I had information others don’t have and a platform to speak it. I’m looking forward to 2019 because I’ll be getting back to the screenplay I’m writing, Children of God, writing my next book, having my current book, Brave, come out in paperback in March, and finishing Planet 9 as well as continuing to advocate for the voiceless. Good stuff!

A version of this story first appeared in the Dec. 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.