8 Revelations From Rose McGowan's Unflinching New Memoir, Brave

In her new book, the actress-turned-activist opens up about everything from her troubled childhood to the toxicity of Hollywood.

Rose McGowan memoir

Photo, Josef Jasso.

Since going public with her story of being raped and blacklisted by Harvey Weinstein (a.k.a. “The Monster”), Rose McGowan has become one of the most visible celebrities in the resistance movement. Fierce and unflinching, the actress-turned-activist recent released her memoir, Brave. In it, she recounts her unimaginable childhood (just for starters, she was born in a cult), her many encounters with sexually abusive men, and how the #RoseArmy became her way of fighting back against injustice.

Here are 8 revelations from McGowan’s tell-all.

She grew up in one cult, and later joined another

Cult number one was the Children of God, a hippie Christian cult that encouraged polygamy and later, pedophilia. Founded in America, the organization is the subject of a recent Netflix doc. McGowan’s family belonged to a sect located in Italy from the time of her birth to their escape when she was nine (“luckily for us, my father drew the line at pedophilia and he made secret plans to leave.”)

The second “cult” is the cult of Hollywood, which McGowan has now disavowed: “For those who knew me as an actress, I must inform you that I was never that person…. I was trapped by rigid societal ideals and gender expectations placed on me by people who shouldn’t have been allowed near me (or you). I got such a deeeeeeep mind fucking. I rejected brainwashing early on in life, but later, Hollywood’s Cult of Thought actually got me.”

She was in rehab at 12, homeless by 13

McGowan tried drugs for the first time at 12, taking a hit of acid from a guy at a party. She got caught and ended up in rehab at the behest of her mom’s new boyfriend: “Steve saw an opportunity to get me out of his hair, and he jumped at it. He started in that I was a drug addict, had all the earmarks of a drug addict because I liked to wear all black and listen to The Doors. One hit of acid. One. Hit. I’m fairly sure it requires more to be an addict.”

After escaping rehab, McGowan moved in with a stripper named Tina. To get some money she went back to her mom’s place, stole the family’s Christmas presents and sold them at a pawn shop: “I picked through the presents, irrationally offended that none were for me. In the movies, the tearstained mom would be on the national news, pleading for her runaway daughter’s return. In reality, there was no sign I’d existed. Merry Christmas to me.”

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She was assaulted on the set of her very first acting job

As a young teen, McGowan got work as an extra on the set of a movie called Class of ‘99, not because she was interested in acting, but because her dad started charging her rent and she needed money. On set, she met a crew member in his late forties who “jammed his tongue down [her] throat” and fondled her breasts. “Of course it was me who felt dirty and ashamed,” McGowan writes, explaining how for years, she thought about this violation as a “sexual experience versus assault.”

Her big break was (another) bad scene

McGowan’s “big break” was as the star of the future cult classic Doom Generation. After doing some initial readings, she arrived to do a chemistry test with the movie’s male star and was instructed to lie down on top of him. “He was lying on his back and he had an erection. I could feel it. Which wasn’t his fault, but I think it is a really messed-up way to do a chemistry test… I did the same thing that I always did. I snapped out of my body and floated up to the ceiling.”

Later, on set, she was shooting a scene with a male actor where they are were both sitting in the front seat of the car. She describes how, “All of a sudden I felt something wet under my skirt, and an insistent pushing pressure on my vagina. The actor had taken a bottle of water under my skirt to spray and push onto my privates.”

McGowan says the actor in question has since apologized, and it is an apology she “completely accept[s].”

She won’t name Harvey Weinstein, but she will say what he did to her

In a chapter titled “Death of Self,” McGowan describes her trip to the Sundance Festival in 1997, where she was the unofficial indie “it girl” with four movies at the festival. On the day she arrived for her fateful meeting with Weinstein, she was being followed around by an MTV camera crew for one of those “day in the life” segments. She turned to the camera and said, “I think my life is finally getting easier.” And then she walked in.

McGowan refers to Weinstein “The Monster,” who she describes as having a face like a “melted pineapple.” The assault, she writes, took place in a hot tub room, which Weinstein pushed her into as she went to leave their meeting. He forced her into the tub, and performed oral sex on her: “He places his monster face between my legs. Alarms keep blaring in my head. Wake up, Rose; wake up, Rose. But I was frozen like a statue, if the statue’s legs had been spread wide… I don’t know how else to get out of this situation, so I remember the When Harry Met Sally movie with its fake orgasm. I moan loudly over and over and over, tears falling down from my face.”

Later, she decided she wanted to press charges, but was dissuaded when a female criminal lawyer said to her, “You’re an actress. You’ve done a sex scene. You’ll never win.”

Her most “normal” relationship was with Marilyn Manson

McGowan dated Mason from 1997 to 1998, and was his fiancée when the infamous alt rocker became embroiled in the Columbine shooting tragedy. But despite his reputation, McGowan describes her ex as “sweet.” “We had so much fun,” she says of their year together, describing how “Manson” (as she called him) took her to Italy to see the barn she was born in. Mostly, though, they were just your average homebodies. “At the time when he wasn’t creating electrifying music, Manson was painting watercolours of my Boston Terriers while I was ordering glassware from Martha Stewart’s online store.”

Oh, and that dress. The one she wore to the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards. The one that was mesh in front and dental floss in back. McGowan says that she wore it to subvert expectation and embrace her own power. “The dress raised hell, which, I guess, was my intention of sorts, but what I didn’t anticipate was the global slut-shaming that came afterward.”

She took a lie detector test to prove she didn’t have sex with Quentin Tarantino

McGowan met the director Robert Rodriguez (who she refers to in the book as RR) at the Cannes Film Festival. She writes about how they hit it off immediately. How he was one of those guys who says he is in a dead marriage and planning to leave his wife, and she was one of those girls who was naive enough to believe him. McGowan says she told RR about her encounter with The Monster early on in their relationship, and was devastated when (years later), he sold her movie Planet Terror to Miramax. By that time, their romance had turned abusive and violent. McGowan talks about how he berated her in private and on set and grew increasingly jealous and suspicious. At one point she says he became convinced that she had slept with his friend and collaborator Quentin Tarantino (she hadn’t), and forced her to take a lie detector test.

The #RoseArmy started because of Adam Sandler and Ashton Kutcher… sort of

McGowan has never met Kutcher, but she says she was inspired when she heard him “[say] in some interview that Twitter is the only voice an actor can actually have.” Around that same time, she received a script for an upcoming Adam Sandler movie and the invitation to read for a character who was obsessed with Sandler’s character. A cover letter offered some instructions, including that auditioning actresses should wear formfitting tanks that show off cleavage (push-up bras encouraged). Rather than stew in silence, McGowan tweeted a screenshot of the instruction note, along with the caption, “casting note that came w/ script I got today. For real. Name of male star rhymes with Madam Panhandler hahahaha I die.” The next morning, she had more than 5,000 likes and re-tweets — and a new life purpose.

Expanding on the subject, McGowan notes that the larger issue is not the push-up bra, but rather that these “silly movies propagate a sense of entitlement among the millions of dudes who are [Adam Sandler’s] primary audience. The message is that they, like he, in his stained T-shirt and sweatpants, and by virtue of possessing a penis, having no discernible mental assets, have a right to an accomplished amazing woman like Salma Hayek [who played Sandler’s love interest in the movie Grown Ups].”