Is there a new “blacklist” in Hollywood? According to actress Rose McGowan, there is, and the way to get your name on it is to be a feminist.
The actual story of what’s happening to McGowan’s rapidly fading career, though, is a little different. She thought she was taking aim at sexism in showbiz, but in fact she merely shot off her own foot.
On June 17, McGowan, the onetime star of the young-witches TV series Charmed and lately a fixture in low-budget straight-to-video films, sent off an ill-advised Tweet mocking a casting note that told interested actresses to dress so as to show off their figures, then singled out for ridicule the film’s star Adam Sandler.
casting note that came w/script I got today. For real. name of male star rhymes with Madam Panhandler hahahaha I die pic.twitter.com/lCWGTV537t
— rose mcgowan (@rosemcgowan) June 18, 2015
Hollywood people love to sit around the set sharing stories of one another’s addictions, peccadilloes, and salary demands, but to bring any of this out into the open is considered a major violation of the Hollywood code: Like the mafia, showbiz dons forbid talking business outside the family. This is why interviews with actors and directors are so famously vapid: It’s an unwritten rule that Hollywood types avoid discussing the interesting stuff, the behind-the-scenes politicking, and the petty feuds. But if you must mention any of this in public, the absolute ironclad rule is: You name no names. Especially the names of people who are more powerful than you are.
Adam Sandler is a fading star himself, but he is still a potent Hollywood figure. He produces his own pictures through his Happy Madison banner, and serves as the quarterback of a core group of producers, directors, and writers who share a sensibility. That sensibility is fairly juvenile (when Sandler signed his current deal to make four films for Netflix after wearing out his welcome with his longtime studio partners at Sony Pictures, he expressed enthusiasm about working with a company whose name rhymed with “wet chicks”), but it has also proved immensely profitable over the years.
Being publicly rude to Sandler meant McGowan was not only effectively cutting all potential ties with the actor-producer but also with anyone who might be wary of offending Sandler, such as his many former Saturday Night Live colleagues, his frequent costars Kevin James and Drew Barrymore, his ex-roommate Judd Apatow, and his powerful talent agency William Morris Endeavor. McGowan says she was promptly dropped by her much smaller agency Innovative Artists, which no doubt calculated the relative values of representing a 41-year-old B-movie actress and being cut off from deals involving one of Hollywood’s three biggest talent pools and didn’t have much difficulty making a decision.
Given the exquisite sensitivities of the feminist movement, however, McGowan has made herself a cause celebre, earning an appearance on Good Morning America in which she expressed no regrets and positioned herself as a champion of actresses. “I don’t care, bring it,” she said. “You want to play, let’s play.” She added that “I just want to make it better for the next girl coming after me, that she doesn’t have to sell her body and soul just because she wants to be a creative person. That isn’t the fine that you pay at the gate.”
But there are lots of ways to be a “creative person” without becoming an actress, and indeed generations of young beauties have come to L.A. specifically to capitalize on their attractiveness. The “casting note” that so infuriated McGowan directed hopefuls to wear cleavage-emphasizing tops and form-fitting leggings—in other words, to dress the way every young actress in L.A. dresses when she’s going out to brunch in hopes of being noticed.
Indeed, McGowan herself may have hit her peak of notoriety when she turned up virtually nude at the MTV Movie Awards in 1998 on the arm of her date Marilyn Manson. If the 24-year-old McGowan could hear the 41-year-old McGowan lecturing her on dress codes, she would just laugh and say, “Grandma, I love being looked at. I’m sorry if no one is looking at you anymore.”