When filmmaker Robert Rodriguez cast actress Rose McGowan in the B-movie exploitation flick Grindhouse, it was more than finding the right actor for the right role: it was a defiant middle finger to disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
In a statement to Variety, Rodriguez explains that he met the actress at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival, where she told him that she had been raped by Weinstein eight years prior. In the aftermath of the assault, the actress found herself blacklisted from appearing in any films connected to Weinstein or his influential studio.
“I then revealed to Rose right then and there that I was about to start writing a movie with Quentin Tarantino, a double-feature throwback to ‘70s exploitation movies, and that if she was interested, I would write her a BAD ASS character and make her one of the leads,” said the filmmaker. “I wanted her to have a starring role in a big movie to take her OFF the blacklist, and the best part is that we would have Harvey’s new Weinstein Company pay for the whole damn thing.”
That movie was 2007’s Grindhouse, a double-feature comprised of Tarantino’s Death Proof, which starred Zoë Bell and Kurt Russell, and Rodriguez’s Planet Terror. In the latter film, McGowan plays Cherry, a dancer who finds herself in the midst of a zombie apocalypse — and ends up killing two rapists before the credits roll. The film tanked at the box office, which Rodriguez attributes to Weinstein personally burying the movie because of McGowan’s involvement.
Over the past month, profiles from The New York Times and The New Yorker have exposed decades of sexual misconduct allegations against Weinstein, with prominent actresses like Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie, and filmmakers like Asia Argento, all coming forward to document tales of inappropriate behavior, harassment, and rape perpetrated by Weinstein. The revelations have torpedoed the producer’s career, but they’ve also led to a broader cultural moment where sexual harassment and assault across the entertainment industry and all workplaces is being recognized in a meaningful way.
Rodriguez says casting McGowan was way of striking back against Weinstein’s predatory behavior (Rodriguez and McGowan were in a relationship from 2006 through 2009). But it’s also worth noting that despite learning about McGowan’s allegations, the filmmaker continued working with Weinstein-related companies in subsequent years, including on the 2011 film Spy Kids 4 and 2014’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.
In his statement, Rodriguez suggests that everyone in the entertainment industry needs to do more to address the systemic problem of sexual harassment. “These past few weeks have given me new clarity and hope by seeing the tide finally turn, seeing Harvey finally on the run, and seeing all the brave women who have come forth with their own shocking and distressing stories of abuse,” he writes. “Since I’ve seen a distinct lack of stories coming from men who may have tried to do the right thing, I wanted to come forth to say that no matter the consequences, no matter how far you have to stick your neck out, no matter what you have to lose, that we must fight the good fight. Everyone has to make a stand and take action.”