Family & Companions
Much more than a pretty face, Rose McGowan's early roles as sexy, snarky, troubled teens initially won her praise, including an Independent Spirit Award nomination for her breakthrough role in Gregg Araki's "The Doom Generation" (1995). She reprised her villainous and violent ways in a number of little-seen indies and went on to taste commercial success in edge-of-your seat teen thrillers "Scream" (1996) and "Jawbreaker" (1999). A spot in the cast of the Goth hen party "Charmed" (The WB, 1998-2006) rescued McGowan from an impending slide into anonymity, after which she resurfaced in the indie film world with a charismatic performance as a stripper in Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's tribute to trash, "Grindhouse" (2007). The raven-haired actress held a definitive, almost hard-edged appeal, stealing most scenes she was in when given the opportunity to shine in quality productions.
McGowan was born to American parents in Florence, Italy, on Sept. 5, 1973. Her father headed the local Children of God cult (also known as The Family) and McGowan spent her early years living on the group's rural commune. She began modeling in Italian magazines including Vogue Bambini, when she was only three years old. When her father ran off with her nanny, the family relocated to the United States and the 10-year-old Rose settled with her mother in Oregon. In an article in Interview, McGowan claimed that when she was 14 years old, her mother's then-beau convinced her mother that the teen was on drugs because she was thin and always wearing black, and she was subsequently locked up in a rehab clinic. McGowan insisted she never had a problem, and upon her release, she wandered the Northwest before becoming emancipated at age 15 and finishing up her high school years living with an aunt in Seattle.
The self-described "born wanderer" made her way to Los Angeles to visit a friend in 1990 and subsequently landed an appearance in an episode of the Fox TV series, "True Colors" (Fox, 1990-91). Following a bit part in the 1992 teen comedy "Encino Man," a friend of a friend introduced McGowan to independent film director Gregg Araki, who cast her in "The Doom Generation" (1995), a violent thriller about a young threesome on the run from the law following a hold-up gone awry. McGowan was one of the leads - a nihilistic speed freak who has sex with each of her co-stars. Following the grueling shoot, McGowan moved back to Seattle and earned her beautician license, thinking that her brief brush with show business had been just that. However, that film earned attention on the independent film circuit following its debut at Sundance, and McGowan was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Debut Performance. Returning to Los Angeles, she had a bit part in the Pauley Shore vehicle "Bio-Dome" (1996) and her career was off and running.
McGowan experienced her first commercial success with "Scream" (1996), Wes Craven's refreshing new take on the slasher genre scripted by The WB teen drama king, Kevin Williamson. The film was a showcase of young Hollywood favorites, boosting McGowan's profile by placing her alongside Neve Campbell, Matthew Lillard, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, and Drew Barrymore. "Scream" went on to earn over $150 million at the box office, as well as set the tone for McGowan's future castings as sarcastic, non-conformist teens. Araki tapped her again for a cameo as one of a trio of Valley girls (alongside Shannen Doherty and Traci Lords) who are vaporized by a space alien in the filmmaker's nihilistic look at Beverly Hills teenagers, "Nowhere" (1997), while that same year, she played a mute femme fatale who hooks up with two escaped cons in the little-seen indie "Lewis and Clark and George" (1997).
With her history playing dangerous ingénues and a personal style that favored Goth meets pinup, McGowan earned the attention of shock rocker Marilyn Manson. After meeting at a movie premiere in 1997, McGowan left her live-in boyfriend and began a high profile relationship with the oddball rocker. She continued to be tapped for "bad girl" roles, winning particular praise for her turn as a sexy young woman who seduces Jeremy Davies in "Going All the Way" (1997) before starring with Joanna Going as sisters who return to their hometown to find no one living there in the eerie "Phantoms" (1997). In "Devil in the Flesh" (1998), McGowan took the lead as a troubled high school student who turns homicidal, while her follow-up role as the self-destructive party girl sister of a Boston man (Donnie Wahlberg) who escapes his rough upbringing only to be sucked back into a dangerous existence in "Southie" (1998) also earned little notice.
In 1998 McGowan officially became more famous for her off-screen behavior than for her acting career. It was the year she made one of the most memorable red carpet appearances in the history of award shows at the MTV Video Music Awards. On the arm of fully made-up boyfriend Manson, she wore a transparent fishnet sheath, thong and platform heels that overall left very little to the imagination. Her strip club ensemble elicited negative commentary even among the youthful pop music crowd, with McGowan defending herself to E! Online: "I thought it was a hoot. I actually expected other people to be more crazy or flamboyant that night, and I wound up being kind of the only one." Having turned the corner from sexy to off-putting seemingly overnight, McGowan nonetheless starred as yet another bad girl in the high school black comedy, "Jawbreaker" (1999), playing the dictatorial leader of a tight-knit trio of high school hotties who accidentally kill a fellow student within a kidnapping scheme gone wrong. The following year she slid from independent to low budget, appearing as a dancer on the professional wrestling circuit in "Ready to Rumble" (1999) starring frat draw David Arquette.
McGowan split with beau Manson in 2001, citing his rock star lifestyle - and drug use - as the source of the relationship's demise. That year she had a small part in the multimedia flop "Monkeybone" (2001) and achieved some career salvation thanks to high profile behind-the-scenes squabbling on the set of the series "Charmed" that resulted in the blustery exit of cast member Shannen Doherty. A fellow perceived bad girl, McGowan was cast to fill out the trio of young adult witches - including Alyssa Milano and Holly Marie Combs - as lost sister Paige Matthews. McGowan and her character were well integrated into the popular show, and for her assistance in successfully filling a hole quickly, the peripatetic actress was gifted with several years of consistent work and steady paychecks. Her next major appearance was with a portrayal of Ann-Margret circa "Viva Las Vegas" (1964), opposite Jonathan Rhys Myers as the King of Rock-n-Roll, in the highly rated CBS miniseries, "Elvis" (2005). She returned to the big screen the following year with a small supporting role in "The Black Dahlia" (2006), Brian De Palma's take on James Ellroy's complicated and richly-textured noir thriller about two hard-edged cops (Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart) who descend into obsession, corruption and sexual degeneracy while investigating the brutal murder of a would-be actress in Los Angeles.
"Charmed" was cancelled in 2006 and a chance meeting with Robert Rodriguez led to one of the better performances of McGowan's career in "Grindhouse" (2007), Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's double feature homage to trashy B-movies of the 1970s. In Rodriguez' segment, "Planet Terror," McGowan was darkly funny and fierce as a go-go dancer (with an automatic weapon for a prosthetic leg) whose Texas town has been overrun with zombies that she and gun-slinging boyfriend Freddy Rodriguez must repel. In Tarantino's "Death Proof," she played a woman who unwittingly snags a ride home from a bar with a sociopathic stuntman (Kurt Russell). McGowan received praise for her performance in the critically lauded double-feature, but her off-screen antics again overshadowed her work when word surfaced of the actress' affair with Rodriguez - a father of five children who was also married for 16 years to his respected co-producer at Troublemaker Studios, Elizabeth Avellan. Production actually halted for a month amid the crisis, and by the time the film made its debut at the Cannes Film Festival, McGowan's and Rodriguez' hand-in-hand appearance confirmed their status. Rodriguez divorced and the couple became engaged that same year.
In 2008, classic movie fan McGowan was tapped to host "The Essentials" (TCM, 2000- ), a wraparound show on Turner Classic Movies highlighting and discussing a different classic film each week. She returned to limited theaters in "50 Dead Men Walking" (2009), based on the true story of an undercover informant (Jim Sturgess) who infiltrated the Irish Republican Army in the late 1980s. The controversial actress ruffled feathers when she expressed sympathy for the cause of the IRA during a press junket interview. McGowan's career - which had barely recovered from the specter of Rodriguez "homewrecker" - appeared to tread water again, and the actress remained relatively low profile except for a recurring role on "Nip/Tuck" (FX, 2003-2010) in 2010.
Cast (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Made early TV appearance in an episode of the Fox series, "True Colors"
Became an emancipated minor
Made film debut in "Encino Man"
Had breakthrough role as speed princess in Gregg Araki's "The Doom Generation"
Appeared opposite Peter O'Toole in the film adaptation of "Phantoms"
Re-teamed with Araki for a cameo in "Nowhere"
Headlined the black comedy, "Jawbreaker"
Co-starred in the comedy feature, "Ready to Rumble"
Joined the cast of The WB series, "Charmed"
Portrayed Ann-Margret in the CBS miniseries, "Elvis"
Co-starred in both segments of the double feature, "Grindhouse," a collaboration of both Robert Rodriguez's "Planet Terror" and Quentin Tarantino's "Death Proof"
Co-starred opposite Ben Kingsley in the drama thriller, "Fifty Dead Men Walking"
Appeared in a recurring role on FX's "Nip/Tuck"
Cast as Cherry Darling in Rodriguez' action drama "Machete"
Portrayed Khalar Zym's daughter and a powerful witch in "Conan the Barbarian"