What Happened When One 'Scream' Queen Took On Sexism In Hollywood

Rose McGowan wants to flip her industry's predictable script.

Last week, Rose McGowan saw something in a casting notice that made her laugh, and wince.

McGowan, an actress and director who starred in a slew 1990s teen movies (and the victim of the most grisly-funny death in the original "Scream"), couldn't help noticing that the script she'd just received included a pair of notes -- one slightly condescending, the other completely ridiculous.

With Hollywood's treatment of women having become such a problem that the A.C.L.U. recently got involved, the suggestion that push-up bras were "recommended" equipment for an audition seems like exactly the sort of gendered nonsense that deserves an eye-roll and a call-out.

But apparently, not everyone felt that way: On June 24, as she was celebrating the release of her directorial debut, "Dawn," McGowan got the news that she was being dropped by her acting agency, in what was apparently a response to the previous week's tweet.

In light of what seems like a chilling example of what happens to actresses who speak out against sexism in the film industry, MTV News caught up with McGowan by phone to find out more. (Interview has been condensed and edited.)

MTV News: To see a note like that on on a casting notice seems kind of outrageous. Is that sort of thing common on scripts you receive?

McGowan: It's outrageous because it is so common. I've always been really outspoken, but this was just so egregious and stupid. It made me laugh more than anything, but it's kind of tragicomic. And the saddest thing about it is that with the number people that [the notice] goes through, nobody flags it as wrong. Hollywood is so steeped in that kind of old-fashioned misogyny, like "Mad Men" era thinking, yet this is an industry that was built on pushing progress.

MTV News: And when your agency dropped you, did they tell you explicitly that this was the cause?

McGowan: It was very obvious. That's who the script came to me through -- there was something to the effect of, I can't print this because the email is copy-protected -- but it was essentially, "We've decided it's best if you go away." [Laughs.] At first it shook me up, it was like, Oh God, the blacklist, it's happening, here we go. And then I realized I didn't care. It's on. Let's go.

MTV News: It also seems like you'd been moving away from acting, even before this happened. Was stuff like this one of your reasons why?

McGowan: Imagine going to work every day and everything you say has been written for you, probably by a man. It's weird. If you're a woman, it can be a pretty reductive role. This is about having my own voice. Directing - it's control of my life, but also control of content, pushing forward ideas and thoughts.

MTV News: The short film you just debuted, "Dawn," seems really relevant to this idea of telling women's stories, giving them a voice.

McGowan: "Dawn" is a kind of harrowing piece about what we do to young girls -- what we as a society inadvertently do. We take away their ability to protect themselves and subvert their instincts for danger. I set it in 1961 on purpose, so it's that candy coated world, but you want to see the dirty underbelly that's underneath. And that's not unlike Hollywood in certain ways. There just wasn't social media available to out people, for a long time.

MTV News: Speaking of social media, Heather Matarazzo went on an absolutely epic Twitter rant in response to your post. Are you friendly?

McGowan: We are. Her experience -- imagine not being stereotypically beautiful in Hollywood. That's hard, too. It's hard in both ways. It's what they try to make you feel you're worth, and that's what's disgusting to me. I'm trying to bring some humanity to this situation.

For McGowan, that will mean making more movies that uplift more voices not heard enough in Hollywood, which she's very happy to be doing from behind the camera. She's already at work on a feature film, another story about a young woman in search of her own strength, which will begin shooting soon in upstate New York.

"I aim to promote art, thought, beauty, and push the agenda forward," she said. "People accuse Hollywood of having an agenda, and I don't know if it does -- but I do."

McGowan's short film, "Dawn," premiered at Sundance in 2014 and is now available on YouTube.

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