She rocked a machine gun leg in the gritty “Grindhouse” pic “Planet Terror” and dazzled the small screen with her wicked magical spells as part of the cast of “Charmed.” But Rose McGowan is ready to pull another trick out of her sleeve with her latest part by ditching her strikingly good looks to play what she described as a "semi-homeless crackhead" opposite Nick Stahl in the indie flick “Dylan’s Wake,” now shooting in Des Moines. The Italian-born bombshell sat down with Metromix at her East Village loft to dish on Des Moines, her newfound love of Twitter, a trip to Living History Farms and why she may just give it all up one day for a camel in Egypt. We’re not kidding.
So, welcome to Des Moines! How have you been doing in Iowa so far?
I have been loving it here! I don’t think I could do the character I play in ‘Dylan’s Wake’ in Los Angeles or in a big city, period. It’s needed this kind of isolation/non-isolation, and it’s a perfect mix here. Where I’m living in the East Village, at times there is no traffic and there are no people, and I really like that. It’s been necessary for this role.
Since you brought it up, tell me about the movie and your character in ‘Dylan’s Wake.’
It’s a drama with a dash of supernatural elements, and I play Charlie, which was written for a man. This may be my third or fourth role that was originally written for a male actor and turned into a girl. I’m so masculine (laughs). I think they made a good choice turning the role into a girl, obviously, because I’m here, but also because it’s not based on my body in any way. I don’t have to wear a tiny outfit. Actually, I’m basically completely disgusting in this. She is a semi-homeless crackhead who I think is half cracked and half schizophrenic. She somehow latches onto Nick Stahl’s character, and he feels sorry for her and tries to help her, but she’s a tough one to help. It’s funny, though, people want to come to the set and meet me and unfortunately I’m covered in dirty clothes and disgustingly dirty shoes and they put all this oil in my hair to make it look like it hasn’t been washed in a very long time, not to mention makeup obviously doesn’t enhance anything, more like dehances. They also put some brown stuff on my teeth, so these poor people come to set and they want to meet me and it’s a little frightening for them. I know I’m not what they were expecting.
Is this the first time you have looked this bad in a movie?
I saw you on set, and while it’s not quite Charlize Theron in “Monster,” it’s pretty bad. Do you ever get nervous that people may think that is how you really look?
No I don’t’ really care. It kind of makes me laugh, actually. A dirty hippie hit on me on the street the other day. I have never been hit on by a dirty hippie. I was quite startled actually, and thought, 'Yeah, I’ve achieved it!' And yes, she’s not Charlize Theron in ’Monster’ bad because she’s a much younger character, but she is about halfway there. She’s definitely no beauty queen.
How has the shoot been going?
It’s great. The people in Des Moines have been so incredibly kind and so excited that movies are being filmed here. They are ultimately really, really friendly, but they leave you alone enough to do your stuff and that is very much appreciated.
How has it been working with Nick and Amy Smart?
Working with Nick Stahl is awesome. He’s so good and so committed, and I hate to use the term indie cred, but he has it, and he is such a strong actor. Amy is just so lovely. I had met her numerous times, but the only time we had ever seen each other was at big events in evening gowns, so when she showed up here, I was in my crackhead outfit in the most disgusting shoes on earth, so that was incredibly amusing.
As I’m sure you’ve heard, the whole future of filmmaking in Iowa is in jeopardy with the tax-credit scandal. What was your reaction when you heard the news?
I’ve already heard about two productions pulling out. It’s not the brightest business practice (to put everything on hold) because any money brought into any city right now should be a welcome thing. If some people weren’t acting correctly, then you deal with those people on a case-by-case basis. I don’t understand why they would freeze it, because it's like if you own a store that is doing really well, it doesn’t make much sense to shut it down and figure out how to do inventory all of a sudden. As a business person, it’s not a good move. If I was a person living here, I would be peeved because it’s less support for my business, less support for my hotel. So hopefully somebody will put up a big outcry because immediately films are going to New Mexico and Michigan and Oklahoma.
Have you been surprised at all about your surroundings in Des Moines?
Completely surprised! I’m not going to lie; people said, ‘Isn’t it really flat with cornfields?’ And so when I was flying in and I saw all the greenery and the river, I was thrilled, just thrilled. People always say, ‘Oh no, you are going to a small town,‘ as if that is going to be some horrible thing. But my favorite location I have ever been on was Hillsboro, N.M., population 170. It takes a couple days to become de-citified, like ‘Why is this person giving me my change so slowly?‘ But I don’t have anywhere to go, it’s OK. So it’s been great being able to walk around, and I wear my big pink hat, and I have my blind dog with me and everyone is very kind. I also love that you can do some big-town stuff in terms of concerts and going to major supermarkets or Walgreens. You would be surprised on some locations, they don’t have drugstores like that, which can be annoying. It’s the perfect mix here in that you are in another world yet you are still in the world. I also love the Hy-Vees; you can get anything there. I got a dog bed and some health food at the same time. That’s very exciting for me.
What have you ventured out to do around this little world of ours?
I went to the Living History Farms by myself, and I loved it. I want to go back because I just missed being able to take a tractor ride by that much. The people there were so sweet, and I actually love nature. I am lucky enough at my house (in Silver Lake, Calif.) to have orange trees and avocado trees and lemon trees, but obviously it’s so different here. I also got to go to the Britney Spears concert. Unfortunately I was working and only made it for two songs. I was racing there, literally changing out of my clothes in the car and trying to wipe the crack makeup off my face and put on lipstick at the same time. I got there and was not looking as cute as I would’ve liked, but I loved seeing her. I’m so happy she’s doing well. I know her boyfriend, so I’m really happy for her.
In your regular life in LA, do you go out much?
I’m a homebody, actually, and I’m notorious for getting all dressed up, making it to the front door and going back upstairs and watching ’Forensic Files.’ So here I have been a lot more social in ways that I’m not normally. And it’s been nice to go out here because there are ways for me to be pretty anonymous in crowds.
You weren’t so anonymous the other night at the Blazing Saddle. Tell me about hanging out there.
In any city I go to and this is true even in Los Angeles I only like going to gay clubs. I just feel way more at home. Being around straight men, they immediately think you must want to hang out with them, and that is not the case. Never has been and not now. So at gay bars, I always feel comfortable; it’s like my people. That’s how I’ve been since I started going out when I was 15. They are so sweet (at the Saddle). I also love the Continental; I like how elegant it is. I’m not normally a person who sits in pubs or bars, because I don’t drink enough to make it worth it.
Are you ever surprised by the projects people recognize you from?
I have learned not to say ‘Oh I hated that movie!’ Because a movie that I may not like is that person’s favorite. I am not going to lie, I have done the same things to other actors. I was with Bill Pullman the other night, and I was like, ‘I love ‘Mr. Wrong,’ I can’t help it. I think you gave such a great performance, especially when you broke your thumb.’ He looked at me like I was completely insane. I mean, ‘Mr. Wrong‘ is Ellen DeGeneres wearing a dress.
You never aspired to be an actress when you were young. Are you ever surprised by the amount of success you’ve had?
I try to keep in mind that there are a lot of chapters in peoples’ lives, and Hollywood is not the most important thing. I had a lot of chapters in my life before I got there. It would not surprise me in five years to be living in Egypt and riding a camel for some reason. I do kind of lack the thing where people come from Iowa and want to move to L.A. and be famous, and they have this kind of shield. I never had that, so I take the hits pretty hard, I’m not going to lie. I look back where I could’ve made some different choices in the past. But I didn’t have the luck of working with people that were good future planners, if you will, so everything is a little peripatetic. I’m not a booker. I’m not the kind of actor that just books. People always say I’m not the girl next door. To which I always reply that I have always lived next door to someone my whole life. I don’t understand that.
Do you have a master plan for your career?
I really wish that I could relearn Italian and move back to Italy and do some crazy Italian films. That’s honestly what I wish for more than anything. They are really hardcore with their immigration there, and my brothers can be legal citizens but I can’t because I’m a girl, it’s so sexist. Maybe I could marry someone for immigration, but unfortunately the only people I know over there are very famous gay men.
Speaking of your career, what’s the rumor you want to clear up?
I am slated to do a movie called ’Red Sonja’ and that still hopefully is going to happen, but I had to have elbow and wrist surgery six months ago from a stunt I did on the Grindhouse movie, ’Planet Terror.’ My arm is doing well, and I’m not in constant pain but I can’t yet hold a sword. It got all over the news the past couple weeks that I had shut down production because of an arm injury and I’m not sure how that got interpreted in that way. It's delayed partially because of that, but now I think it may go after the Conan film which makes more sense business-wise because Conan is a bigger name. But it happened because of something I posted on Twitter.
How do you feel about Twitter?
I love Twitter. I never expected to, ever, ever. I thought it would be like the Internet in general where people are just mean. I ran into my old co-star Alyssa Milano, and she turned me onto it and I read something that Ashton Kutcher had said about it. If there is something mixed up in the press you can immediately clear it up without a publicist saying, 'Oh, it will go away.' and then it blows up. Unfortunately I made quite a mess with the item I posted, but I didn’t realize news outlets would pick those things up incorrectly. By and large though, people are really kind on there, and if they are not, you can just block them, it's awesome. My address is @rosemcgowan.
What’s up next for you?
I did a five-episode arc on 'Nip/Tuck' which is coming up. I had always been friendly with the creator, and I was maybe going to do something on it three or four years ago when I was still working on ’Charmed’ and it didn’t work out time-wise. So when they came back I said, 'Yes,' because I had always wanted to work with Julian McMahon, whom I adore. He’s so funny.