After discovering that Rose McGowan had been sexually assaulted, Robert Rodriguez cast her in Grindhouse to spite Harvey Weinstein. Amid all of the Weinstein sexual abuse allegations, McGowan has been a notable figure. She is one of many actresses who have come forward and accused Weinstein of sexual abuse, stating on Twitter that the American film producer had raped her. Now, Rodriguez, her director on the 2007 film Planet Terror (which was one half of Rodriguez's cinematic throwback collaboration with Quentin Tarantino titled Grindhouse) has spoken out about his knowledge of McGowan's allegations prior to her public announcement, stating that her role in Planet Terror was a backhanded response to what Weinstein had put her through.
In Planet Terror, McGowan plays Cherry Darling, a go-go dancer who quits the business in hopes of finding something more substantial. Following her resignation, she gets swept up in a fight against the undead, eventually replacing her severed leg with a fully-functioning machine gun and becoming a leader in a post-apocalyptic world.
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The role is pivoted primarily around female empowerment, which Rodriguez explained to Variety was crafted specifically for McGowan. Rodriguez, who had a long-running working relationship with Harvey Weinstein and his brother Bob Weinstein, explained that he was appalled to discover what had happened to McGowan. They met during the 2005 Cannes Film Festival after he screened his film Sin City, and discovered that McGowan had been blacklisted from auditioning for any films produced by the Weinsteins. That was when she explained to Rodriguez what had happened. He said:
"Rose told me that all she could do at the time was to get Harvey Weinstein to donate money to an abused women’s shelter and in return she had to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that forbade her from talking about the horrific violation without being sued, and that she shouldn’t even be telling me."
However, despite the fact that she had been blacklisted, Rodriguez insisted on casting her in his next film. He informed her that Harvey Weinstein had no authority in telling him who he could and could not cast. He then added:
"I would write her a BAD ASS character and make her one of the leads. 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."
As far as why Rodriguez had not defended her in front of Weinstein on account of what she had told him, he stated that, "because of the NDA Rose told me she had signed, at Rose’s request I had to keep it quiet from everyone until now as to why we were even making that film together." He added that he was proud to create a fitting character for McGowan who, despite the adversity she had faced, "transforms into a superhero that rights wrongs, battles adversity, mows down rapists, and survives an apocalypse to lead the lost and weary into a land of hope."