Following up on a statement he put out shortly after sexual assault allegations against his former associate Harvey Weinstein began to emerge earlier this month, today director Robert Rodriguez published a lengthy open letter in Variety providing further insight into his relationships with Weinstein and Rose McGowan—who has accused Weinstein of rape and who opened the Women’s Conference in Detroit today with a speech on sexual assault—and why he didn’t speak out on the subject earlier.
The statement begins: “As one of the first victims to come forward with stories of sexual assault by Harvey Weinstein, Rose McGowan is a very brave woman who I applaud for speaking out about Weinstein’s repulsive behavior.” He goes on to say that he knew about the assault long before McGowan discussed it publicly—the two dated from 2006 to 2009—but he declined to say anything about it because “I never wanted to do anything that jeopardized a legal settlement she entered into with Harvey Weinstein. Now that she’s able to tell her story, I want to provide an account of what I knew, when I knew it, and what I did about it.”
In short, after meeting McGowan at a party at the Cannes Film Festival in 2005, Rodriguez told her she should have tried out for Sin City, at which point she said she had been blacklisted from appearing in Weinstein productions. After hearing McGowan’s account of the assault and resulting settlement, Rodriguez replied that he’d write her a part in his next movie and call Weinstein’s bluff if he said he couldn’t cast her. “Casting Rose in a leading role in my next movie felt like the right move to make at the time—to literally make him pay,” he writes.
That role ended up being Cherry Darling, the exotic dancer-turned-action heroine with a machine gun leg in Planet Terror. Rodriguez goes on to allege that the reason Grindhouse disappeared from theaters so quickly was because Weinstein deliberately buried the movie in retaliation: “We knew that strategically we couldn’t rub it in his face why we were REALLY doing this movie, because then he’d just bury the movie… to our horror, Harvey buried our movie anyway,” he writes. He goes on to state his support for a proposed New York law that would nullify nondisclosure agreements in cases of harassment and assault, and say that “we must ensure that justice is served and demand cultural change in our country so that this never happens again.”
Rodriguez’s full statement, courtesy of Variety, is below.
As one of the first victims to come forward with stories of sexual assault by Harvey Weinstein, Rose McGowan is a very brave woman who I applaud for speaking out about Weinstein’s repulsive behavior.
Today over 50 remarkable women have come forward to detail the horrors they endured. This saga has been a watershed moment in our country, and now because of the courage of Rose and others, countless women who previously were unable to stand up and speak out against sexual abuse can do so without fear.
I have not previously discussed what I knew about the 1997 incident that Rose suffered in a hotel room during the Sundance Film Festival. I never wanted to do anything that jeopardized a legal settlement she entered into with Harvey Weinstein. Now that she’s able to tell her story, I want to provide an account of what I knew, when I knew it, and what I did about it.
I met Rose in Cannes on May 19, 2005, at an amfAR after party. “Sin City” had just screened at the Festival the night before. Rose and I were talking, and she told me she was a film noir fan and that she wished she could have been cast in “Sin City.” I asked her “Why didn’t you audition for it? You would have been terrific.” She said that she couldn’t because she had been blacklisted from working on any Weinstein movies. When I asked what she meant by that, and how could she possibly be blacklisted, she told me the horrifying story of what Harvey did to her seven years earlier.
My first reaction was one of shock. I recall clearly what I said next, “My God, why didn’t you say anything? People would have stood up for you! And where was your fiancé during all this? I would have at least beaten the crap out of Harvey if I had heard that.” Rose said they didn’t know what to do. She confided that a female attorney had told her that because she had done nudity in movies that no jury would believe her and that it would turn into a he said/she said case.
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. To add insult to injury, she told me that she was blacklisted from even auditioning for any Weinstein movies.
Incensed at what I heard, I told Rose that she was not blacklisted from MY movies and that Harvey couldn’t tell me who to cast. The reason was that Harvey didn’t work on my movies, I made movies all those years for Dimension and Bob Weinstein. So I explained that if I cast her in my next film, Harvey couldn’t suddenly tell me no, because my first question would be “Oh, really? Why can’t I cast her?” And I was sure he would not want to tell me why.
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 70’s exploitation movies, and that if she was interested, 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.
Just as I finished telling Rose this, I saw Harvey walking around the party! I called Harvey over to our table, and as soon as he got close enough to see that I was sitting with Rose, his face dropped and went ghostly white. I said, “Hey Harvey, this is Rose McGowan. I think she’s amazing and really talented and I’m going to cast her in my next movie.” Harvey then dribbled all over himself in the most over the top performance I’d ever seen as he gushed, “Oh she’s wonderful, oh she’s amazing, oh she’s fantastic, oh she’s so talented… You two should definitely work together.” And then he skittered off. I knew right then that every word Rose told me was true, you could see it all over his face.
I looked over at Rose. Her mouth was open, and her eyes were wide. “WOW. I’ve never seen that before,” she said. I then told her that if she wanted a role that I would write it for her and Harvey’s company would have to fund it. Rose agreed, and the deal was done. I found it so commendable that she was putting the incident behind her and moving forward with her career. I wanted to help. We had a plan, and more importantly, we had a mission.
Since the Weinstein’s had a first look at any project of mine or Quentin’s, I knew they’d never let this project go to another studio. Casting Rose in a leading role in my next movie felt like the right move to make at the time – to literally make him pay.
But 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, especially Harvey. We knew that strategically we couldn’t rub it in his face why we were REALLY doing this movie, because then he’d just bury the movie, not sell it well, and everyone would lose. To our horror, Harvey buried our movie anyway, and because we did not want to risk getting sued, we never spoke publicly about the matter. It would have been much easier on both of us if we could have just revealed why we were doing it.
Even after 12 years, I will never forget sitting with Rose at that party and instantly getting inspired to create a bad ass female action heroine who loses her leg and 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; all with a crackling, retro B-movie aesthetic. I’ll admit it felt really good at the time to realize we could use our art form to help Rose right a serious wrong in both how he victimized her years earlier, but also what Harvey was doing to a wonderful actress by blacklisting her and keeping her from working with filmmakers that would have wanted to work with her. At the time, it was the only thing we could do.
With great understatement, I have to say that it was a long hard road to get that movie made. And even though “Grindhouse” received great reviews, Rose got terrific notices, and the film is still a fan favorite today… it was heartbreaking to see Harvey simply bury the movie for its release.
Until now, I’ve not been able to say anything about it out of respect for the NDA Rose had signed under extreme pressure from Harvey. I am still haunted and disillusioned that after all the good intentions, immense pain and struggle Rose and I and so many talented people went through to make the film, that Harvey Weinstein won in the end by burying the movie just because Rose was the lead actress.
It’s been really difficult to admit and come to terms that the NDA handcuffs forced us to needlessly jump through hoops that today would have been unnecessary because of Rose’s fearlessness to speak out, despite the consequences. I hope that new legislation will result in NDAs to be legally null and void in situations where rape and assault have been committed and where power is so unequally distributed.
Looking back over the years, I have wondered if I would have made the same choices, knowing the bleak outcome. We all suffered greatly on the film, and the journey ended up costing us all more than we ever bargained for. For me personally, it cost me my marriage of 16 years, my family, a large dose of sanity, and for years I have grappled with the sobering idea that maybe I made a grave error in standing up at all, when no one was even asking me to. I know that’s not the message I’d ever want to send out, but it’s been hard to justify something that now is clear was a lose/lose situation from the get-go, and that in the end failed and simply caused more damage. The reason I’m saying this is because it’s very clear to me now that when someone does what Harvey Weinstein did, the devastation goes far beyond predator and victim.
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. 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.
Speaking out is not nearly enough. Even catching someone in the act right away and calling them out as soon as possible is still not nearly enough. What I’ve learned from my own experience is that we as a society need to do a hell of a lot more about prevention. Once someone like Harvey Weinstein strikes, the waves, ripple effects, and the collateral damage that takes place are far-reaching, unstoppable, and unending. Once a predator strikes, it’s simply too late. We have to stop these actions from happening to begin with through education, harsher consequences, and zero tolerance. We must ensure that justice is served and demand cultural change in our country so that this never happens again.