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Rose McGowan (Cherry) - Planet Terror

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Born in Florence, Italy, Rose McGowan moved to the United States as a teenager to pursue a career in acting. A role in Encino Man (1992) paved the way for McGowan’s first starring role in The Doom Generation, a nihilistic teen movie for which she was nominated at the 1996 Independent Spirit Awards for a Best Debut Performance award. Appearing in Wes Craven’s Scream (1996) and nominated for a Best Villain award for her performance in 1999’s macabre teen comedy Jawbreaker, McGowan is perhaps best known for her five-year stint on supernatural sitcom Charmed, in which she played the long-lost Halliwell sister Paige. We caught up with McGowan as her latest movie Planet Terror, in which she plays a brunette go-go dancer named Cherry, was due for release on DVD...

ReviewGraveyard: Were you apprehensive about making a movie in the grindhouse tradition?

Interview imageRose McGowan: I’ve had people say: “Oh, are they intentionally going to make a bad film?” I know why they’d say that, because those films weren’t always the best.

But I was like: “No, the homage is really to the directors, who were the mavericks working outside the studio system and breaking all the cardinal sins of movie-making, i.e. killing kids, killing dogs, doing all the things you’re not supposed to do in films. Robert [Rodriguez, Planet Terror's director] is doing it within the system, and that’s pretty badass.”

That’s my take, anyway, and I think he’s thrilled to be doing that.

RG: How was it shooting for TV during the day and shooting a film by night?

RM: I shot the first two months of Planet Terror at night while finishing the last two months of Charmed during the day, in LA and Texas. It’s a pretty brutal schedule.

I must have done between 80 and 100 hours a week on Charmed for five years. It did drive me nuts, but I knew it was going to be hard. And it was.

Interview image I would wrap around 6am Sunday morning in Texas and get on a 7am flight to LA, then work till 11pm on Charmed to make up the time and then start again at 5am and work till 9pm. On Thursdays I’d get off at 3pm, fly to Texas, shoot all night and then go back.

I started the movie at 104lb and went down to 98 and a half. And unlike some actresses out there who get very excited when they look like bobble-heads, I thought I looked disgusting. I was not thrilled.

RG: How was it to shoot the scene in Plant Terror, where Quentin Tarantino tries to rape you with his melting penis?

RM: That was really gross, I’m not gonna lie. It was actually worse on the set! There was a still photographer trying to get a shot of me between his legs. I was like: “Oh hell, no!”

Interview imageRobert kept saying: “Turn your head back!” Cos I kept turning away. But Quentin was very good in that scene. Robert directed him very well and he was pretty menacing. In the scene, I’m crying while he’s making me dance, and then I kind of go nuts and smack him.

He’s a very big guy. And I did that about three or four times, where I knocked him across the room, and every time I did it I was like: “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I won’t hit you next time!” He was like: “That’s OK.” But then I’d do it again. [Laughs]

RG: What’s Robert like as a director?

RM: Robert’s sets are very quiet, very focused. He’s behind the camera, then he goes home at night and edits it, so I think his brain is doing so many different things. I’d never been on such a quiet set. It was strange, especially going back and forth to Charmed, where everybody was really funny and warm and loud, shooting spitballs at my head during scenes.

RG: For Planet Terror, did you need go-go dancing lessons to play Cherry?

Interview imageRM: No, I did not, actually. I’ve always kinda grown up dancing. I can do back-bends in five inch heels, so it all worked out. The back-bend I had to hold for a long time because Robert had this huge camera and wanted to shoot the first scene sort of through my back.

He actually wrote the music while he was writing the film, and he wanted the opening sequence to be a dance sequence. I love that music, it’s fantastic. And I have to say, I think it’s a pretty great sequence!

RG: What’s the story with Cherry and El Wray?

RM: Cherry and El Wray were about to get married, or they were engaged at some point, and I think she’s pretty angry with him. That’s why she’s like: “F*ck you!” I think he hurt her pretty badly. As for their back story, I’d say they were together probably at least a couple of years, but they butted heads, so to speak. I think they both had distinct personalities that clashed.

RG: You spend most of the film with a wooden leg, but you’re also wearing a very short skirt. Was it difficult to protect your modesty?

Interview imageRM: To tell you the truth, I was so much more concerned with not messing up the shot. It’s such an ingrained thing in me to not mess anything, so I was much more concerned with not messing anything up or wasting time.

Plus it was about 105 degrees there. I was there for six months and it never broke that. It was so humid, I could take a script at three in the morning, squeeze it and water came out. It was really disgusting. So I think, for once, I was happy to be not wearing a lot.

RG: When did you first have to shoot a scene with the false leg?

RM: Day one. The first scene I did in the movie was walking down the hall of the hospital with Freddy Rodriguez. What’s funny about that is that Quentin, when he read Robert’s script, thought that was hilarious and he was doing a kind of Three Stooges impression, acting out the scene. So Robert came to me and said: “This is what Quentin really liked,” and so he acted out the scene for me. And then I had to imitate Robert imitating Quentin...

RG: It’s very convincing. How did you do the effect?

Interview imageRM: I had to keep my leg completely straight. It wasn’t like, say, Lieutenant Dan in Forrest Gump. That’s a green sock, where they just take his leg away and replace it with something else. But when Robert wrote it, the technology wasn’t there to do it.

I think that’s what’s so cool about him. He’ll write something and go: “I don’t know how to do this, we’re just gonna have to figure it out.” And that’s kinda what happened. It was a green sock with LED lights on it so the special effects people could manage the tracking shots. But if it wiped across anything else, like my good leg, they’d have to rebuild it.

Everywhere I’d go, they had to digitally rebuild everything I passed. But I think it just looks badass, and I think that supersedes and overrides any discomfort. Who cares? As
Robert always says: “Film is forever.”

Well, he said that after I lost feeling in two fingers after doing one of my back-bends. I was like: “Easy for you to say, dickhead!” (Laughs). But he’s completely right. Yes it was uncomfortable and yes it hurt, but it looks fantastic, it looks kick-ass, and I don’t think anything about it looks fake - which is odd!

RG: Thank you for your time.

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With thanks to Matt Littlewood at Gas Agency

Planet Terror is released on DVD from 10 March 2008.

Click here to buy Planet Terror on DVD for £10.98 (RRP: £17.99)

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