In “Conan the Barbarian,” Rose McGowan ditches her usual glam look to portray Marique, a slithering, blade-wielding sorceress out to help her father (Stephen Lang) raise the dead and take over the world. The part called for hours in the makeup chair and plenty of swordplay — not that McGowan is complaining, mind you. Metro sat down with the always outspoken actress to chat about risking injury on set, the future of the Red Sonja remake and fighting above her weight class.
You got your start with “the Doom Generation” ...
So you’ve seen my breasts. Odd now, sitting across from me, right? It’s occasionally what pops into my head when someone says, “I loved ‘the Doom Generation.’” We’re on unequal footing now.
It really came out of nowhere.
It really did. It came out of nowhere for me, and I really had no idea what I was doing or what I was participating in. It was like movie boot camp. Gregg Araki would go around clapping his hands saying, “Work harder faster! Work harder faster!” And I thought everybody said that on every set. They would put a mark down on the floor, and I didn’t even know what that meant.
In “Conan the Barbarian,” you get to play with some pretty fun weapons.
That’s fun, great fun. I think just as a girl I’m so consistently underestimated, especially because I weigh, like, 103 pounds. People treat you like you’re this little doll. I’m like, my brain — which I think is why I’m always so injured — is not in line with what my body is like. So I’m like Scrappy Doo out there, fighting the big guys, which is why I always wind up getting hurt, because I have this unfortunately delicate frame.
With you being in “Conan,” does this mean you can’t be Red Sonja?
I can’t do that based on my injury. It’s not worth it. It’s not worth paralysis — being that I was paralyzed in my right arm from a stunt gone wrong. I had three surgeries in my wrist, three in my elbow, part of the elbow bone out. There’s points where you’re like, “OK, there are real-life situations and there are movie situations.” And I’ve done things on film to save a shot. There was a huge camera up on a crane — this was on “Death Proof” — and it was supposed to swing its arm, and out of the corner of my eye I saw it just falling, just swooping really fast. I should’ve just ducked out of the way, but I didn’t want to ruin the shot, so I just turned my head to side and just laughed. And it literally just whipped through my hair. It would’ve probably decapitated me. And also on “Death Proof,” I didn’t want a double to do all the face slamming against the window, so that was all me. I almost shattered my cheekbone. But it looked cool!
Might I suggest you should do some dramas instead?
I just did one! Although actually I got the crap beaten out of me for about two weeks straight by my husband in the movie, now that I think about it. It was hard not going, “I’m going to kick your ass now,” because I’m used to that instead of just taking it like a mouse.
So does the injury mean you’re looking for fewer genre roles?
I will always. I’m a fighter, what can I say? And it’s also just great fun. I love flying on wires and things being blown up around me and things lighting on fire. That’s the fun part of what I do. I don’t have to sit behind a desk. “What did you do at work today?” “Well... I flew over a 30-foot wall with a giant mushroom cloud explosion behind me. Half my hair burned off, but it looked fantastic!”