Rose McGowan cuts her own hair, trimming it into a punkster crop every 10 days. She grew up in a string of Christian communes. She “divorced” her parents. She knew as a child she would be famous. She sold her engagement ring, one of three, to finance the film she just directed.
Ms. McGowan shared these and sundry other revelations late last month over nothing more lethal, or chatter inducing, than a pale lemonade. Fresh-pressed and summery in an Isabel Marant tie-front dress and high-top platform sneakers, she took a seat at one of the slatted wooden tables at the Ludlow Hotel, an oasis of hip in Lower Manhattan.
She was there mostly to talk up “Dawn,” the roughly 18-minute feature she conceived and directed, being shown later that evening at the Anthology Film Archives nearby, the event underwritten by Opening Ceremony.
That film, about a fawnlike adolescent lured into woods by a band of evildoers, was shot in the bonbon tints of a ’60s beach-blanket movie, its sugary hues underscoring the darkness of its subject.
“I understand what it’s like to be taken into the woods with no protection and then be lost,” she said.
Did she mean that literally?
“I know what it’s like to be to be undervalued and underrecognized and left alone to fend for myself,” she appended, an injured note creeping into her voice.
She recalled being seriously hurt while performing a stunt on a film set in Ireland, then being unceremoniously deposited at a hospital for treatment, never to hear again from the cast or crew.
That kind of indifference is endemic to Hollywood, she implied. “There is no such thing as human resources for actors,” she said. “You’re confronted on a daily basis with double-dealing agents, double-dealing lawyers, and nobody is hearing you.”
Acting? She’s over it. At 35, she would rather assert her thorny vision behind the camera. She set “Dawn” in the early ’60s because that decade, she said, represented “a massive cultural shift.” The movie is meant to double as an allegory “for what we do to girls.”
She said that little has changed since the ’60s, when Tab Hunter declared in a fan magazine (his remark is quoted in “Dawn”), “Nobody likes a pushy girl.”
No one, indeed, as she found out after being asked this year to audition for an Adam Sandler movie in a revealing get-up. (“Push up bras encouraged,” the casting note stated.) Irked, she went public on Twitter, venting her annoyance at the call’s implicit sexism.
The upshot: Her agent dropped her. “Being fired was scary in the moment,” she said. “First I got mad, and then I started laughing. I thought I couldn’t have written the script any better.”
That episode, and the ensuing flurry of media attention, the latest an interview on BuzzFeed, in which she emerges as a champion of women in Hollywood, taught her that outspokenness can be an asset. It’s a lesson she first absorbed while growing up in Italy, living with her parents in a string of Christian communes — her father ran an Italian chapter of Children of God — and eventually seeking a court ruling that allowed Ms. McGowan, then underage, to live on her own.
“I just wanted autonomy,” she said. She supported herself with unlikely jobs, the first at a funeral home “moving bodies” and “setting up viewings,” she said. “I think from that experience I learned how to art-direct.”
The crowd at the screening — men flaunting scrubby facial hair, women coifed in topknots — applauded their approval, impressed equally by her evident visual flair and her candor.
For them, she had come far indeed since making her debut in “The Doom Generation,” Gregg Araki’s 1995 indie shocker, in which Ms. McGowan, then 15, electrified filmgoers playing an underage vamp, her dark glamour enhanced by scarlet lips, pearls and the kind of raven-tone bob that Uma Thurman made famous in “Pulp Fiction.”
Among the friends circling her before she took to the stage for a postscreening Q. and A. was the designer Erin Fetherston, who commissioned Ms. McGowan to direct a video inspired by the 1975 Australian classic “Picnic at Hanging Rock” for her fashion show next month. Technical problems were plaguing Ms. McGowan. “The colors are so muddy!” she hissed in Ms. Fetherston’s ear.
Never mind. Humberto Leon, a partner in Opening Ceremony, was part of the merry entourage ferrying Ms. McGowan after, by van, to the restaurant Mission Chinese on East Broadway.
“I love her style,” he said. “She always has so much fun with it. For so many people, ‘Doom Generation,’ and her role in it, are enduring style references.”
Mr. Leon was at least as taken with his friend’s emerging directorial voice. “I just want to hear more of it,” he said.