Actress Rose McGowan, a prominent voice in the Harvey Weinstein scandal, accused Oscar-winning screenwriter Alexander Payne of statutory rape last month by citing an incident that she alleges happened when she was 15 years old.
That would mean the alleged encounter would have taken place in the late 1980s when ‘The Descendants’ and ‘Sideways’ director was in his late 20s.
On Friday, after weeks of silence on the matter, Payne firmly denied each of the allegations in a guest column for Deadline.
“[W]hat she has said about me in recent social media posts is simply untrue,” the ‘Election’ filmmaker wrote.
Payne said McGowan was mistaken in saying that they met in the late 1980s when she was 15. That’s because, he says, he was a full-time film student at UCLA at the time (from 1984 to 1990) and “our paths never crossed.” (A spokesperson for UCLA’s film school confirmed those dates to The Times.)
“She claims that I showed her a ‘soft-core porn movie’ I had directed for Showtime ‘under a different name.’ This would have been impossible, since I had never directed anything professionally, lurid or otherwise. I have also never worked for Showtime or directed under any name other than my own,” he added.
Showtime did not immediately respond to The Times’ request for comment.
The director and actress did meet in 1991 during his first directing job, he added, and they dated after McGowan auditioned for a comic short he was making for a Playboy Channel series.
“Although she did not get the part, she left a note for me at the casting desk asking that I call her. I had no reason to question how old she was, since the role she read for required an actor who was of age. We later went out on a couple of dates and remained on friendly terms for years,” he added.
“While I cannot allow false statements about events twenty-nine years ago to go uncorrected, I will continue to wish only the best for Rose.”
Payne, 59, also said that he and the ‘Charmed’ actress have had “cordial interactions” over the years and that he’s admired her commitment to activism and her voice in the “important, historic” #MeToo movement.
McGowan, who has not yet responded to Payne’s column, called out the director in a series of tweets and Instagram posts on August 17.
“Alexander Payne,” McGowan tweeted. “You sat me down & played a soft-core porn movie you directed for Showtime under a different name. I still remember your apartment in Silverlake. You are very well-endowed. You left me on a street corner afterwards. I was 15.”
The actress, 46, said she just wants “acknowledgement and an apology” and does “not want to destroy.”
Then, in an Instagram post that has since been deleted, McGowan shared more explicit details of the alleged encounter, which for years she thought was a sexual experience rather than a grooming situation. She also told Variety that Payne took her to his place after she auditioned for him and that he left her on the corner in front of Cafe Tropical in Silver Lake to find her own way home.
She said she quit acting entirely for about six years after that.
“It wasn’t until three weeks after the Weinstein story broke that I re-evaluated the situation,” she said on Instagram. “I feel badly about throwing a bomb into someone’s life and career, but I guess that’s social conditioning. I’m more sad than angry. Sad for 15 year-old me. Sad for the adult me that still thought it was a choice I made. Grooming is real. I want you all to know that it’s not your fault if you were mentally massaged into thinking it’s okay. It is not. I know this now,” she wrote.
McGowan’s allegation comes after she alluded to an incident with a “very famous” director in a 2018 conversation with journalist Ronan Farrow in the wake of the Weinstein scandal and subsequent #MeToo movement. She spoke of a sexual encounter and said she recently learned it was statutory rape.
“I would even go up to this director at events and ask him, with a smile, ‘remember when you had sex with me at 15?’ And I would laugh it off. That is deep societal programming,” she wrote on Instagram. “If you are out there trying to have sex with an underage minor, you are committing a crime, even if the minor doesn’t know it. I was attracted to him, so I thought it was on me, but that’s not correct. I was not an adult.”
McGowan accused Weinstein of raping her in his hotel suite at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival.
The former movie mogul was convicted in February on separate charges of third-degree rape and first-degree sexual assault. McGowan testified in the case, and Weinstein is now serving a 23-year prison sentence after more than 80 women in four countries levied allegations of misconduct and assault against the producer.