Rose McGowan’s former manager and Harvey Weinstein employee Jill Messick died at the age of 50 in Los Angeles on Wednesday. Her family confirmed that Messick had committed suicide, and said that she had become “collateral damage” in the scandal that has engulfed the former Hollywood studio head.
Messick was McGowan’s manager at the celebrity management company Addis Wechsler in 1997, when the actress claimed to have been raped by Weinstein. After a settlement was allegedly reached between McGowan and Weinstein, Messick moved on to work at Miramax, which was owned by Weinstein, for the next five years.
McGowan has repeatedly stated that Addis Wechsler did not support her allegations. In a statement issued by Weinsten on January 30, the producer included an email from Messick that backed his version of the encounter as consensual.
“Seeing her name in headlines again and again, as part of one person’s attempt to gain more attention for her personal cause, along with Harvey’s desperate attempt to vindicate himself, was devastating for her,” the statement released by her parents said. “It broke Jill, who was just starting to get her life back on track.”
Messick suffered from bipolar disorder. She is survived by two sons, her former husband, and her partner.
According to the parents’ statement, Messick represented McGowan in 1997 at the time when the rape is said to have happened: “…one of Jill’s first duties was to set up a breakfast meeting with Harvey Weinstein during the Sundance Film Festival. Following the meeting, Rose told Jill what had happened – that she made the decision to remove her clothes and get in the hot tub with him — a mistake which Rose immediately regretted. Rose never once used the word rape in that conversation. Despite this, Jill recognized that Harvey had done something untoward to Rose, if not illegal. She immediately went to her bosses, the partners of Addis Wechsler, to recount Rose’s story and to insist that they address the situation. They told Jill that they would take care of it. The ensuing arrangements between Rose and Harvey were then negotiated, completely without Jill’s knowledge. At that time, all Jill knew was that the matter was settled and that Rose continued making films with the Weinsteins. She never knew any details until recently, when Rose elected to make them public.”
Some months later, Messick was hired as a production executive at Miramax Films.
In her recently published memoir Brave, McGowan accused Messick and many others of failing to believe her. Yet, Messick chose to “remain silent in the face of Rose’s slanderous statements against her for fear of undermining the many individuals who came forward in truth”, her parents said. “She never chose to be a public figure, that choice was taken away from her.”
Messick’s parents described her as a victim of “our new culture of unlimited information sharing and a willingness to accept statement as fact”. They added. “She became collateral damage in an already horrific story.”
Messick’s parents also issued a warning to media houses for their coverage of sexual harassment in Hollywood: “While journalists serve an important role in exposing predatory behaviour, we are seeing irresponsible choices and an addiction to sensationalism which leads to inconsistent storytelling… Words matter. Someone’s life may depend on it.”