Evan Rachel Wood lays bare harrowing details of her relationship with Marilyn Manson in new HBO documentary Phoenix Rising, the first part of which premiered at the Sundance film festival on January 23. One sequence in the film, which was directed by Amy Berg (Deliver Us From Evil, West Of Memphis), sees Wood allege that she was “essentially raped on camera” by her former fiancé during the filming of the music video for Manson’s 2007 single Heart-Shaped Glasses (When The Heart Guides The Hand).
Berg and Wood began shooting the documentary in 2019, seeking to record the actress/activist’s campaign to help pass the Phoenix Act, which sought to extend the statute of limitations in domestic violence cases from three years to five years in California. The story takes a twist in February 2021 when Wood publicly names Manson as her abuser on social media, and in Vanity Fair, after which a number of other women with personal or professional links to Manson came forward to detail their own experiences with the singer, many of them alleging emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Manson is currently facing several lawsuits, and is the subject of an active investigation by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.
In the film, Wood reveals that she first met the singer (real name: Brian Warner) in 2006, at a party at the Chateau Marmont hotel in Los Angeles, where she originally mistook him for a Manson lookalike. Manson asked Wood to work with him on a film adaptation of Phantasmagoria and requested her contact details, after which they began seeing one another, initially on a purely professional basis. The actress says that Manson sought to isolate her from family and friends, threatening to “fuck up my whole family from the bottom up.”
Wood’s mother, Sara Lynn Moore, describes Manson as “a predator.”
In the film, Wood and her mother discuss the actress’ role in the video for Eat Me Drink Me single Heart-Shaped Glasses.
“I didn’t want her to do it,” Wood’s mother insists. “Nobody wanted her to do it. But I think she felt like it was true romance - it was cool and it was edgy.”
Wood says she was fed absinthe on the video set to the point that she was barely conscious to object when Manson had sex with her on camera.
“We had discussed a simulated sex scene,” she says, “but once the cameras were rolling, he started penetrating me for real. I had never agreed to that. I’m a professional actress, I have been doing this my whole life, I’d never been on a set that unprofessional in my life up until this day. It was complete chaos, and I did not feel safe. No one was looking after me.
“It was a really traumatising experience filming the video. I didn’t know how to advocate for myself or know how to say no because I had been conditioned and trained to never talk back—to just soldier through. I felt disgusting and like I had done something shameful, and I could tell that the crew was very uncomfortable and nobody knew what to do. I was coerced into a commercial sex act under false pretences. That’s when the first crime was committed against me and I was essentially raped on camera.”
More than a dozen women have now accused Manson of abuse.
Game Of Thrones actress Esmé Bianco, a former girlfriend of the singer, filed her suit in April, alleging that Manson physically, sexually, psychological, and emotionally abused her on multiple occasions, and raped her “in or around May 2011.”
Another ex-girlfriend, American model/actress Ashley Morgan Smithline, is accusing the singer of sexual assault, sexual battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, human trafficking, and unlawful imprisonment, while Manson’s former assistant Ashley Walters claims that Manson subjected her to “personal and professional sexual exploitation, manipulation and psychological abuse.” Another woman who has chosen to remain anonymous and is referred to in court documents simply as Jane Doe, says she was raped by the singer who later made death threats against her.
In the film, Evan Rachel Wood says that learning about the testimonies from other survivors,“ was like finding out you dated a serial killer.”
“This isn’t about revenge, or, ‘He’s a monster and he needs to be punished and destroyed‘,” she insists at one point. “He’s already destroyed.”
Phoenix Rising will be screened by HBO later this year.