A little over a year ago, Evan Rachel Wood released a statement claiming Marilyn Manson “started grooming me when I was a teenager and horrifically abused me for years.” Her words followed years of speculation in which she spoke of suffering sexual abuse at the hands of a significant other without naming him.
In Phoenix Rising, a two-part documentary by filmmaker Amy Berg (West of Memphis, Prophet’s Prey), Wood recounts how she met Manson, whose real name is Brian Warner, the allegations she’s made against him, and how her experience led her to form the Phoenix Act, a nonprofit organization that aids survivors of domestic abuse. Since then, more than a dozen other women have come forward with similar stories and four have filed civil lawsuits against Warner. (Warner has refuted all of Wood’s claims and sued her earlier this month for defamation, among other charges.) Here are 14 takeaways we learned from the film, which debuts on HBO today.
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1. Wood claims Warner had threatened her if she were to speak out against him.
Early in the film, Wood claims she has received threatening messages from anonymous people online telling her not to come forward. She also says Warner personally told her not to name him. “He once told me that he would fuck up my whole family from the bottom up and he would start with my dad,” she said. “I have a child and it’s really scary. Naming Brian without support is too much of a risk.”
2. Warner initially knew Wood from her role in Thirteen — a film about an out-of-control teenager.
In 2003, Wood starred in Thirteen, a movie about a teenager discovering sex, drugs, and crime. She was 14 when she acted in it. A few years later, at age 18, she went to a party at L.A. hotspot Chateau Marmont, which is where Warner first approached her. Her first thought was, “Who is this Marilyn Manson wannabe?” but then he formed a connection with her. “He starts talking about the film I did called Thirteen, saying, ‘I’m a big fan. I love your work,’” Wood says in the film. “And he said I have a project that I’m working on that I would love to talk to you about, Phantasmagoria, a movie about Lewis Carroll and his subconscious.” In Rolling Stone‘s extensive investigation into Warner’s allegations last year, multiple women claimed he would engage in “love bombing” early in the relationship.
3. Warner told Wood she would be cowriting his Phantasmagoria film.
Warner allegedly used his Phantasmagoria project — a film he never ultimately made — as his enticement to spend time with Wood, according to the doc. (Multiple women have alleged Warner lured them in with a similar project.) Wood says Warner asked her to cowrite the screenplay. One night, at his home, he attempted to convert the collaboration into a relationship. “I’m, like, a teenager in a room with a 37-year-old man drinking absinthe,” Wood recalls in Phoenix Rising. “It was about time for me to go and after he put his arm around me, he said, ‘I’m going to miss you.’ And I said, ‘I’m going to miss you t—’ and before I could get ‘too’ out he just kissed me. He just stuck his tongue down my throat. And I was shocked honestly. I had a boyfriend. He knew I had a boyfriend. He was married. I’m 18. I just remember … like, everything went white. And I just didn’t know how to respond. I think I was scared and excited at the same time.”
4. Warner allegedly indoctrinated Wood and other women via scarification.
In a scene that resembles some of Warner’s other accusers’ stories, Wood recalls how he allegedly encouraged her to carve an “M” into her skin (she shows the scar in the second part of the doc). “Scarification and branding was a part of it,” she says in the first part. “He carved an ‘E,’ and I carved an ‘M’ as a way to show ownership and loyalty, and I carved it right next to my vagina to show him that I belong to him. So it’s January 2007. I really want to get that scar removed.” Wood also suggested a vampire-like connection, too, in the scene when her friend, Illma Gore, mentions a blood pact with Warner. “Yeah, drinking blood is definitely a thing,” Wood says.
5. Wood feels Warner tried to separate the actress from her family.
“He would fake empathy in the way of like, ‘I can’t believe the people around you that are trying to manipulate and use you and I have to save you,’” Wood says in the film, calling it, “Fake empathy in the form of manipulation, trying to isolate me from my friends and family.”
6. Wood claims Warner “essentially raped” her during the filming of his “Heart-Shaped Glasses” video.
Wood was 19 when she agreed to star in the “Heart-Shaped Glasses” video – a clip for a song inspired, in part, by pedophilia; Warner has said that he was taken by seeing Wood wearing the titular frames because they resembled those on the movie poster for Lolita, a film about a grown man seducing a prepubescent girl. “We had discussed a simulated sex scene, but once the cameras were rolling, he started penetrating me for real,” she says. “I had never agreed to that. I’m a professional actress. I’ve been doing this my whole life. I’ve never been on a set that unprofessional in my life, like, up until this day. It was complete chaos. No one was looking after me. It was a really traumatizing experience filming the video.”
She goes on to say that she felt she had been conditioned to soldier through the experience. “I felt disgusting and like I had done something shameful,” she says. “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 pretenses. That’s when the first crime was committed against me, and I was essentially raped on camera.” Wood’s mother says that when the actress confided the incident to her, Wood was shaking. (Warner’s lawyer vehemently denied that the sex was real. “Brian did not have sex with Evan on that set, and she knows that is the truth,” attorney Howard King said.)
7. Wood started hearing from other survivors of Warner’s alleged abuse after she came forward with her own story anonymously.
In 2016, Wood felt emboldened to come forward with her story of domestic abuse, though she didn’t name Warner at the time. This led to an invitation for her to speak at the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights Hearing before Congress in 2018. “After I testified, I started hearing from numerous women who had been abused by my abuser because they heard my story and they knew exactly who it was because the same thing had happened to them,” she says in the film. “There were also numerous women on the internet sharing their stories, and I when I started to read them I knew they weren’t lying because they were almost word-for-word my story. It was like finding out that you had dated a serial killer.”
8. Warner believes “Hitler was the first rock star,” according to Wood.
“He always said that Hitler was the first rock star,” says Wood, who calls herself a “born Jew” in the doc because her mother is Jewish. “[Warner felt] Hitler was stylish, he was well-spoken, and he knew how to manipulate the masses to do what he wanted. And that’s why he had an obsession with him. Any sort of Nazi paraphernalia or imagery, I thought, was ironic. I thought his whole spiel was taking the image of Nazis and of Hitler and spinning it on its head. Now he’s got lipstick on and now he’s a rock star, and I thought it was a commentary on Nazism and a commentary on Hitler.”
Warner would “make fun” of Wood’s Jewish heritage, she says, adding that he would get multiple swastika tattoos and acquire Nazi paraphernalia while they were dating. “At one point, over the side of the bed where I slept, he wrote, ‘Kill all the Jews’ on our bedroom wall,” she says. “Things like that are not ironic anymore. At what point are you doing at a commentary and at what point are you just a Nazi?”
9. The first time Wood claims Warner was physically violent with her was on tour.
Toward the end of Part One, she explains that Warner allegedly started to physically abuse her when she accompanied him on the road. “He’d been having throat problems, so a doctor prescribed him liquid Vicodin for his throat, and he drank the whole bottle almost,” she says. “We were on the bus after the show, and he didn’t even know where he was. I started getting scared because he started becoming really violent and throwing things. And I thought, ‘Now is when the handlers step in and diffuse the situation,’ and no one did.
“We showed up at the hotel,” she continues, “the bus parked, and Manson just grabbed me by my arm and yanked me in front of everybody. He’s dragging me by my arm into the hotel and no one’s doing anything. And he goes in, and he immediately starts wrecking the room and smashing things and yelling and I look back at the crew member like, ‘You’re not just going to leave me here. You gotta help me.’ And I remember him starting to slowly close the door and me going, ‘No, no, no. You can’t leave me here.’ And this guy I thought was my friend. We’d been on tour for a few months at this point. He just shook his head and closed the door. And that’s when I knew I wasn’t safe.”
10. Warner’s former assistant claims that Warner would steal people’s personal info via his wi-fi.
“Anyone who hopped on his wi-fi, he had your information and was able to clone phones or laptops or something,” Dan Cleary says. Wood replied by saying, “I’ve seen him hack into people’s laptops and gather information on them as blackmail. He’s hacked into my computer and social media accounts; he was monitoring my every move.”
11. Warner would allegedly coerce people to say the n-word or other questionable things on camera to use as blackmail.
Last year, many of Warner’s accusers claimed to Rolling Stone that the musician attempted to collect dirt on them as potential blackmail, which Wood discusses in the second part of Phoenix Rising. “The three main things that I saw him get on people so they couldn’t say anything were naked photos, drugs, and ‘I’m going to get you to say the n-word on camera,’” she says. “It starts off as, ‘Well, it’s ironic. Oh, it’s a commentary on the Nazis. Oh yeah, we’re taking the piss out of the Nazis.’ And then it turns into I’m just being shocking using the n-word; you don’t get the joke. … I felt like I had to participate in that to show him that I was loyal.”
12. Wood alleges Warner would rape her after she fell asleep.
Wood says drugs were a constant throughout her relationship with Warner, claiming he would put meth in some of the drugs she ingested. She says he would also give her pills to sleep; it was then that she claims he started sexually assaulting her. “I’d wake up, and I just remember doing the mental math quickly and thinking, ‘Just stay asleep … just don’t move,’” she says. “So I would just lie limp until it was over. And then I swear to God he would just fling my leg and walk out of the room.”
13. Wood was once pregnant with Warner’s child.
When Wood was filming the 2011 miniseries Mildred Pierce, she found out she was pregnant. “From the beginning of our relationship, he had an issue with whatever birth control I was taking,” she says. “I went through every type to see which one he liked, and he didn’t like any of them. So essentially he didn’t want me using birth control. He refused to wear a condom ever and it was very much sex on demand, and it would cause more problems if I said no. You don’t have time to use birth control when somebody is penetrating you while you sleep. … I was still trying to prevent a pregnancy. I was using spermicides and all these things, and it didn’t work. He flew out for an abortion. I was just so scared and sad. I obviously believe in a woman’s right to choose, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t devastating. The second it was over it was like, ‘Make me dinner.’ And I remember thinking, I’m supposed to be resting. … And he didn’t care.” Wood says that’s when she started feeling suicidal.
14. Wood says the first time she was able to cry about the alleged trauma she suffered because of Warner was after giving a statement to the FBI.
“That was intense but cathartic,” he says. “They always ask you, ‘And after this happened, did you seek medical attention or tell anyone?’ The answer was almost always no. … And that surprised me. I never really asked myself that question or why. … But you could tell it wasn’t accusatory. They just needed to corroborate my story.”
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