‘I did not feel safe. No one was looking after me’
Evan Rachel Wood has detailed more of the abuse she allegedly suffered at the hands of Marilyn Manson in her documentary Phoenix Rising, claiming that he “essentially raped” her during a music video shoot when she was 19.
In the first half of the film directed by Amy Berg, which premiered at this year’s Sundance, the actor, now 34, chronicles her relationship with the musician. She claims that Manson emotionally and sexually abused her, cut her off from friends and family, and was anti-semitic towards her, among other traumatic events.
Wood spoke about filming a previously-discussed “simulated sex scene” in the video for Manson’s 2007 single “Heart-Shaped Glasses (When the Heart Guides the Hand)”. Once the cameras were rolling, she said, Manson “started penetrating me for real”. She describes being fed absinthe on the set of the video, in which she plays a character styled as Lolita, and was barely conscious to object to Manson’s alleged actions. Manson has since denied these claims.
“It’s nothing like I thought it was going to be,” she says in the documentary. “We’re doing things that were not what was pitched to me… 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 up until this day.”
She continued, “It was complete chaos. 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.”
According to reports of the documentary, Wood said she felt that the crew “was very uncomfortable and nobody knew what to do.” She added, “I was coerced into a commercial sex act under false pretences. That’s when the first crime was committed against me. I was essentially raped on camera.”
In a statement to The Guardian, Manson’s lawyer Howard King denied Wood’s allegations. “Of all the false claims that Evan Rachel Wood has made about Brian Warner, her imaginative retelling of the making of the ‘Heart-Shaped Glasses’ music video 15 years ago is the most brazen and easiest to disprove, because there were multiple witnesses,” he reportedly said.
“Evan was not only fully coherent and engaged during the three-day shoot but also heavily involved in weeks of pre-production planning and days of post-production editing of the final cut. The simulated sex scene took several hours to shoot with multiple takes using different angles and several long breaks in between camera setups. Brian did not have sex with Evan on that set, and she knows that is the truth.”
When Manson was interviewed at the time about the track, which has strong sadomasochistic themes, he said, “the song was written because I had been reading the book Lolita and it was very close with Evan Rachel Wood, who’s now my girlfriend, and she came to visit me one day wearing these glasses like Stanley Kubrick in Lolita. And part of it is because of her sense of humour and knowing that people would make their comments about our relationship because she’s younger than me. And when I saw her wearing those glasses I had to write a song about it, and that’s the way I wrote most of the record.”
Wood is among a number of women, including Esmé Bianco, who has accused Manson of sexual and physical violence involving torture, as well as multiple men and former employees who have come forward with stories of witnessing or experiencing abuse. The musician’s public persona has long blurred the lines between shocking theatrics and genuine mistreatment.
In 2019, Wood penned a law called the Phoenix Act, a bill that extended the statute of limitations on domestic violence from three years to five, which passed in California that year. In February 2021, Wood posted a statement to social media, accusing her former partner Manson of years-long abuse. “The name of my abuser is Brian Warner, also known to the world as Marilyn Manson,” the actress wrote, claiming that he “horrifically abused me for years”.
Wood’s documentary will air on HBO in March 2022.