In a new documentary film, Phoenix Rising, Evan Rachel Wood explained her detailed side of the toxic and abusive relationship she endured with Marilyn Manson.
The latest documentary, Phoenix Rising — Part 1: Don’t Fall, premiered this past Sunday at the Sundance Film Festival. The film focused on actress and activist, Evan Rachel Wood (Westworld), as she disturbingly described the controversial truth behind her toxic and abusive relationship with ex-fiancé Brian Warner, or better known by their rock and roll alias, Marilyn Manson. Wood hopes that this film will help create systemic change for future survivors and the documentary showed how she was able to advocate for the Phoenix Act to be a signed bill of law on domestic violence.
One of the most disturbing stories Wood shared in Phoenix Rising was how she was “essentially raped on-camera” by Warner. It all began with the 2007 music video for the song “Heart-Shaped Glasses” from Manson’s album, “Eat Me Drink Me.” The video featured Wood wearing a pair of heart-shaped sunglasses that is supposedly referenced to the 1962 Stanley Kubrick film, Lolita, based on the Vladimir Nabokov story about a man who falls in love with an underage girl. The music video also featured the two having sex as fake blood was poured and splattered on the two of them.
To add some unsettling juxtaposition to the Kubrick reference, Wood and Warner’s relationship started when Warner was 38 years old and Wood was 18 years old. While Wood was not underage, the disparity of maturity and power was evident. Warner told Spin Magazine in 2007, “[The glasses are] so iconic, and it was meeting someone who had the sense of humor to know that, OK, people are going to make fun of the fact that it’s a Lolita-esque friendship/relationship, whatever the case might be.”
In Phoenix Rising, Wood explained, “It’s nothing like I thought it was going to be… We’re doing things that were not what was pitched to me. We had discussed a simulated sex scene, but once the cameras were rolling, he started penetrating me for real. I had never agreed to that … It was complete chaos. I did not feel safe. No one was looking after me. It was a really traumatizing 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.”
This is where Wood also added, “I was coerced into a commercial sex act under false pretenses…That’s when the first crime was committed against me. I was essentially raped on-camera.” And when asked about the video in interviews back then, Wood said in the documentary that Warner told her to tell the media that the music video was more romantic rather than the traumatic truth of what happened. The documentary goes into more details of these moments of manipulation that Wood faced with her turbulent relationship with Warner.
In a 2016 interview with Rolling Stone, Wood talked about her past of being physically and sexually abused while talking in another interview with Self magazine about how she saw her past relationship as “a textbook domestic-violence relationship.” However, it was not until February 2021 that Wood publicly accused Warner by name. This is when four other brave women publicly came forward against Warner with cases of abuse allegations.
The premiere Phoenix Rising only showed off part one of the two-part film. To find out more about how Wood’s activism to fight against the stigma of sexual assault survivors, audiences can expect the full film to be released on HBO later this year. The director of the documentary, Amy Berg, shared their thoughts on the film as well, “The industry needs to take inventory of themselves now because we ran into a lot of stumbling blocks even in just trying to clear music in this film, because people are still protecting (Manson), and they don’t want to participate in anything that might upset him.”