TRIGGER WARNING: This story contains disturbing details of sexual assault, abuse and drug use. Reader discretion is advised. If you or someone you know is struggling, seek help from sexual abuse crisis centres, help lines across Canada.
At the end of Amy Berg’s Evan Rachel Wood documentary Phoenix Rising, the actor says she has come to understand that naming her abuser publicly, now known to be Brian Warner aka Marilyn Manson, helps to pressure authorities to respond and take action.
It’s that realization that’s at the centre of this documentary (on Crave in Canada March 15 and 16 at 9:00 p.m. ET), a painful, frightening harrowing retelling of Wood’s experiences with Warner, how they’re so similar to stories from other women and how that led to the actor’s activism.
“Brian...made it clear that if I ever said anything that he would come after me,” Wood says in the documentary. “He once told me that he would f–k up my whole family from the bottom up, and he would start with my dad. I have a child and it’s really scary.”
“Naming Brian without support is too much of a risk.”
In 2006, Wood met Warner at a party at the famed Chateau Marmont, when she was 18-years-old. He commended her work in Thirteen, mentioning that he wanted to talk to her about a project he was working on, Phantasmagoria.
“We became good friends really fast and kept having more and more in common, almost to a scary point,” Wood says, reading from her diary.
They both were in relationships at the time, Warner married to Dita Von Teese and Wood in a relationship with actor Jamie Bell. But Wood and her family allege that Warner had been “grooming” her for months before he, as Wood’s mom, Sara, describes, “crossed the line.”
Warner began “love bombing” Wood frequently, defined in the documentary as “expressing an overabundance of affection and attention as a form of emotional manipulation.”
“I really started to buy into the whole cult,…the Marilyn Manson cult of, he is something that is bigger than all of us and his message is bigger than all of us,” Wood recalls. “When you feel invisible and you think somebody sees you it’s very alluring and you want more.”
This, as Wood describes, also included branding herself with an “M” scar next to her vagina as “a way to show ownership and loyalty” and that she “belonged” to Warner.
Distressing details from the Marilyn Manson ‘Heart-Shaped Glasses’ music video
People who remember the older Perez Hilton days may remember the blogger labelling Evan Rachel Wood as a “whore” following the Marilyn Manson “Heart-Shaped Glasses” music video, released in 2007. In Phoenix Rising, Wood goes into details about shooting the music video, claiming that she was raped.
“We had discussed a simulated sex scene but once the cameras were rolling he started penetrating me for real,” Wood says in the documentary. “I didn’t know how to advocate for myself or 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.”
Subsequently, when Wood went on tour with Warner, that’s when she identified that the isolation “really” started and marked the beginning of his physical violence against her.
"In his world, he’s God," Wood says.
Wood recalls a time when Warner drank a bottle of liquid Vicodin and dragged her into a hotel, where he immediately started wrecking the room and yelling. Wood remembers looking at a crew member who was with them but was slowly closing the door, leaving her alone with Warner. She said she was shaking her head trying to get the crew member to help her, but he left.
“That’s when I knew I wasn’t safe,” Wood says in the documentary.
'There was a piece of me absolutely taken'
Evan Rachel Wood identifies another shift in her relationship with Brian Warner when bassist Twiggy Ramirez re-joined the Marilyn Manson band in 2008, which lines up with when she claims the “torture” began. She describes that this included forced sleep deprivation, being subjected to freezing cold temperatures and isolation. There was also a moment that she suspects Warner was putting meth into the drugs she was using.
“There was a moment where things turned and I remember suddenly thinking that the drugs were a lot stronger than they had been,” Wood says. “My nose was bleeding all the time and I started getting scabs all over my body, all over my face.”
“I was digging into my skin. I didn’t know what meth was, I didn’t know I was doing meth.”
Wood also claims that Warner was raping her in her sleep, after he would force her to take a pill, which she still is not able to identify, before she went to sleep.
While Wood did end up getting out of the house and Warner’s control for a period of time, she was “lured back in,” as she describes in the documentary, resulting in a particularly brutal torture where she was tied up to a kneeler, repeatedly hit with a whip, which had swastika on it, and shocked with a violet wand in her private areas.
“There was a piece of me absolutely taken and I felt it leave my body, I felt my brain change, I felt it almost calcify and the world is never the same," Wood says.
"It’s just never the same, because everything that happens to you after that point is through the veil of this memory and you know that it’s out there,…you know that people are capable of doing something like this."
When Wood went to film the film Mildred Pierce, that’s when she found out she was pregnant. Wood recalls Warner “didn’t like” any of the birth control methods she tried and he “refused” to wear a condom.
Wood says Warner flew to be with her for the abortion but then, “the second it was over it was like, make me dinner.”
Beginning of Evan Rachel Wood's advocacy
It wasn’t until Evan Rachel Wood left to film George Clooney's movie, The Ides of March, released in 2011, that she was able to permanently leave Brian Warner.
Throughout the two-part documentary, Wood meets with other women alleging abuse, assault and torture by Warner, including matching "M" scars. The group also discusses how Warner would track them and hack their personal electronic devices.
But it's not just others alleging the same abuse who came forward, crew members and assistants also corroborate the violent, traumatic actions by the music artist.
In 2018, Wood spoke before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee advocate for the Sexual Assault Survivors' Bill of Rights Act. A year later, she spoke at the California Senate Public Safety committee for the Phoenix Act. It ultimately ended with an extension to the statue of limitations to between three and five years for domestic violence felonies and required police officers to undergo more training on intimate partner violence.
The documentary closes out with Wood finally naming her abuser in a social media post on Feb. 1, 2021. She’s shaking uncontrollably and when the message finally goes live, shrieks and cries with a pain that stays with you.
As it states at the end of the documentary, authorities have launched an investigation into claims against Brian Warner but no charges have been brought against him.
On March 2, Warner sued Wood, and friend and activist Illma Gore, for “emotional distress” and alleging that “documents and emails were falsified and others were coerced to make false accusations against him.”
“The filmmakers reached out to Brian Warner and his legal representation for comment,” a note at the end of the documentary reads.
“They elected not to respond to the specific allegations made against Warner in the film but his counsel had previously released the following: ‘Mr. Warner vehemently denies any and all claims of sexual assault or abuse of anyone. These lurid claims against my client have three things in common - they are all false, alleged to have taken place more than a decade ago and part of a coordinated attack by former partners and associates of Mr. Warner who have weaponized the otherwise mundane details of his personal life and their consensual relationships into fabricated horror stories.’”