‘Phoenix Rising’ Director Addresses Decision to Show Alleged Rape in Marilyn Manson Video
Over the weekend, the new Evan Rachel Wood-centric documentary Phoenix Rising debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, with the actress detailing in one scene from the film how she felt she was "essentially raped" while engaging in a theatrical sex scene for Marilyn Manson's "Heart-Shaped Glasses" video. Through his attorney, Manson has denied the claim, stating that the actress and the musician did not have sex on the set.
That said, the account given in the film has brought attention to the video, especially given the ongoing investigation into sexual abuse allegations against Manson. While speaking with the Hollywood Reporter about the film, director Amy Berg addressed the scene and what she was hoping to convey by including some clips from the video.
In the film itself, Wood claimed that she was under the influence and could not give consent to what occurred. "We had discussed a simulated sex scene," Wood now explained of the shoot, "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."
She had added, "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."
Speaking about the scene in which Wood addressed that shoot and what was conveyed onscreen in the documentary, Berg stated, "Well, you need to see her face. She is completely out of it, and you need to see the extent of what the industry allowed to be circulating on the internet today. We had Evan’s blessing and permission to use that, but I think that is a moment that is really important to understand. I mean, that film set had a lot of people on it and that behavior is completely inappropriate and abusive and it’s rape, so we wanted to show it for what it was. She was just a child, she just turned 18." [Editor's Note: A representative for Manson has stated that Wood was 19 at the time of the video shoot and turned 20 just a few months after. As previously reported, the musician's attorney, Howard King, issued a statement claiming that Wood was “fully coherent and engaged,” involved in pre-production and postproduction and countered that there was no real sex on the set.}
Elsewhere in the interview, Berg addressed whether it was initially Wood's intent to name Manson as her abuser in the film, as she had not done so publicly when filming had started. "There was no question that she was going to name her abuser in the film. We spoke openly about him from the very beginning," the director revealed. "But how and when she would do it publicly was definitely her choice, as it would be for any survivor to choose when they want to tell their story in that way."
On a larger scale, the film is about Wood's activism and covers her involvement in helping to advocate for the passing of the domestic violence-focused Phoenix Act.
"We were very focused on The Phoenix Act and domestic violence as a story and only found this central narrative of just following her and her journey as the plot thickened, I should say," explained the director. "There was an investigation that was opened into Brian Warner [Manson's birth name] and the story got bigger and bigger, so we just followed that story, which is mostly in the second half of this film. It’s much more active than the first half, if you could say it that way — I mean, the first half is mostly backstory and catching the audience up on where she was when we connected."
The director said the overall goal was to educate and to elevate the voices of survivors: "The statute of limitations is so short for any type of domestic violence or sexual abuse, it’s just such a short window, so the more information and education that is put out into the world about this kind of thing can hopefully encourage people to go for help earlier, so that it doesn’t have to take a movement to get something across."
In addition to the Sundance premiere, Phoenix Rising is expected to air in two parts on HBO later this year.
In February 2021, Wood claimed Manson "started grooming me when I was a teenager and horrifically abused me for years." At least four others revealed their accusations against him simultaneously. Actress Esmé Bianco eventually joined them.
Manson replied that the allegations were "horrible distortions of reality. My intimate relationships have always been entirely consensual with like-minded partners. Regardless of how … others are now choosing to misrepresent the past, that is the truth."
In July, a lawyer for Manson claimed Bianco and others were co-conspirators "trying to conflate the imagery and artistry of Warner's 'shock rock' stage persona … with fabricated accounts of abuse." The musician's legal team has continued to deny the allegations.
See a timeline of the Marilyn Manson abuse allegations below.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, resources are available to help. Please visit RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) online or dial 800-656-HOPE (800-656-4673).