In a new documentary, the actress details the horrifying experience of being “essentially raped on-camera.”
Trigger warning: the following story has a recount of sexual assault.
In Phoenix Rising, an upcoming two-part HBO documentary that premiered recently at the Sundance Film Festival, Evan Rachel Wood says that Marilyn Manson “essentially raped” her on-camera during a music video shoot. In the film, which chronicles Wood’s life and career, she details the horrifying experience of shooting what was meant to be a “simulated sex-scene” for Manson’s song, “Heart-Shaped Glasses (When the Heart Guides the Hand).”
“We had discussed a simulated sex scene, but once the cameras were rolling, he started penetrating me for real,” Wood says. “I had never agreed to that.” During the shoot, the 39-year old Manson had also been giving her “absinthe and whatever else,” according to the account of one crew member, to the point where Wood could not consent.
“I was coerced into a commercial sex act under false pretenses,” Wood says. “That’s when the first crime was committed against me, and I was essentially raped on-camera.” Wood had met Manson when she was 18, and has spoken previously about how the artist groomed and abused her for years while they were in a relationship between 2007 and 2010. In the video, Wood is wearing a pair of Lolita-style sunglasses, a direct reference to the book and film that chronicle a man’s perverse and pedophilic relationship with a 12-year old girl.
“I did not feel safe,” Wood says of the incident on-set. “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. 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.”
Yet Manson had coached Wood on how to talk about her experience with the shoot, to tell press “that we had this great romantic time, and none of that was the truth,” she says. Yet, in a dark twist, Manson himself publicly toyed with speculation of what had actually happened on-set: “Let's say there were some conservative people involved [with the video] that got a little upset about things that were taking place, and there's been rumors back and forth, but I will not confirm or deny them," he said at the time in an interview.
For decades, Manson built his career upon his ability to shock, but in recent years multiple women have detailed a disturbing pattern of abuse and assault. Wood’s testimony to Congress in 2018 about her experience with an unnamed abusive partner, which she later confirmed to be Manson, led in part to this long-delayed public reckoning against Manson, who is currently facing up to four lawsuits alleging sexual assault.
“I was scared to do anything that would upset Brian in any way,” Wood says in the film. “The video was just the beginning of the violence that would keep escalating over the course of the relationship.”