'Phoenix Rising' director reveals why Evan Rachel Wood decided to make her accusations against Marilyn Manson public

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'Phoenix Rising' director reveals why Evan Rachel Wood decided to make her accusations against Marilyn Manson public
Evan Rachel Wood and Marilyn Manson were briefly engaged in 2010.E. Charbonneau / Getty Images
  • Director Amy Berg told Insider the doc wasn't originally about Wood's abusive experience with Manson.
  • "When we started talking about Wood's abuse it was impossible to not show him," she said.
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Documentary filmmaker Amy Berg was producing movies about dogs for Netflix when Evan Rachel Wood tracked her down.

Berg, who had built a career making movies about sensitive topics like pedophilia in Hollywood (2014's "An Open Secret"), the US justice system (2019's "The Case Against Adnan Syed"), and rape within the Catholic Church (2006's Oscar-nominated "Deliver Us from Evil"), had turned to executive producing the series "Dogs," which celebrates the bond people have with their four-legged friends.

But when Wood set out to change the statute of limitations for victims of domestic abuse in California through the Phoenix Act — which extended the period of time in which a domestic violence case can be filed in the state from one to three years to three to five — the actress reached out to Berg to film her journey.

The director told Insider that knew she had to step back into darker territory.

"I love making films and this was an important story. I needed to tell it," Berg said over a Zoom chat on Monday.

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Berg began to film Wood and something happened: The "Westworld" star didn't just start talking about being a victim of sexual abuse, but began saying who her abuser was — Brian Warner, better known to the world as Marilyn Manson. Manson has continuously denied Wood's claim of abuse.

Berg's two-part documentary "Phoenix Rising," which had a special work-in-progress screening at the Sundance Film Festival on Sunday before it fully premieres on HBO in March, looks not just at Wood's quest to get the Phoenix Act passed but delves into her disturbing relationship with the rocker.

Berg said the end result is "bigger than what we thought we were doing initially."

'Phoenix Rising' director reveals why Evan Rachel Wood decided to make her accusations against Marilyn Manson public
Evan Rachel Wood is the subject of the documentary, "Phoenix Rising."Sundance Film Festival

Wood accuses Manson of abuse in the documentary, including him 'essentially raping her' on a music video set

Manson began dating Wood in 2007 at the zenith of his popularity as a rocker. His shocking songs and exploits built him a legion of fans. Wood, who was 19 years his junior, was a rising star in Hollywood who gained notice in Hollywood for being a teen not scared of taking on challenging material catered for mature audiences.

Wood says in part one of "Phoenix Rising," seen by Insider, that it wasn't a sexual attraction to Manson that drew her in at first, but a feeling that was "very alluring and you want more."

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After Manson got divorced from his then-wife Dita Von Teese in 2007, he and Wood made their relationship public in the same year. They were briefly engaged before their relationship ended in 2010.

As the documentary chronicles, Manson's treatment of Wood turned disturbing, and Berg felt the only way to explain how Wood got to the point of lobbying for the Phoenix Act was to show where she'd been.

"I didn't set out to make a film about Brian Warner," Berg said. "But when we started talking about Wood's abuse it was impossible to not show him; how he's acted and how he's been supported by his team for decades. I think it's important to see that's not acceptable behavior."

'Phoenix Rising' director reveals why Evan Rachel Wood decided to make her accusations against Marilyn Manson public
Marilyn Manson and Evan Rachel Wood.E. Charbonneau/Getty Images
In the documentary, Wood claims that Manson "essentially raped her" when they filmed the music video for his 2007 song "Heart-Shaped Glasses (When the Heart Guides the Hand)." Wood said in the documentary she and Manson "had discussed a simulated sex scene, but once the cameras were rolling, he started penetrating me for real."

Manson's attorney, Howard King, said in a statement to Insider, "Brian did not have sex with Evan on that set, and she knows that is the truth."

The doc also features Wood showing a photo of an "M" scar that she says is on her body, near her pelvic area, that Manson gave her.

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Berg said going down these dark episodes of Wood's past took a toll on her and her crew.

"Because it wasn't the film we set out to make, it adds quite a lot of work for the production team," Berg said, praising her crew who pulled hours of disturbing footage of Manson's antics over the years.

"You start having nightmares," Berg said of working on a project like this. "It's intense."

But what's even scarier, Berg learned, is that Wood wasn't the only one to accuse Manson of abuse.

'Phoenix Rising' director reveals why Evan Rachel Wood decided to make her accusations against Marilyn Manson public
"Phoenix Rising" director Amy Berg.Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

Part 2 of the documentary will focus on other Manson sexual abuse accusers

As Berg filmed Wood after her successful lobbying in California, the next bombshell dropped. The actress publicly named Manson as her abuser in February, stating that she was "brainwashed and manipulated into submission."

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"There was always a discussion of when not if," Berg said about what led to Wood going public while they were filming. "It was a matter of timing and it felt right at that moment."

Berg said the attention drawn to Wood led to the filmmaker and her team hearing from other women who said they had suffered abuse at Manson's hands.

"We met a number of survivors and there was just an echo of voices that were saying the same thing as Wood was," Berg said. (Manson has denied the abuse allegations.)

That is the focus of part two of "Phoenix Rising," Berg told Insider, adding that it's not just Wood coming to terms with the abuse she went through but other women speaking out for the first time about what they went through when encountering the rock star.

'Phoenix Rising' director reveals why Evan Rachel Wood decided to make her accusations against Marilyn Manson public
Evan Rachel Wood attends the "Westworld" season two Los Angeles premiere in 2018.Presley Ann/Getty Images

Berg said that they are still filming some key footage and are close to finishing part two, but there have been roadblocks along the way that she never expected. One is getting the rights to use some songs that are on the same label Manson is with.

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"All I can tell you is there were some songs that we wanted to license for the film that we were not given access to," Berg said. "His label was protecting him. It was really upsetting. I was surprised."

Insider has reached out to Loma Vista Recordings and Interscope, Manson's previous record labels, for comment. Loma Vista dropped Manson following the Wood allegations.

Despite the adversity, Berg has been impressed by how Wood has taken it all in her stride and hopes for the day when this is all behind her.

"She wants the freedom to be away from this story," Berg said of Wood. "She's doing this for the overall good: the other survivors, for justice. That's why she's doing this. Once you start to speak, you have to give the access because we wanted to really get to know Evan, and that's what you'll find in the second half of the movie."

Berg admitted that she'll be happy when she can step away from this story. She said she's ready to go back to her Netflix series on dogs or maybe something even more exotic.

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"I need to do something a little lighter," Berg said of whatever her next movie is. "Like go making something in Bali."

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