Phoenix Rising, a two-part documentary about Westworld star Evan Rachel Wood and her work as an advocated for survivors of domestic abuse, will make its debut at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
As you can imagine, given its subject matter, the documentary spend significant time detailing Wood’s allegations of abuse at the hands of her ex-boyfriend, shock rocker Marilyn Manson (né Brian Warner).
The film was directed by Amy Berg, whose previous work includes Deliver Us from Evil (2006), about the Catholic church’s attempt to cover up dozens of abuse allegations against an American priest, and West of Memphis (2012), about the West Memphis Three. The former film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature.
Berg and Wood began work on the film in 2019, when Wood testified in front of the California Senate Public Safety committee on behalf of the Phoenix Act. That bill seeks to create exceptions to the statute of limitations for domestic violence crimes in the state of California.
Although Wood alluded to Manson during that testimony, she did not explicitly accuse him by name until February of 2021. Berg tells Variety that prior to Wood’s decision to do, Phoenix Rising was intended to be a single-part documentary that wouldn’t have included any mention of the singer:
“It wasn’t [supposed to be] about Marilyn Manson, and his whole world. This was about an Erin Brockovich story. We were really focused on telling a story about empowerment, something that would offer resources for women and men who are stuck in abusive situations. And that was what we were making — until she decided to name him publicly.”
“Naming Manson obviously created a lot more story for us,” Berg continues. “It became a two-part film in the edit bay.”
This year’s Sundance Film Festival takes place from January 20 – January 30. It will be a virtual event due to the Omicron surge.
Phoenix Rising will air on HBO later this year.
Wood’s initial allegations commenced an avalanche of similar accusations from other women, including Game of Thrones actress Esmé Bianco, model/actress Ashley Morgan Smithline and a Jane Doe, all of whom sued Manson. Manson called the accusations against him “horrible distortions of reality,” but the singer was dropped by his label, Loma Vista, his agency, CAA, and his manager of 25 years, Tony Ciulla. He was also fired from television roles on the programs American Gods and Creepshow.
In July, a lawyer for Manson continued to deny the claims, asserting that 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.” But earlier this month, Manson’s attorney stated that the vocalist is open to a “global mediation” (i.e., a mass settlement with all of his alleged victims).
In August, Manson made his first public appearance since his the deluge of allegations against him began, joining Kanye West on stage at an event promoting the rapper’s new album, Donda. Manson also lent his voice to that record and is now ostensibly pursuing a conversion to Christianity with Kanye’s lead.
As a result of Manson’s contributions to Donda, he scored two Grammy nominations last month, in the Album of the Year category and in the Best Rap Song category (for the Donda cut “Jail”). At the time, Harvey Mason Jr., CEO of The Recording Academy (a.k.a. “The People Who Give Out the Grammys”), defended Manson’s nominations, declaring that “We won’t restrict the people who can submit their material for consideration. We won’t look back at people’s history, we won’t look at their criminal record.” But Manson’s Best Rap Song nomination has since been rescinded, supposedly due the singer being improperly credited as one of the songwriters of “Jail” (he remains credited on the near-identical “Jail, Pt. 2”).
Amidst all the Grammy controversy, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department raided Manson’s West Hollywood home, where they reportedly “seized media storage units, including hard drives, which will be reviewed before the case is submitted to the Los Angeles County District Attorney.” Manson is said not to have been home at the time of the raid.