There were warning signs of Marilyn Manson’s alleged abuse of his former girlfriend Evan Rachel Wood long before she was able to categorize what was happening to her as domestic violence, as their relationship drew concern on the set of HBO’s acclaimed miniseries Mildred Pierce.
And it wasn’t until Wood assumed the role of Dolores Abernathy in the futuristic thriller Westworld that she was awakened to what had transpired years ago, as the captive robot’s relationship with the heartless Man in Black allegedly mirrored her own experience with the shock-rocker.
Earlier this year, Wood named Manson, real name Brian Warner, as the abuser she long referred to when championing the Phoenix Act and other legislation to protect survivors of domestic violence.
In solidarity, more than a dozen women have since spoken out, detailing disturbing and horrific claims against Manson, including that the 52-year-old allegedly raped and electrocuted women, locked his lovers inside a soundproof “Bad Girls Room” in his frigid home, and would weaken them with sleep and food deprivation. (Manson has denied the allegations against him.)
During the filming of Mildred Pierce, Warner’s Marilyn Manson persona was still viewed as a performance shtick to the general public, but to an HBO executive producer it was writing on the wall and sparked concern for Wood, according to the new book Tinderbox: HBO’s Ruthless Pursuit of New Frontiers, out Nov. 23.
“I would believe every single thing Evan has said about Marilyn Manson, because we were there,” Emmy Award-winning producer Ilene Landress, who in addition to Mildred Pierce worked on The Sopranos and Girls, is quoted saying.
“He came to visit once, and I remember the vodka bottle flying out of the trailer. She would come to work in bad shape. She would come to work like the train had run her over… Pretty much every morning if I saw Evan Rachel Wood, the first question would be, ‘Where’s the medic?’ She was in a rough place.”
But, Landress added, what was going on in Wood’s personal life “never compromised her performance” on the show. “She would just fall asleep in the makeup chair, pop out of the makeup chair, and do her thing.”
Wood first began dating Manson when she was 19 years old in 2007, meeting the singer at the legendary Chateau Marmont while he was still married to Dita Von Teese, according to People.
When the pair briefly broke up in 2009, Manson boasted that he had cut himself 158 times—the same number of times that he tried calling her. He also said his disturbing song “I Want to Kill You Like They Do in The Movies” was about Wood, telling Spin, “I have fantasies every day about smashing her skull in with a sledgehammer.”
By January 2010, they were back together again, with Manson proposing to Wood during one of his concerts in Paris. However, eight months later they’d split for good.
Wood didn’t mention Manson by name when she spoke with Tinderbox author James Andrew Miller, but admitted she was in “a very dark place” during the period they were engaged.
“Everyone was going through some sort of intense, personal trauma or tribulation at the time,” she added, referencing co-star Kate Winslet’s divorce from British director Sam Mendes and the sudden death of Winslet’s mother.
By 2014, Wood was cast as Dolores Abernathy in Westworld, playing a docile rancher’s daughter who leads a quiet, simple life on the outskirts of a Wild West town. But slowly, Dolores begins to gain consciousness, realizing the tranquil life around her is an illusion. In reality, she must endure horrors day after day, all in the name of other’s sick amusement.
Because the show’s first season was being written by Johnathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, Westworld creators and husband and wife, while it was being filmed, Wood explained to Miller that she didn’t have her scripts in advance, so she had to learn about Dolores and her story in real time.
“That show changed my life,” Wood told Miller. “I realized that what my character was going through mirrored what I was going through personally. So, Dolores having her awakening and realizing who she was, what her place in the world was, while also realizing that this person who she loved was her perpetrator, awoke a lot of things inside me.”
The tipping point for Dolores’ character is when she realizes the gentlemanly and caring William is also the Man in Black (played by Ed Harris). Over the years, a once-sweet William had become her tormentor, mocking her, beating her, and even killing her love, Teddy.
“Any time my character had a scene with the Man in Black, or she had a moment of awareness, I was going through the same thing on a personal level,” Wood recalled. “By the end of the first season, I felt like I was given this gift of clarity and strength, over the course of doing the first season.”
“It was the catalyst for me to realize that I had been abused and that I needed trauma therapy,” she added. “That I needed to actually process all of this and stop running away from it, stop erasing it.”