Briefing

Will Marilyn Manson vs. Evan Rachel Wood be a repeat of Depp vs. Heard?

Why the Depp verdict doesn't necessarily spell trouble for Wood

After Johnny Depp won his defamation battle against ex-wife Amber Heard, all eyes now turn to another defamation case, in which rocker Marilyn Manson has sued ex-girlfriend Evan Rachel Wood over her abuse claims against him. Here's everything you need to know: 

What are Evan Rachel Wood's allegations against Marilyn Manson?

Westworld star Evan Rachel Wood revealed to Rolling Stone in 2016 that she was allegedly raped by a significant other. Later, while testifying in a 2018 congressional hearing, she said she is a victim of "toxic mental, physical, and sexual abuse, which started slow but escalated over time" and included the "man that claimed to love me raping what he believed to be my unconscious body." The actress fought to pass the Phoenix Act, a bill to extend the statute of limitations for sexual assault victims in California, and she detailed her experiences with abuse in a California Senate hearing. 

Wood initially only referred to "my abuser." But in 2021, she said for the first time that "the name of my abuser is Brian Warner," a.k.a. Marilyn Manson, the rock star she dated on and off from 2006 through 2010, beginning when she was 18 and he was 37. "He started grooming me when I was a teenager and horrifically abused me for years," she alleged on Instagram. 

In March 2022, HBO aired the documentary Phoenix Rising, in which Wood speaks further on her claims. Among the biggest bombshells was Wood alleging she was "essentially raped on camera" by Manson while they were shooting a music video. "We had discussed a simulated sex scene, but once the cameras were rolling, he started penetrating me for real," she said. 

This was the beginning of the "violence that would keep escalating over the course of the relationship," she said, and she alleged Manson isolated her from her family and friends, tied her up and tortured her with a "Nazi whip from the Holocaust," shocked her genitals, and made her drink his blood, among other claims. 

What else has Manson been accused of? 

After Wood came forward, numerous other women leveled similar abuse allegations against Manson, several of whom also filed lawsuits. This included Manson's former assistant, Ashley Walters, and Game of Thrones actress Esmé Bianco, the latter of whom accused him of raping her, physically abusing her, and using "drugs, force, and threats of force to coerce sexual acts" from her. Bianco told ABC News she was "coerced into involuntary servitude, which included sexual abuse and physical abuse" by Manson. Some of Manson's other accusers also appeared in Phoenix Rising

In February 2021, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department confirmed it had opened an investigation into Manson, though in June 2022, TMZ reported he likely would not face charges due to "some credibility issues with the victim."

What has Manson said?

Manson has repeatedly denied the allegations, calling them "horrible distortions of reality," and he contends his "intimate relationships have always been entirely consensual with like-minded partners."

Shortly before Phoenix Rising aired, Manson sued Wood for defamation, alleging her abuse claims are a "malicious falsehood" that derailed his career, and he accused her of committing "illegal acts" as part of a conspiracy to "organize, coordinate, and promulgate false allegations" against him. The lawsuit accuses Wood and her "on-again, off-again" romantic partner, Ashley Gore, of providing "checklists and scripts to prospective accusers," listing abuse acts they should accuse Manson of, and pressuring these accusers to come forward and "fabricate, change, embellish, and exaggerate their stories." 

In one bombshell claim, the lawsuit alleges Wood and Gore impersonated an FBI agent to convince alleged victims to come forward, creating a fake letter with a forged signature to make it appear Manson's accusers were in danger and that he was facing a federal investigation. "The federal agent whose name and alleged signature appear on the letter has confirmed that she did not author that letter" and had no knowledge of it, the lawsuit says. Manson additionally claims Gore hacked his computers, phones, email, and social media accounts and "created a fictitious email account to manufacture purported evidence that Warner was emailing illicit pornography."

Manson is seeking damages in a jury trial. Speaking on The View, Wood said his lawsuit is "part of the retaliation that keeps survivors quiet," adding, "I'm very confident that I have the truth on my side."

Could this case have a similar outcome to Depp's? 

In June 2022, Depp unexpectedly won a defamation case against ex-wife Amber Heard, which some experts suggested could have a chilling effect on the #MeToo movement. It also sparked speculation about whether Manson could find similar success in court. At Forward, Nora Berman wrote that the Depp verdict "spells trouble" for Wood. 

There are many key differences between the cases, though. For one, Wood's allegations are far more direct. The op-ed by Heard that sparked Depp's lawsuit never actually mentioned him by name, whereas Wood has repeatedly identified Manson as her abuser. The most important difference, though, is that while Depp's legal team stressed that none of his previous ex-girlfriends accused him of abuse, Manson has faced abuse allegations from over a dozen women who describe behavior that lines up with what Wood alleged. Bianco, for example, also accused Manson of beating her with a Nazi whip. 

Attorney Lee Feldman told IndieWire he's skeptical Manson's case will play out like Depp's, noting the actor is "well-liked and almost a beloved figure in some circles" but Manson doesn't seem to have the same kind of public support. "It actually may prove to be quite the opposite situation with Marilyn Manson because I think his reputation is more of a ... bizarre, cult-like figure," Feldman added. 

But some Depp supporters have already thrown their support behind Manson, a friend of the Pirates of the Caribbean star. One Depp fan tweeted that "I see so many similarities between" the cases, including "the fake abuse," and a pro-Depp YouTube video dubbed the "hoax against Marilyn Manson" a possible "Amber Heard sequel."

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