A little more than a year after Evan Rachel Wood accused her former fiancé, Marilyn Manson, of sexual abuse, the musician is suing her for defamation, emotional distress, and “impersonation over the internet,” among other charges.
In a complaint filed with the Los Angeles Superior Court Wednesday, Manson — whose real name is Brian Warner — accuses the actress and friend Illma Gore of casting Warner “as a rapist and abuser — a malicious falsehood that has derailed Warner’s successful music, TV, and film career.” It goes on to describe “a conspiracy” the two women allegedly concocted to take Warner down.
Wood and Gore both appear at the center of Phoenix Rising, a documentary slated to premiere on HBO on March 15. The film, directed by Amy Berg, chronicles Wood’s accusations against Warner, beginning with how they met when she was a teenager up through her decision to name him as her alleged abuser publicly. (A source close to the documentary confirmed to Rolling Stone that Warner’s lawsuit will not affect the airdate or content of the two-part film.)
Warner’s lawsuit claims Wood and Gore impersonated an FBI agent to give the appearance that a federal investigation into Warner’s alleged crimes was ongoing. They allegedly sent letters from this agent to women who would later make public allegations against Warner to suggest that they were in danger. Warner also claims that Wood and Gore “provided checklists and scripts to prospective accusers, listing the specific alleged acts of abuse that they should claim against Warner” and that they made false statements to these women “including the defamatory claim that Warner filmed the sexual assault of a minor.”
The suit also claims that Gore attempted to obtain Warner’s login information and hacked into his computer, phone, and email. She allegedly created a fake email account to claim Warner was sending people pornography and that she “swatted” Warner (sending police to look into the artist under a false pretense) after Wood came forward with her allegations.
Warner is seeking unspecified damages from Wood and Gore and an injunction against them. (Neither Gore nor representatives for Wood or HBO immediately replied to requests for comment.)
In an Instagram post, Warner commented on the lawsuit. “There will come a time when I can share more about the events of the past year,” he wrote. “Until then, I’m going to let the facts speak for themselves.” He included a link to the lawsuit in his Instagram bio.
“This detailed complaint has been filed to stop a campaign of malicious and unjustified attacks on Brian Warner,” Howard King, Warner’s attorney, said in a statement. “Years after the end of Evan Rachel Wood’s long-term relationship with Warner, she and her girlfriend Illma Gore recruited numerous women and convinced them to make false allegations against him — claims that Wood and Gore scripted for them. … Even though HBO and the producers have been made aware of these serious acts of misconduct, they have thus far chosen to proceed without regard for the facts. But the evidence of wrongdoing by Wood and Gore is irrefutable – and this legal action will hold them to account.”
The lawsuit cites interviews where Wood said she was happy in her relationship with Warner and suggests that when she met artist-activist Gore, described in the filing as “a grifter,” the pair decided to launch a campaign against Warner. Gore is best known for her painting of a nude Donald Trump with a tiny penis. “For at least the last two years, Gore and Wood have secretly recruited, coordinated, and pressured prospective accusers to emerge simultaneously with allegations of rape and abuse against Warner,” the suit says, “and brazenly claim that it took 10 or more years to ‘realize’ their consensual relationships with Warner were supposedly abusive.”
Warner alleges that Gore used her involvement in the Phoenix Act, a nonprofit organization Wood founded to aid survivors of sexual abuse, as well as the Phoenix Rising doc “to recruit, coordinate, and pressure women who had been linked to Warner to make false accusations of abuse against him.” The suit claims Gore and Wood coached the women on how to discuss Warner in interviews and hosted meetings where the women could coordinate their stories. It further claims that Gore intimidated the accusers by suggesting she was involved in a criminal investigation against Warner and that if they didn’t work with her, “they could be in danger, and security would not be provided for them and their families.”
The suit includes a checklist that Warner’s lawyer claims Gore distributed to prospective accusers. It allows for the women to select whether or not they were willing to testify against Warner, whether they were a sexual partner of his, and it lists various abuses that a woman could check off if she experienced them with Warner. These include job offers, rape, blood drinking, bondage, being locked in the “bad girls’ room,” and being drugged, among other offenses. The lawyer also included what he claims is a script Gore gave to women who spoke out against Warner, though the image appears to be a series of disconnected thoughts like “He texted me saying he could rape me” and “I woke up tied up being raped”; there’s no apparent flow of logic between the statements.
Warner’s attorney also included a letter that he says Wood and Gore circulated, attributing it to a real-life FBI agent. “Please be advised that Evan Rachel Wood is a key witness in connection to a criminal investigation in Los Angeles, California, involving an international and well known public figure,” it reads. “The safety of Ms. Wood, her family, other victims, and their families are of the utmost concern during this time. Contact for more information regarding the safety of victims [sic] Human and Sex Trafficking Crimes.” The agent’s name is redacted in the filing, but it suggests that she works for the Federal Violent Crimes Department — a bureau Warner’s attorney says is nonexistent. (A rep for the FBI did not immediately reply to a request for clarification.) Warner’s legal filing claims that the signature and phone number for the agent are false and that the agent in questions confirmed she did not write the letter to Warner’s attorney. The lawsuit includes screenshots of texts that Warner’s lawyer claims were sent between Wood and Gore.
Gore also allegedly contacted the FBI on Feb. 3, 2021, claiming she was concerned for Warner’s safety because she hadn’t heard from him, and the FBI in turn dispatched LAPD to his home. “Multiple LAPD officers and squad cars responded to the purported ’emergency’ at Warner’s home,” the lawsuit says. “When Warner did not answer the door, more units arrived, and an LAPD helicopter was deployed.” The suit also claims Gore tipped off paparazzi to the spectacle.
The suit claims that not only did Gore create false email addresses for Manson to send and receive pornography, she also allegedly hacked into his email after obtaining login info from Warner’s former assistant. “Gore used the information she obtained as part of her scheme to orchestrate and promulgate false accusations against Warner, including the coordinated false accusations against Warner on Feb. 1, 2021 and thereafter, which would bring further attention to the Phoenix Act, Wood, and the film project; and to curry favor with Wood and potential and existing accusers against Warner,” according to the lawsuit.
One of the causes of action that Warner’s attorney hopes a jury will hear is the musician’s claim that Wood and Gore intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon him. “Gore’s and Wood’s conduct was outrageous in that it was so extreme as to exceed all bounds of that usually tolerated in a civilized community,” the suit claims. Other causes of action include defamation, hacking Warner’s email, impersonation, and fraud.
Since Wood and the other women have come forward, retribution came swiftly for Warner. His label, booking agent, and manager all dropped him, and his scheduled acting appearances were canceled.
In a Rolling Stone investigation last year, some of Warner’s accusers described alleged sexual, physical, and mental abuse while either dating or working with him. Several friends, musicians, and employees of Warner’s corroborated the women’s stories, describing Warner as having cultivated an environment of paranoia around him in which his friends and employees were expected to comply with his whims. Warner denied all allegations of sexual abuse and sexual assault in the story via his lawyer.
Many of the women who spoke with the magazine said that they felt too intimidated to come forward with their stories. “That’s in part why he got away with it for so long: Because victims of his felt completely ashamed that they still didn’t realize what was happening to them until it was way too late,” Game of Thrones actress and Warner accuser Esmé Bianco said. “He told the whole world, and nobody tried to stop him.”