One of the biggest unsolved mysteries in Hollywood is what happened on the night Natalie Wood drowned off the coast of Catalina Island in 1981. Everyone has their own theory, but it’s not too much of a stretch to say that a whole lot of theories involve Natalie’s husband Robert Wagner, and a heavy dose of side-eye. In 2011, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reopened their investigation into Natalie’s death. Two years ago, Robert Wagner (who just turned 90), was named a person of interest in Natalie’s death. Which was news that no doubt made a bunch of people look at their watches and scream, “FINALLY.” However, Natalie Wood’s daughter Natasha Gregson Wagner obviously wasn’t one of them, because Natasha believes her stepdad is innocent.
What we know about Natalie’s death is that she, Robert Wagner, and their friend Christopher Walken had taken a weekend boat trip to Catalina Island on Robert’s yacht, Splendour. On the evening of November 28th, Natalie went missing, and her body – as well as a dinghy from the yacht – were found one mile away from the yacht at 8:00 the next morning. The yacht’s captain Dennis Davern claims he heard Robert and Natalie arguing that evening, and Natalie’s sister Lana Wood claimed Natalie was terrified of water and never would have gone out in a dinghy by herself. Both Dennis and Lana have more than implied that Robert did it. Natalie’s death was ruled by the Los Angeles County coroner as “drowning and other undetermined factors.”
Vanity Fair recently spoke to Natasha about a new documentary she produced for HBO about Natalie’s death called Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind. Natasha claims her motivation for making the documentary was to shine a light on her mother’s legacy because she thinks too much attention is paid to her mysterious death. But naturally, because her death is a pretty huge part of her legacy, she explores that too. And Natasha is really hoping that her documentary might clear up the rumors about her stepdad, which she calls “nonsense.”
“I am very protective of my stepdad and I adore him. So I didn’t want him to feel uncomfortable or unsafe. And yet I was asking him to step outside of his comfort zone to talk about the night that [Wood] died.” Asked whether she went into the conversation hoping to disprove specific theories, Gregson Wagner said, “I wasn’t really concerned with disproving these outlandish theories, I was more just wanting to have the kind of conversation that he and I have had in the past about other things, but on camera. I wanted him to feel safe enough to unfold, like a flower, and be honest, and show his humanity. That was my goal, or my intention for that interview.”
Natasha asked Robert to describe in his words what happened that night, and he claims everyone was drinking a lot of wine and arguing about the future of Natalie’s career. According to Robert, Christopher Walken urged Natalie to get back into acting, whereas Robert was urging Natalie to focus on raising her kids, if that’s what she wanted. He says that eventually Natalie went to bed while Christopher and Robert stayed up drinking and arguing. When Robert finally went to bed, he discovered that Natalie wasn’t there, and that’s when he allegedly notified the coastguard.
Natasha says that she hadn’t really talked too much to her stepdad about the night her mom died, and that she never really questioned what had happened. Their conversation for the documentary was, according to Natasha, the most they had explored the topic. She says she’s glad they finally did it.
“When you take something, and you put it into the light, it doesn’t feel as hampering, and that’s what we were doing. We were just taking the truth and putting it into the light and it sort of empowered us I think in a way.”
Despite Robert swearing he had nothing to do with Natalie’s death, and Natasha believing him, I’m sure it’s not enough to convince everyone that Number Two isn’t 100% guilty guilty guilty. Like Natalie Wood biographer Suzanne Finstad, who recently released Natalie Wood: The Complete Biography. Suzanne told Vanity Fair two months ago that she believes Natalie’s death was not an accident, and heavily implies the murderer was Robert Wagner or Dennis Davern. So, those rumors are pretty much never going away.
Still, I’m sure Robert Wagner is very thankful that his stepdaughter decided not to give him the villain edit in this new documentary. He’s also probably more than a little relieved that Robert Stack passed away in 2003, well before the case was reopened. Because if there’s anyone who could get to the bottom of an unsolved mystery from the ’80s, it’s Robert Stack.