Since Natalie Wood’s untimely death in 1981, theories have swirled around what happened and if anyone could’ve been responsible for her drowning. Now, her daughter, Natasha Gregson Wagner, decided to take control of the narrative around her mother’s death in Laurent Bouzereau’s new documentary, “Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind.”
“In 2012, I became a mom, so it started to become very important to me that I take a little bit of a hold of the narrative and diffuse some of the noise and shine a light on all of the amazing qualities about my mom that not everybody knows,” Wagner told TheWrap’s Beatrice Verhoeven at the Sundance Film Festival, where the film premiered.
Bouzereau says he was approached by Wagner to do a documentary about her mother, and he was astounded at how much material there was to work with.
“I started looking into the story and there was so much I didn’t know,” Bouzereau said. “So I went on a journey of discovering and really putting myself in that world and discovering not only a story about Hollywood but a story of a family and I felt that I could relate to it. And I hope viewers out there, even those who may not know who Natalie Wood was, will relate because it is a story of a tragedy but it’s a story of a life well-lived as well as a story of an incredible mom, of a woman who was extremely before her time, extremely powerful. She had the power to say to the studios, ‘I want Robert Redford in my movie, ‘Inside Daisy Clover.’ He had not had a career on the big screen yet.”
Wagner is the daughter of Richard Gregson and Wood, but after the couple divorced, her mother remarried Robert Wagner in 1972. Wood was married to Wagner from 1972 until her death on Nov. 29, 1981, off Catalina Island in California. The then 43-year-old actress was sailing with Wagner, as well as Christopher Walken and Captain Dennis Davern, but was found floating in the water wearing a red down jacket and a flannel nightgown.
After a two-week investigation, the death was ruled as an accident, but the case was reopened in 2011. In 2012, the Los Angeles Coroner’s Office amended the death certificate, changing the cause of death to “drowning and other undetermined factors.” The autopsy report indicates that there were several fresh bruises on Wood’s body when she was found.
Last February, Wagner was named a person of interest in the case. In 2011, he was named “not a suspect” by the sheriff’s department. Investigators said Wagner has refused to speak with them since the case was reopened. There has long been speculation about the death of the “West Side Story” star — at first, Wagner, Walken and Davern told detectives that she took a dinghy and went to shore. Over time, investigators say, Wagner and Davern’s accounts shifted.
“Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind” debuts on HBO on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
Watch the video above.
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