Natalie Wood‘s sister Lana wants to know what occured the night of the actress’ shocking death — and believes Robert Wagner has the key.
The Rebel Without a Cause icon, who would’ve turned 80 last week, tragically drowned on Nov. 21, 1981 off the coast of Catalina Island at 43-years-old. The actress was with her husband Wagner on their yacht the Splendour with Christopher Walken and the ship’s captain Dennis Davern. Wagner has repeatedly maintained he doesn’t know what happened to Natalie and thinks she fell off the boat while trying to board a dinghy.
37 years later, Lana wants Wagner to “tell the truth for once and for all” as she shares her own theory of what led to her death on the new podcast Fatal Voyage: The Mysterious Death of Natalie Wood.
“I believe that there was a horrible fight onboard the Splendour,” Lana explained to host Dylan Howard on the first episode. “I think the evidence is also not just what Dennis Davern, the captain, has said, but the broken wine bottle and the threat that was first denied by Robert Wagner and then later in another book that he wrote he admitted to it. I think that things got out of hand. I know Natalie can verbally push, and Natalie was a very by-the-rules person. She did not put up with a great deal that she felt was harmful to her.”
“I think it escalated to a point where she was either struck or pushed. I don’t believe that it was planned. I don’t believe in any of those bizarre stories, but I do know she would not have ended up somewhere where she would completely never, ever go in a million years or certainly not go out not dressed. There’s just too much that doesn’t add up to who Natalie is,” Lana added.
Wagner and Natlie first married in 1957 and divorced in 1962 before reconciling and remarrying 1972. They were together until her death in 1981 and welcomed a daughter, Courtney Wagner, in 1974. Natalie also had an older daughter Natasha Gregson Wagner from her marriage to British producer Richard Gregson from 1969 to 1971.
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Lana, who is also an actress and starred as a Bond girl in 1971’s Diamond Are Forever, said her sister’s marriage to Wagner was falling apart by the time they boarded the boat.
“Too many things,” Lana said of the reasons their marriage was almost over. “The continual fights, the sudden push that she wanted towards her career, her feeling that the kids were old enough and had been given enough of a basis where she could go off to work. There’s jealousy involved. It’s particularly difficult for a man who has a wife who’s doing better.”
Earlier this year, Wagner was named a person of interest in the case after it was reopened in 2011.
“As we’ve investigated the case over the last six years, I think he’s more of a person of interest now,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Lieutenant John Corina said in an interview with CBS’ 48 Hours. “I mean, we now know that he was the last person to be with Natalie before she disappeared.”
Wagner has refused to speak with investigators since they began to look into the circumstances surrounding Wood’s death again.
“I haven’t seen him tell the details that match all the other witnesses in this case,” Corina said of Wagner. “I think he’s constantly changed his story a little bit. And his version of events just don’t add up.”
In Wagner’s 2008 memoir, Pieces of My Heart, he wrote that after a night of drinking, he got into an argument with Walken over Wood’s career.
At one point, the now 87-year-old actor wrote, “I picked up a wine bottle, slammed it on the table and broke it into pieces.”
As for what caused her to fall off the boat, Wagner wrote it was “all conjecture. Nobody knows. There are only two possibilities: either she was trying to get away from the argument, or she was trying to tie the dinghy. But the bottom line is that nobody knows exactly what happened.”