Almost 40 years later, actor Robert Wagner revisited the night that his wife, actress Natalie Wood, mysteriously drowned off the coast of Catalina Island, per People. Wagner’s recollection of his final evening with Wood is a part of a forthcoming HBO documentary, Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind, premiering on May 5. The documentary was put together by Natasha Gregson Wagner — Wood’s daughter from a previous marriage — and addresses rumors surrounding the actress’s death, rumors that have influenced her legacy.
In the documentary, Gregson Wagner interviews the 90-year-old Wagner, directly asking him what happened the night Wood disappeared. Wagner recounted a dinner on the island featuring himself, Wood, and the actor Christopher Walken. All three had been drinking. Following the dinner, the trio returned to the couple’s yacht, where Wagner and Walken engaged in an argument about Wood’s career. Wood excused herself during the argument and went below deck. When Wagner later went looking for Wood, he discovered that both she and a dinghy attached to the yacht were gone. Wagner fought back tears as he recalled the moment he was told Wood’s body had been discovered.
“That night has gone through my mind so many times.”
Wagner chose to speak about the night after years of avoiding interviews on the topic because of his close relationship with his step-daughter. Gregson Wagner was 11 when Wood passed, and she explained that part of her reason for putting the documentary together was that “enough was enough” in regards to the rumors surrounding her mother’s death.
“For so many years we were advised to ignore or not talk about it. But enough is enough. I know that if my mom had been in any kind of distress, he would have given his life for her.”
Wagner agreed with Gregson Wagner’s stance.
“She said that because she knows me and she knows that I never would have done anything to hurt her mother.”
Gregson Wagner said that Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind needed Wagner, and if he had not been able to “go there” it was unlikely that the documentary would have been released. She also admitted that it is unlikely she will ever know the entire story of her mother’s final night, calling it a “terrible, terrible accident.” She added that the only thing that could be blamed was “too much alcohol.”
Gregson Wagner is also releasing a memoir that focuses on her mother — titled More Than Love — and has hopes that the two projects will allow for her mother to be defined by her life instead of the mystery of her death.