Natalie Wood’s Daughter: Why Robert Wagner Talks About Mom’s Death Conspiracy Theories In Doc

Robert Wagner and his stepdaughter confront allegations that he harmed her mom head-on in HBO’s ‘Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind.’

Robert Wagner, 90, wanted to address allegations that he was somehow involved in the death of his late wife Natalie Wood nearly 40 years after the actress drowned at the age of 43. So says his stepdaughter Natasha Gregson Wagner whose documentary, Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind, premieres on HBO on May 5. In the doc, the 49-year-old peppers him with questions about the November 1981 night that culminated in her mom’s body being found floating off the coast of Catalina Island, California. And Wagner never shies away from addressing the conspiracy theories that have dogged him since that night.

Asked if it was difficult to talk to her stepdad about the allegations, Natasha says, “Not at all.” “It was something that he really wanted to do,” she tells HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY. “And it was something we spoke about and he knew exactly what [the director] Laurent [Bouzereau] and I wanted to talk about and he wanted to talk about it too. He just wanted to talk about it on his own terms, in a situation that felt dignified and not in any kind of toxic media.”

Although most of Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind focuses on the West Side Story star’s remarkable life and career, it does detail the events that led up to Wood’s shocking death. Natasha and Wagner sit face-to-face as he recounts the couple’s Thanksgiving weekend jaunt to Catalina Island on their boat Splendour, with their guest, Christopher Walken.

Natalie Wood, Robert Wagner
Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner at their first wedding in 1957. They divorced five years later before remarrying in 1972. (Courtesy of HBO)

Wagner admits that he and Walken got into a heated discussion about Wood’s career and her desire to work more. Natalie went to the couple’s bedroom to sleep, but when her husband went downstairs later to join her, she was nowhere to be found. A frantic search followed and she was ultimately found floating in the sea, having drowned wearing a jacket and her nightgown. An autopsy later revealed that she was legally drunk.

Initially her death was ruled an accident, a tragic end to a boozy night. But, 30 years later, in 2011 the case was reopened and in 2018 the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department named Wagner a “person of interest” in their investigation. Wagner and Natasha both say in the documentary that they believe Wood may have slipped and fallen while trying to tie their dinghy closer to the yacht, to prevent it from banging and making noise. But, ultimately, no one will ever really know what happened in her final moments.

What Natasha is crystal clear about, however, is that there was no foul play and that her “Daddy Wagner” had nothing to do with it. “It bothers me that anyone would ever think that you would be involved in what happened to her,” she says in the documentary as tears stream down her face, “because you would have given your life for my mom.” Even though she doesn’t believe in them, Natasha tells HL that she wanted to address the conspiracy theories in the doc even though she thinks they’re “ridiculous.” “I knew that this is something that the public would want to read about, or hear my point of view on,” she says. As for her, she “barely” thinks about them because “they’re so preposterous.”

Natasha Gregson Wagner, Natalie Wood
Natasha Gregson Wagner with her mom, Natalie Wood, in Hawaii in 1978. (Courtesy of HBO)

Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind premieres on May 5 at 9pm ET/PT, exclusively on HBO. Natasha’s memoir, More Than Love: An Intimate Portrait of My Mother, Natalie Wood, is out now.

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