Natalie Wood's sister opens up about star's death for 'All Rise'

It has all the elements of a big-screen blockbuster: a beautiful actress, a handsome leading man, a brooding fifth wheel and a moment of sickening terror with the most horrific consequences.

Using in-depth firsthand accounts from new witnesses, the new podcast series “Fatal Voyage: The Mysterious Death of Natalie Wood” investigates the night Hollywood’s leading lady went missing while on a yacht with her husband, Robert Wagner, and their friend Christopher Walken on the evening of November 28, 1981 — only to tragically turn up dead.

To preview “Fatal Voyage,” Dylan Howard, host of the popular “All Rise” podcast, scored a world exclusive interview with Natalie’s sister, Lana Wood.

Dylan Howard: Lana, what do you think happened?

Lana Wood: I believe that there was a horrible fight onboard the Splendour. 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-rule person. She was trying to lead her life by continuing her emotional and psychological mental growth. 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.

DH: She was frightened of the water?

LW: She was terrified of water going all the way back to when I was a kid and Natalie was a teen and my mother would continually tell the story of the gypsy who told my mother’s fortune in China who said that she would have a world famous daughter and that somebody would die by drowning. It further terrified Natalie, who wasn’t exactly fond of the water as it was. My mother never learned to swim either. Natalie never learned to swim.

 

 

DH: There were three men on the boat in addition to Natalie: Dennis Davern, the skipper; Christopher Walken, who was starring alongside Natalie in Brainstorm; and Robert Wagner. Do you believe that Christopher Walken or Dennis Davern were involved in the fight with Natalie?

LW: No. Absolutely not.

39 PHOTOS
Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood together through the years
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Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood together through the years
Actress Natalie Wood with her husband, actor Robert Wagner.
American actor Robert Wagner and his wife actress Nathalie Wood. (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)
Actress Natalie Wood and husband, actor Robert Wagner, at London Airport in 1976. (Photo by � Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) The El Morocco. New York City: Actress Natalie Wood and actor Robert Wagner.
Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood (1938 - 1981) leave the church holding hands just after their wedding, Scottsdale, Arizona, December 28, 1957. (Photo by Jack Albin/Getty Images)
circa 1958: American actors Natalie Wood (1938 - 1981), wearing a black evening gown with long gloves and a white fur wrap, and Robert Wagner, wearing a tuxedo with a white opera scarf. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - 1958: Actors Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner attend an event in 1958 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Earl Leaf/ Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Married American actors Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood (1938 - 1981), circa 1958. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
(Eingeschr�kte Rechte f�r bestimmte redaktionelle Kunden in Deutschland. Limited rights for specific editorial clients in Germany.) Wood, Natalie *20.07.1938-29.11.1981+ (Eigentlich Natalia Nikolaiewna Zacharenko) Schauspielerin, USA - mit ihrem Mann Robert Wagner - 1958 (Photo by ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Enjoying a tete-a-tete in an outdoor phone booth outside Penn Station, recently wed screen stars Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood are shown here. The couple was visiting Manhattan the first time since their marriage at Scottsdale, Az. on December 28, 1957.
Mr. and Mrs. Robert Wagner (she's Natalie Wood) arrive at Penn Station from Miami. They're here to see Bob's new movie, 'In Love and War.' (Photo By: Art Whittaker/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 23: Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood back stage of 'The Jack Benny Program.' Image dated January 23, 1960. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
Robert Wagner, US actor, and his wife, Natalie Wood (1938-1981), US actress, with a small dog, circa 1965. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
American actors Robert Wagner and his wife Natalie Wood (1938 - 1981), circa 1970. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
American actor Robert Wagner with his actress wife Natalie Wood at the time of their second marriage. Original Publication: People Disc - HM0378 (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)
American actor Robert Wagner with his former wife American actress Natalie Wood, 23rd April 1972. (Photo by Chris Wood/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Actors and spouses Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner following their reconciliation, Britain, April 24th 1972. (Photo by Roger Jackson/Central Press/Getty Images)
Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood during 45th Academy Award Rehearsals at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
MALIBU, UNITED STATES - AUGUST: Actress Natalie Wood and husband actor Robert Wagner at home with daughter during August 1973 in Malibu, California. (Photo by Sandy KAPLAN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Actors and spouses Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner, arriving at the premiere of the film 'The Godfather', London, August 24th 1972. (Photo by Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood during 16th Annual International Broadcasting Awards at Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
American actors Robert Wagner and his wife Natalie Wood (1938 - 1981) at the 29th Cannes Film Festival, May 1976. (Photo by RDA/Getty Images)
Actor Robert Wagner and actress wife Natalie Wood arriving in London en route for the South of France for a short holiday before returning to London next month to make TV production of the Tennessee Williams play 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' for Granada, 24th April 1976. (Photo by Dennis Stone/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
American actor Robert Wagner and his actress wife Natalie Wood at Heathrow Airport in London before leaving to present the prizes at the Cannes Film Festival. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
Actors and spouses Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner in London, July 1st 1976. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
NBC MONDAY NIGHT AT THE MOVIES -- 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' -- Pictured: (l-r) Natalie Wood as Maggie, Robert Wagner as Brick -- (Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank)
Film actor Robert Wagner and his wife Natalie Wood arrived at Heathrow Airport from Los Angeles with their children Courtney (2) and Natasha (5). Courtney was carrying a doll called 'Curious George.' They were met by Lord Olivier and are here to make a Granada TV production with him of 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof .' 19th May 1976. (Photo by Victor Crawshaw/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner during 5th Annual AFI Lifetime Achievement Award - Salute to Bette Davis at Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Robert Wagner, Ehefrau Natalie Wood, Dreharbeiten zur US-TV-Serie 'Switch', Hollywood, Los Angeles, Kalifornien, USA, Nordamerika, SW, schwarz-weiss-Foto, Dreh, Bett, Ehemann, Schauspieler, Schauspielerin, NB/BB, 01.08.1978; (Photo by Peter Bischoff/Getty Images)
Robert Wagner, Ehefrau Natalie Wood, neben den Dreharbeiten zur US-TV-Serie 'Switch', Hollywood, Los Angeles, Kalifornien, USA, Nordamerika, Dreh-Pause, Wohnmobil, Wohnwagen, Auto, Becher Kaffee, in den Arm nehmen, Ehemann, Schauspieler, Schauspielerin, NB/BB, 01.08.1978; (Photo by Peter Bischoff/Getty Images)
Laurence Olivier, Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner during 'A Little Romance' World Premiere Filmex Opening Honoring Laurence Olivier in Century City, CA, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood during Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood Sighting at a Beverly Hills Restaurant - June 1, 1977 at Beverly Hills Restaurant in Beverly Hills, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - 1980: Actors Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner outside La Scala restaurant in 1980 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
circa 1980: Married American actors Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner attending a formal event. Wood is wearing a blue dress with powder-blue sheer sleeves and a floral top. Wagner is wearing a black tuxedo. (Photo by Darlene Hammond/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood during 'Hart to Hart' Wrap Party - April 9, 1980 at Chey Moi in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Robert Wagner, Natalie Wood, and Daughters Katie Wagner, Natasha Gregson Wagner, and Courtney Wagner (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - CIRCA 1981: Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood circa 1981 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Bret Lundberg/IMAGES/Getty Images)
Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
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DH: Do you have any idea what they might have been fighting about?

LW: Not really … I think that Natalie was really done with the marriage. I really do.

DH: And of course, this was their second marriage. Why do you think she was done with it?

LW: Too many things: 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…It’s any married couple or couple in a relationship that are both acting. There’s jealousy involved. It’s particularly difficult for a man who has a wife who’s doing better.

DH: The initial coroner’s report was accidental death by drowning. We now know that Thomas Noguchi, who was the coroner at the time, was wrong. So was this police and law enforcement misconduct?

LW: I don’t know if it was misconduct, but it was certainly sloppy as hell … Things are forgiven and overlooked because “these people” cannot possibly be a part of anything like this.

DH: Why do you think Robert Wagner won’t talk to the police? My sources tell me he won’t talk to them because his memory, and I’m quoting a source, “is unreliable, he has early onset memory loss and he really doesn’t want to answer those questions.”

LW: That’s nonsense. It’s absolute nonsense. He has always refused. How long has the case been reopened? It wasn’t reopened yesterday, was it? … The other thing that bothers me — and always has — is why didn’t he rush to her side when they found her? When they found her drowned, dead, in the water. Why did Dennis have to identify the body? Why didn’t RJ?

DH: Do you think that police should simply arrest Robert Wagner for questioning?

LW: Yes I do. And they would love to. They have literally told me that.

19 PHOTOS
Natalie Wood in the 1960s
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Natalie Wood in the 1960s
American actress Natalie Wood (1938 - 1981), star of the musical film 'West Side Story', December 1960. (Photo by Ernst Haas/Getty Images)
Actors Steve McQueen and Natalie Wood meeting. (Photo By John Dominis/The LIFE Premium Collection/Getty Images)
Natalie Wood (1938-1981), US actress, wearing a white beaded necklace and a sleeveless black and white dress, reclining with a black bow in her hair, circa 1965. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
Former child actress, American film star Natalie Wood (1938 - 1981). (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
1960: Former child actress, American film star Natalie Wood (1938 - 1981). (Photo via John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images)
Portrait of American actress Natalie Wood (1938 - 1981) as she sits on a sofa and looks over her shoulder, late 1960s. (Photo by Tim Boxer/Getty Images)
Promotional portrait of American actors Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood (1938 - 1981) in their film 'Splendor in the Grass' (directed by Elia Kazan), 1961. (Photo by Eliot Elisofon/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Head and shoulders photograph of Natalie Wood who plays Maria in the 1961 United Artists film, West Side Story. Movie still.
American actors Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood (1938 - 1981) at a formal event, circa 1961. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
Actoress Natalie Wood at the Cannes Film Festival. (Photo by Paul Schutzer/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Promotional shot of actress Natalie Wood, as she appears in the movie 'Gypsy', 1962. (Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images)
Actress Natalie Wood sexily lounging on deck of sail boat. (Photo by Paul Schutzer/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Actor Steve McQueen w. actress Natalie Wood. (Photo by John Dominis/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) 8/1/1964-A smiling Natalie Wood, garbed in turn-of-the-century fashion, plays a free-wheeling reporter who battles for women's rights and covers 'The Great Race' for the New York Sentinel.
American actress Natalie Wood (1938 - 1981), circa 1964. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
Tony Curtis enamored with Natalie Wood in a scene from the film 'Sex And the Single Girl', 1964. (Photo by Warner Brothers/Getty Images)
Actress Natalie Wood smoking a cigar at a charity dinner in aid of Cedars Sinai Medical Centre, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles, circa 1965. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
American actress Natalie Wood apparently topless at a photo shoot in London, 1965. (Photo by Terry O'Neill/Iconic Images/Getty Images)
circa 1965: American actor Natalie Wood (1938 - 1981) wearing a coat with a fur trimmed hood. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
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DH: Walk me through what you believe took place on the boat that ultimately led to Natalie being found drowned in the water.

LW: The weekend did not begin auspiciously from the get-go. The weather was dreadful. It was pouring rain; it was very windy. People were saying to Natalie, “Why are you still going?” And she said, “Because that was the plan we made and that’s what we are going to do.” Even Natasha, her daughter, begged her not to go and asked if she could go. And Natalie said, “No, you’ve made your plans and I’ve made my plans and we are going to honor the decisions that we’ve made.”

So off they went and evidently the first night that they were there on [Catalina Island], they were not getting along. There was tension at the restaurant, there was tension afterward and evidently an argument began then because Natalie spent the night on Catalina Island and she asked Dennis to stay in the room with her because she was frightened. Then in the morning she said she wanted to leave and go back home and in the morning for some reason she changed her mind and felt that she should go back on the boat and see what’s going on.

DH: If you could say one thing to Robert Wagner, what would it be?

LW: The same thing I’ve always thought: Tell the truth for once and for all.

Listen to Lana Wood’s entire exclusive interview with Dylan Howard on “All Rise.”

For more on Natalie Wood’s mysterious death, download the fascinating 12-part podcast series “Fatal Voyage: The Mysterious Death of Natalie Wood.” when it launches on July 20 — the day that the doomed star would have celebrated her 80th birthday.

“Fatal Voyage: The Mysterious Death of Natalie Wood” will be available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play and wherever podcasts are available. Click here to learn more about the series.

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