Knowing Hollywood, numerous executives are scrambling to greenlight a Natalie Wood biopic in light of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reopening the case of her Nov. 29, 1981, death. It was ruled an accidental drowning — apparently Wood was trying to secure a dinghy while on board her and husband Robert Wagner’s boat, Splendour, and fell overboard, and apparently Wagner and guest Christopher Walken were none the wiser until it was too late. But now Dennis Davern, the former captain of the Splendour, is changing his story and alleging Wagner was somehow involved in Wood’s demise.
“I made some terrible decisions and mistakes,” Davern said on the “Today” show this morning. “I did lie on a report several years ago. … I made mistakes by not telling the honest truth in a police report.”
The drama, while still unfolding, is too good to pass up for a screenplay, and Peter Bogdanovich tried his hand at the task with the 2004 TV movie The Mystery of Natalie Wood. Meh. We can do better. Who should portray Wood, the star of such classics as Rebel Without a Cause and West Side Story,in the inevitable film about her life? Who should play Wagner? Should we just go ahead and cast someone like Bill Hader as Walken, seeing as few people can do Walken better than Walken?
Interestingly, as the case is reopened 30 years after her death, Wood already was in the news this week with the release of the 50th-anniversary Blu-ray of Story. Another big film of hers, Splendor in the Grass, also marked its 50th anniversary this year. And it being the holiday season, expect to see the 1947 Miracle on 34th Street, one of Wood’s first roles, shown on TV sometime soon. She’s still important, and she deserves not only justice in the circumstances of her death but justice in the handling of her legacy. So go ahead: tell everyone how her film story should be told.
Sarah Carlson has a front-row seat to the decline of the newspaper industry and lives in Alabama with her overly excitable Pembroke Welsh corgi.