In the new HBO documentary Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind, Natalie Wood’s daughter Natasha Gregson Wagner opens up about her mother’s suicide attempt in the mid-1960s, something she thinks was a cry for help. Here’s what you need to know about it.
Wood Was Coming Off a Split From Warren Beatty and a Tough Movie Shoot
In a never-published article that Wood wrote for Ladies Home Journal, which Gregson Wagner uses throughout the HBO documentary, Wood recounts her tumultuous relationship with actor Warren Beatty.
“Our affair was a collision from start to finish. While [Robert Wagner] never did express hostility, Warren couldn’t stop and I contributed my share of fireworks too. In fact, we were both so confused that we thought fighting and hostility meant real emotional honesty,” wrote Wood.
In 1964, Wood and Beatty split, and then she had a tough time filming the movie The Great Race.
“While she was filming The Great Race, she felt lonely and unhappy and afraid of never being able to maintain a stable and healthy relationship, so she took enough sleeping pills to kill herself,” says Gregson Wagner.
Wood’s friend Mia Farrow also says that Wood’s issues “probably went way back.”
The documentary does not mention Wood’s alleged rape, but Suzanne Finstad’s 2001 biography of Wood alleges that she actress was “raped sadistically by a powerful star” when she was just 16. Wood’s sister Lana told Fox News in 2018 that it was during an interview at the Chateau Marmot Hotel in Hollywood and that it went on “for hours.”
Lana claimed she overheard the details from her parents and that the family knew who the alleged attack was but never confronted him or went public with any claims. According to the biography, Natalie confided in her friend actor Dennis Hopper, her friend Scott Marlowe, and her friend Jackie (no last name given). Both Jackie and Hopper said they wanted her to go to the police, but she said it would ruin her career.
“It would have,” agreed Hopper. “At that time, the studio system controlled us, really.”
So long before her relationship with Beatty, Wood was allegedly dealing with some serious issues already.
Wood Ran to Her Friend Mart for Help Right After the Suicide Attempt
After swallowing the sleeping pills, Wood ran down the hall to get Mart Crowley, her good friend who was staying at the house that night.
“It was an overdose and a half, god almighty. I was told that after they pumped her stomach, they didn’t know whether she was going to pull through or not,” says Crowley.
“I don’t necessarily look at that night as a suicide attempt,” says Gregson Wanger. “It was really a cry for help. After she swallowed the pills, she banged on Mart’s door so obviously, she wanted to live.”
Wood eventually started therapy — then called “analysis” — which Farrow says was a huge help.
“With her own significant intelligence and a good therapist, she was able to make sense of some pretty severe nonsense that had come her way,” says Farrow.
Wood drowned in 1981 at the age of 43. The investigation into her death was reopened in 2011 and has remained that way, with her then-husband Robert Wagner being named a “person of interest.”
Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind airs Tuesday, May 5 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO and HBO Latino. It will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, May 6 at noon ET on HBO and HBO Latino; on May 6 at 8 p.m. ET on HBO2, on May 10 at 11:30 a.m. ET on HBO and HBO Latino, and Monday, May 11 at 1:30 p.m. ET on HBO.