American Media Inc.'s new podcast Fatal Voyage: The Mysterious Death of Natalie Wood asks a question that has plagued the world since 1981: What really happened to Natalie Wood the day she allegedly drowned off the coast of Catalina Island?
Over Thanksgiving weekend in 1981, Wood boarded her boat Splendour with her actor husband Robert Wagner, Brainstorm co-star Christopher Walken, and captain Dennis Davern, for a trip to the popular Los Angeles getaway spot. Wood disappeared in the middle of the night and, in the morning of November 29, was found dead a mile away from the boat.
In 2011, according to The Hollywood Reporter, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department reopened the investigation into Wood's death. (It was previously ruled an accident.) In 2012, the coroner's office changed Wood's death certificate: It now reads that her cause of death was "drowning and other undetermined factors."
Yet while Wood's mysterious death is the reason for the podcast, it's also her life the holds a great deal of intrigue. Through interviews with Hollywood insiders, conversations with Wood's family members, and even excerpts from the actress' unpublished memoir, host Dylan Howard paints a fuller image of the woman the world knew mostly from her iconic film roles in Rebel Without a Cause, West Side Story and more. Despite her status as a beloved Hollywood A-lister, Fatal Voyage claims that Wood's life was not always an easy one.
Over the course of the roughly 22-minute long podcast episodes (three have been released so far), Howard reports on Wood's upbringing under the thumb of an allegedly difficult stage mother, in which Wood felt perpetually obligated to land the next part. In a particularly difficult conversation presented on the podcast, Wood's sister alleges that the actress was raped, and that her mother never reported it in order to protect Wood's career.
Howard also explores her romance with her husband, Robert Wagner, who was named a person of interest in Wood's death in February of 2018. (Refinery29 has reached out to Wagner's representative for comment. He has previously denied any involvement in his wife's death.)
But what did Wood's life have to do with her untimely death? That is, obviously, what the podcast wants to put together. According to Rolling Stone, Howard and his team of investigators have spent the past seven years looking into Wood's case, ever since it was reopened in 2011. (It's worth mentioning that Howard, the host of the podcast and vice president and Chief Content Officer of AMI, has a bit of a controversial history. According to Ronan Farrow's New Yorker piece on sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein, Howard reportedly sent a writer to gather information about a woman who had accused the film producer of sexual assault.)
Can this decades-old case truly be cracked? A podcast may not be able to solve a case, but it can bring a story back into the public sphere. Whether we find out what really happened to Wood or not, you can bet that thanks to Fatal Voyage, more people will want that answer.