La Noche en que Murió Nathalie Wood, según su esposo Robert Wagner (traducción pendiente)
En su libro “Pieces of my heart: a life”, Robert Wagner relata la noche en que murió su esposa Nathalie Wood.
Ultimately, acting was Natalie’s identity and as the children grew, she became restless. So she picked up projects, including a part in a picture called Brainstorm, opposite Christopher Walken.
As she started shooting in North Carolina, a bell in my head went off. Walken was an exciting actor who delighted in taking risks. The bell wasn’t clanging but I was aware I didn’t have her full attention. It occurred to me that Natalie was being emotionally unfaithful.
As I’ve said, life can change in a minute. No, that’s not right. Life can change in a moment.
In November 1981, we took the Splendor to Catalina for Thanksgiving and invited Chris. On the second day, we all took a nap after lunch.
When I woke, I found a note from Natalie saying she and Chris had taken our dinghy and gone to a restaurant on the island. I wasn’t angry, just agitated. I called the shore boat and joined them.
We had wine with dinner, but we were tipsy rather than drunk. We returned to the salon of the Splendor and had more drinks.
Chris began talking about his ‘total pursuit of a career’, which he admitted was more important to him than his personal life. He clearly thought Natalie should live like that, too.
I got angry. ‘Why don’t you stay out of her career?’ I said. ‘She’s got enough people telling her what to do without you.’
We got into an argument and I slammed a wine bottle on the table, breaking it into pieces. Natalie got up during the argument and went down from the salon to the master cabin to go to the bathroom.
The last time I saw my wife she was fixing her hair in the bathroom while I was arguing with Chris. I saw her shut the door. She was going to bed.
About 15 minutes later, Chris and I moved up to the deck. Things were threatening to get physical, but the fresh air calmed us and we went back into the salon.
Chris then went to bed and I sat for a while with Dennis Davern, who looked after the Splendor for us, before going below.
Natalie wasn’t there. Strange.
I noticed the dinghy, usually attached to the side, had gone. Even stranger. I wondered if she’d taken it. But she was terrified of dark water and the dinghy’s motor fired up so loudly we would have heard it.
I radioed for the shore boat and went back to the restaurant. Natalie wasn’t there. Neither was the dinghy.
It was about 1.30am. I was scared and confused. The Coast Guard started the search and rescue, crisscrossing the ocean surface with helicopters. Hour after hour – nothing.
At 5.30am, they found the dinghy in an isolated cove. The key was in the off position, the gear was in neutral and the oars were fastened to the side. I didn’t allow myself to contemplate what that meant – it was too unthinkable.
Two hours later, they found my wife. Natalie was wearing a down-filled red jacket, and that helped them spot her.
I remember the morning was sunny. I was standing on the aft deck when Doug Bombard, the harbourmaster, pulled up and got out of his boat.
‘Where is she?’ I asked. Doug looked at me. ‘She’s dead.’
My knees gave out; everything went away from me. Many of the best times of my life had been spent around Catalina. I have never gone back.
For the rest of that day and that night I was in a zombie state as I held the children while they cried.
A few days later, the doorbell rang, and Elizabeth Taylor, whom I’d known for years, came in. We held each other. ‘Oh, baby, baby,’ she said. ‘What happened to us, baby?’
Gene Kelly came every day. He understood loss – his beloved wife, Jeanne Coyne, had died of cancer. He was a solid force, an unshakable wall of support; he would hold me and say: ‘We’ll get through this.’
I never saw Natalie dead – not at the morgue, nor at the funeral home. I wanted to remember her alive. After the funeral I went to bed and stayed there for seven, maybe eight, days.
The police concluded that Natalie’s death was a tragic accident and the case was closed. At the time, my lawyer made me promise not to talk to the Press about what happened.
I’ve had several decades to think about what happened.
My conclusion is that Natalie (the coroner later estimated she had drunk seven or eight glasses of wine) heard the dinghy banging against the boat and slipped trying to retie it. Others have suggested she was trying to get away from the argument. But nobody really knows.
Throughout that long, terrible night off Catalina and the next few days, Chris Walken was there. I hold no grudge against him: he was a gentleman who behaved honourably in an impossible situation.
Did I blame myself? If I’d been there, I could have done something. I wasn’t, but ultimately, a man is responsible for his loved one. Yes, I blamed myself.
I would have done anything in the world to protect her. Anything. I lost a woman I loved with all my heart, not once but twice, and I will never completely come to terms with that.
Natalie once accused me of having an affair with an actress called Jill St John. Her intuition was correct but premature by more than ten years.
© Robert J. Wagner 2008
• Pieces Of My Heart by Robert J. Wagner with Scott Eyman is published by Hutchinson