Old wounds are once again being reopened as Los Angeles County authorities have opted re-examine the case involving the mysterious death of Natalie Wood. New leads have apparently emerged in the case, including some never-before-heard witness testimonials as well as the possibility of some “incomplete” testimonials already on the record.
Natalie Wood’s death has been riddled with controversy from the beginning. Many at the time felt a thorough investigation had never been conducted when it was officially ruled an accidental drowing. Whatever new information there now is, it has prompted authorities to re-open the case as a homicide. L.A. County Sheriff John Corina has publicly stated that Wood’s two-time husband Robert Wagner is not a suspect. Of course this does not rule out that the 81-year-old Wagner won’t be named a suspect in the future. Meawhile Dennis Davern, captain of the Splendour – the boat Wagner and Wood were on the night of Wood’s death – is now on the record stating that he is of the belief that Wagner was indeed responsible for Wood’s death after giving a cryptic “Today” show interview with David Gregory. In this same interview Davern also makes the claim that Robert Wagner was not fully cooperative in the investigation of Natalie’s death. Wagner’s side claims that Davern is only coming forward now to capitalize on the 30 year anniversary of Wood’s death.
Queens native and former Hofstra University attendee Christoper Walken was also on the Splendour that evening. Walken and Wood were friends and co-starring in the motion picture Brainstorm (1983) together. They were in the middle of a break in production that November when Natalie died. Many have speculated that Wagner may have suspected Walken and Wood were carrying on an affair which he had just gotten wind of. If this were true it certainly wouldn’t have been the first or last time that extra-marital romance had developed on the set of a movie. But is this simply a story of infidelity? Very possibly. Or is there more to this story than meets the eye?
An interesting fact about Brainstorm is that according to the “IMDb trivia notes” for the film is that once word hit that star Natalie Wood had been found dead, MGM studio execs wanted to halt filming immediately in order to collect on what was probably a very hefty insurance sum. One must wonder: how much was this film insured for? If you allow yourself down this road of inquiry you then have to also ask why a movie studio, which is in the business of making movies that make money, would ever even consider conspiring to have one of its stars killed? It certainly seems to make no sense that a studio would ever conspire to murder their talent simply to make money on an insurance grab. Could perhaps the movie Brainstorm itself yield any information on this matter?
Brainstorm is actually a very intriguing motion picture. It is a sophisticated science fiction thriller directed by Douglas Trumbull, a special effects industry legend (having worked on films like Blade Runner & Close Encounter of the Third Kind), involving technology where sensations from the brain of a subject who wears a device known as a “hat” can be recorded onto videotape and be experienced later. The screenplay was written by Phil Messina and Robert Stitzel and was based off of a story by fellow screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin. In case anyone missed the story earlier this Fall, as far-fetched as this may seem, it was just recently scientists at UC Berkeley unveiled a device that can reconstruct and record brain thought patterns in dreams. This is very similar to the idea that is portrayed in Brainstorm. We should also all be aware that industrial insiders are always a decade or two ahead of the curve as far as technology development and what the general public is privy to.
Bruce Joel Rubin is no stranger to clandestine science, technology and experiments not meant for immediate public consumption involving the brain, as he is best known for writing the screenplay to Jacob’s Ladder (1990). The old addage goes: a good writer writes what he knows about. It would be interesting to know what Rubin knew about this technology in the early 80s, and how, or by whom, he came by it. Did perhaps a higher-up industry insider with Hollywood connections get wind of what may have been contained in the original screenplay based off of Rubin’s story which eventually became the motion picture Brainstorm? Did it in any way expose too much insider information even if in the form of fictionalized movie? If so, was this embedded information so threatening to any potential financing and development of this technology that this industry insider wanted an excuse, any excuse, to have production on the film shut down – even if it meant murder?
We are dealing with a thirty year old accidental death case which has been mysteriously re-opened under the suspicion of homicide – a case where the chief suspect in the minds of many is not a suspect to the authorities. Nobody who was actually on the boat that evening wants to come forward and specifically say exactly what happened, why it happened and how it happened. So any and all questions are fair game.
Douglas Trumbull had a clause in his contract which gave him final say on whether or not filming would shut down, and he opted to complete the picture. But with Natalie’s death, the film had to be altered from the original vision – so we’ll never truly know how the picture was supposed to play out in comparison to the final finished film we wound up with (assuming no original Messina & Stitzel screenplays to Rubin’s story have been archived anywhere).
It’s all speculation at this point. If it was an accident, what exactly is this new information the police have other than Davern’s vague accusations? Why do so many feel that Natalie’s death was never properly investigated in the first place? Why did Natalie’s sister, Lana, come out two years ago to the British press mystified that Wagner has never adequately explained to her how and why Natalie died? If what Davern claims is true, what kept him from speaking out the past thirty years?
The only fact that we have at present is that the world lost a beautiful and special talent almost thirty years ago to the day. We can only hope that with the case being re-opened hidden truths will be exposed, and if this truly was a murder, the guilty parties will be brought to justice. Is that too much to ask for anymore? Or does that only happen in the movies?