How Christopher Walken Became A Person Of Interest In A Mysterious Death

On November 29th, 1981, the body of actress Natalie Wood was found floating in the water near Catalina Island in Southern California. Wood had been aboard her yacht with her husband, TV star Robert Wagner, the ship’s captain, and her friend, the legendary Christopher Walken.

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Investigators at first believed that Wood’s death was an accident, that she somehow fell off the boat and drowned because Wood, famously, could not swim. However, the circumstances surrounding Wood’s drowning brought some to believe that her death was no accident. How did Natalie Wood die, and how is the star of films like The Deer Hunter and Sleepy Hollow involved?

8 Who Was Natalie Wood?

For those who do not know, Natalie Wood was one of the most famous actresses of her time. Like many other stars, she grew up in the spotlight and started her career as a child actor at the insistence of her mother. Wood has been in numerous classic films, like Miracle on 34th Street, Rebel Without A Cause, and she was Maria in the first film adaptation of West Side Story. Wood was married several times, twice to actor Richard Wagner, who older audiences will remember from the show Hart to Hart but younger audiences might remember better as Number 2 in the Austin Powers films.


7 How Did She And Christopher Walken Meet?

Wood’s marriage to Wagner was a bit rocky and was often the subject of tabloid fodder. During their second marriage, Wood started shooting a sci-fi movie, Brainstorm, which came out two years after her death. While filming the movie, a jealous Wagner allegedly came along with Wood because he got word that Wood and Walken had become close during the shoot.

6 Was Natalie Wood’s Husband Actually Jealous Of Walken?

It might have just been the result of tabloid rumors, but many do believe that Wagner was very jealous of Walken. However, there is also evidence to suggest that Walken and Wood’s relationship was totally platonic. Wagner invited Walken to stay with the couple on their yacht while filming in Catalina. It would be rather unusual for someone to invite the person they think their wife is having an affair with to stay with them, but, according to testimony from the Yacht’s captain, during a heated argument on the boat Wagner allegedly yelled at Walken, “What are you trying to do, f**k my wife!?” Whether or not Wood and Walken really had an affair remains unknown.

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5 What Happened The Night Natalie Wood Died?

One day, a group of friends took a lifeboat to shore to have drinks at a bar. The group got absolutely hammered. According to their waitress, the group went through several bottles of wine and champagne and nearly a dozen rum daiquiris. When Wood’s body was found, her blood alcohol was .14, nearly double the legal limit for a DUI. This led investigators to believe that during the night, a drunk Wood stumbled off the boat. What was suspicious was that the yacht’s dingy was found near Wood’s body. This also leads investigators to believe that Wood fell in the water trying to tie down the dingy, and when she fell in she struggled to get back into the boat or use it as a life preserver.

4 Was Walken Ever A Suspect?

Whether Walken was a suspect has been protected information by the Catalina police and LA Sheriff’s Department. However, it should be noted that Walken had no clear motive for hurting Wood. The two were incredibly close and the person on the boat with the most motive to hurt Wood would be her (allegedly) jealous husband. Walken did however remain a person of interest in the case and still is one today.

3 The Case Was Closed, Then Suddenly Reopened

Wood’s death was originally considered to be an accidental drowning due to her intoxication. For years the matter was considered closed, at least officially, but fans and tabloids continued to speculate about foul play. In 2011, 30 years after her death, the L.A. Sheriff’s department announced they were reopening the case. The investigation is still on-going as of 2022.

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2 Here Is What Doesn’t Make Sense

Here is the most suspicious part of Wood’s death, she had a crippling phobia of water. Wood nearly drowned in an on-set accident when she was a child, and ironically a fortune teller once told Wood and her mother that Wood would die from drowning one day when she was a little girl. These two things installed a fear of water in Wood that got so bad there was a time she could not bring herself to wash her hair. The odds that Wood would ever get too close to the water, even when drunk, has caused many people to suspect that her death was no accident.

1 What Does Christopher Walken Have To Say About All Of This?

Wood and Wagner had been loudly arguing the days before she died, according to Walken and the yacht captain. Walken said he did his best to not get involved in the fight and that he believes Wagner had nothing to do with Wood’s drowning. Five years after her death he was quoted saying, “I don’t know what happened. She slipped and fell into the water. I was in bed then. It was a terrible thing.” Walken has spoken to detectives multiple times since the case reopened, what he is telling them we may never know.

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