“We just wanted to do her justice, to do her legacy justice,” declares Natasha Gregson Wagner about a new documentary about her mother, the legendary actress Natalie Wood. Gregson Wagner teamed with director Laurent Bouzereau for the film “Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and is now airing on HBO. In our exclusive video interview (watch above), Gregson Wagner explains her goal with the documentary: “I started to feel a real responsibility to make sure that legacy is focused on the right elements. And a lot of the misinformation that’s out there, I wanted to clarify.”
For Bouzereau, the film allowed him to see Wood’s career in a different light. “I only knew Natalie Wood through her movies,” the director says. “What emerged for me was an autobiographical actor, someone who actually chose movies very carefully because they spoke to her. Either they stood for something she had experienced herself, or they stood for values that she believed in.” But Bouzereau also saw Wood as not just a movie star, but as a very down-to-earth wife and mother. “That was a big revelation, that she was not this unattainable, unreachable movie star.”
The film’s emotional high point is a series of conversations between Gregson Wagner and her stepfather Robert Wagner, who has been the subject of numerous tabloid stories about his alleged role in Wood’s death. “That was actually going to make or break the documentary because we felt it was just so polarizing and such an important thing to do,” Bouzereau explains. “It was really courageous on both the part of Natasha and Robert Wagner to go there.” Gregson Wagner says that her stepfather was eager to participate. “It isn’t that he hasn’t wanted to talk about that night. It’s that he’s wanted to do it on his own terms and with someone he felt safe with,” she says. “He’s so happy with the film.”
Gregson Wagner sees a commonality between her mother and a certain contemporary Oscar-winning actress. “Somebody that has reminded me of my mom in her courage tackling interesting roles in Julianne Moore. I feel like she seeks out challenging material, and that reminds me of my mom.” Bouzereau feels that even without having a familiarity with Wood’s film work, modern audiences can easily identify with her story. “I just realized that there was so much about her that is still relevant to new generations today, he says, “and even for the very young, who may not know who she is, I think they will want to watch this film because it really is the story of a family.”
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