The Natalie Wood Kirk Douglas Controversy Explained

The following article contains allegations of sexual assault.

In the years following the mysterious 1981 death of Hollywood icon Natalie Wood, her younger sister Lana Wood has become, in many ways, her sibling's strongest advocate. Lana, who has been instrumental in reopening the investigation into her sister's death by drowning off the coast of California's Catalina Island during Thanksgiving weekend while yachting with her husband, Robert Wagner, and their mutual friend Christopher Walken. (In 2018, Wagner was named a "person of interest" in Wood's death, which was previously written off as an accident.) 

Lana has been Natalie's keeper, and her loyalty has stood the test of time. But now, a year after the death of Kirk Douglas, another famous actor from Hollywood's golden age, Lana has claimed he allegedly sexually assaulted Natalie when she was 16 years old.

As Lana described in portions of her upcoming memoir "Little Sister," via the Associated Press, the Wood sisters' mother, Maria Zakharenko, arranged for Natalie to meet with an older, famous actor at Los Angeles' Chateau Marmont in the summer of 1955 to help Natalie, who rose to fame as a child in the 1947 Christmas movie "Miracle on 34th Street," further her career. After dropping Natalie off, both Maria and Lana, then eight years old, waited for her to come back. It was a night that would change Natalie's life forever. And now, the mystery of who allegedly assaulted Natalie Wood might finally be solved.

Natalie Wood's sister says Kirk Douglas assaulted the West Side Story star

As the Associated Press reported in November, Lana Wood named "Spartacus" actor Kirk Douglas as the person who allegedly sexually assaulted her sister, Natalie Wood. "It seemed like a long time passed before Natalie got back into the car and woke me up when she slammed the door shut," Lana recalled (via the Associated Press) about the night her sister was attacked. "She looked awful. She was very disheveled and very upset, and she and Mom started urgently whispering to each other ... Something bad had apparently happened to my sister, but whatever it was, I was apparently too young to be told about it." 

According to Lana, Natalie confirmed that she had been sexually assaulted that night decades later with her, telling her sister Douglas' name. 

The rumors about Douglas aren't new. They've circulated for years, and they were brought up again after his death in February 2020 at the age of 103. While some, such as The Guardian's Hadley Freeman, balked at the notion of bringing up anything having to do with the alleged sexual assault at that time, others took to Twitter, making Wood's name trend alongside Douglas', per The Wrap.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).