Natasha on the beach. Natasha with her pet dog. Natasha with her pet dog.
Click pictures to view full size.

Natalie Wood’s Daughter - Natasha Wagner

Following in her mother’s footsteps and finally coming to terms with her death.

Natasha Wagner admits that ten years ago, as a typical teenager with a new driving licence, she "used to back out of the driveway really fast." But when her adoptive father, Hart to Hart star Robert Wagner, took her aside, her response was hardly that of a typical teen!

He said, ‘If anything happened to you, I don’t know what I’d do. So I’d be grateful if you could drive slower.’ I melted," recalls Natasha, nearly 28. "He never had to ask me again."

What went unspoken, of course, was that father and daughter had already lost someone they dearly loved in a tragic accident. On November 29th, 1981, Natasha’s mother Natalie Wood fell off her yacht and drowned aged just 43, while sailing with husband Robert and a friend, actor Christopher Walken, near Santa Catalina Island. Natasha was 11 at the time. "Her death was probably the most defining part of me," she says. "I’ve spent the rest of my life dealing with it."

Part of Natalie lives on in Natasha, who is now an actress herself. In the film Two Girls and a Guy (due out here early next year), her fiery performance as a street-smart bisexual who discovers that her boyfriend is cheating on her recalls her mother’s bewitching turns in movies such as Rebel Without a Cause and West Side Story.

"She has the same nose, mouth, smile, laugh and same essential spirit as her mother," says James Toback, writer and director of Two Girls and a Guy. "It’s almost eerie. At times I felt I was in the presence of Natalie."

Natasha just hopes that her two fathers – her biological father "Daddy Gregson", screenwriter and producer Richard Gregson, who now lives in Wales, and "Daddy Wagner", who legally adopted her when he remarried Natalie in 1972 – will not be upset by the films frank themes. "I don’t mind them seeing me talk candidly about sex," she says. "I’m just glad I’m not naked."

Co-star Heather Graham, of Boogie Nights and the forthcoming Lost in Space, does have an explicit sex scene, however, and the movie had to re-cut several times to avoid an adult rating.

Daddy’s aside, Natasha welcomes controversy. "I like working with bold people who want to make an impact," she says. "I’m not interested in being just another pretty face."

Daddy Wagner, for one, admires her attitude. "Natasha steps out there," he says. "And I like that about her. I think she has the magic."

She has also come to terms, finally, with the inevitable comparisons between her and her mother. After Natalie’s death, she recalls: "I had to find out how you continue to have a relationship with someone who isn’t here, at least physically, anymore." She leaned heavily on her stepsister Katie Wagner, 34, a freelance TV reporter whose mother is former actress Marion Marshall, and artist half-sister Courtney Wagner, 24, Natalie and Robert’s only child together. And therapy, Natasha says, taught her "not to be afraid to cry and to acknowledge when I feel sad or lonely."

She also learned to treasure the happy times. Growing up in Beverly Hills and Pacific Palisades, she says she had a normal childhood, with a mother who supervised piano and ballet lessons and read The Little Prince and Winnie the Pooh to her.

"I knew she was special," says Natasha. "But none of that had to do with her being an actress. I related to her because she was my Mom."

After graduating from school, Natasha went on to Boston’s Emerson College, then transferred to the University of Southern California.

She always loved acting, says her sister Katie: "She has an old piece of paper from when she was first learning to write that says, ‘when I grow up I want to be an actress just like my Mommy.’"

And, in 1992, Natasha dropped out of college to do just that, to Daddy Wagner’s initial concern. "I always wanted her to have an education," says Robert, who is now married to actress Jill St. John. "I wanted her to be able to handle the disappointments. But she’s pretty secure about herself."

Natasha, who made her film debut in 1992’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer and broke through as a two-timed girlfriend in last year’s surreal thriller Lost Highway, also recently finished the drama Another Day in Paradise with James Woods.

But she is determined not to let her film career take over. "I’m going to do more than just act," she vows. She likes to read novels or just watch the whales that cavort in front of her two-bedroom Malibu beach home, where she is being taught to cook by her boyfriend Adam Storke, 35, an actor on the American TV series Prey.

She also enjoys organising the correspondence her mother kept with friends like Ruth Gordon (Natasha’s godmother), David Niven and Mia Farrow – plus "all the love letters Daddy Wagner sent her."

After that, who knows? "The work is so big," says Natasha. "I could go anywhere and do anything."

Stepsister Katie agrees: "Natasha’s so independent, evolved and emotionally together," she says. "I think her Mom would be really, really proud."

Click pictures to view full size.
Design by Michelle Merryweather and Kris Martin