Today there are 77 years since the birth of actress Natalie Wood. She started to work into the movies industry since the age of 5. She did 52 films both for cinema and TV and she was a three times nominated by the Academy Awards for her roles in Rebel without a cause, Splendor in the grass and Love with the proper stranger.
It was my greatest pleasure to transcribe the words from the interview Natalie Wood had with Bobbie Wygant, NBC 5 journalist. The interview took place in 1979, the year in which Natalie Wood had three movies premiering. The subject of the interview is the TV miniseries Meteor, in which she starred along Sean Connery.
Bobbie Wygant: I think most people don’t realize that you do have a Russian heritage.
Natalie Wood: I guess so. I was in Russia recently which was my first trip, after I did Meteor. All the people said that I was so tipically American, how was it that I spoke Russian. My parents were born there and they came here. I was born in San Francisco. I’ve looked to enough movies and read a lot Russian magazines to depict the look of people in the movie.
Bobbie Wygant: The fact that you coul speak Russian, did that have anything with you getting the role?
Natalie Wood: Oh, yes, I think it did tremenduosly. A friend of mine who is a composer was having dinner with the director one night – and the director was saying how difficult it was to find an American actress that could speak Russian. And then this friend of mine remembered that I could speak it and he told the director that. And he called me out to tell about the project. it didn’t come about through normal channels through an agent and all that. Otherwise someone would have had to learn it just phonetically, by sound, just like Brian did. It was a little more difficult for me because I had to do the simultaneous translating which meant getting on another actor’s rhythm. When he paused, that’s when I would come in with translation. And then doing the English with the Russian accent.
Bobbie Wygant: Were you able to help Brian Keith because I assume he had no previous experience with the Russian language?
Natalie Wood: No, but he has an incredible year. He can really do accents in English, almost any kind of accent that it is. He wrote down the dialogue as he visualize the sounds to be. The pronunciation is difficult for our tongue. The sounds are really quite different.
Bobbie Wygant: As I watched the scene with you in the subway and muddy waters coming through, people who say, Gush making movies must be the most fun in the world, they had to go through a day’s work like that. How many days were you doing that scene?
Natalie Wood: We filmed about two weeks. I t was winter. I was very very cold. The first day the mud was heated, but then I think it was not possible to keep it heated. So it was very cold. It was not the way we visualized it when we read the script. We imagined that the mud would just slowly rise up, but it wasn’t like that. You saw it coming through walls and the ceiling. So you couldn’t really hear anything except this deafening noise of the mud coming through. So if anyone had yelled – Stop! or Cut! there was a problem, we just would have known. So, there was a lot of danger. I mean, I did feel frightened, I have to admit.
Bobbie Wygant: Are there any other movies that you ever done where you were that uncomfortable?
Natalie Wood: The only time that I was that uncomfortable was in the film I made called The Great Race when I had to be covered in pies. Literally my entire body had to be covered in pies. And we did that for about two weeks. So, towards the end, I was just covered from top to toe. It meant coming in the morning and just being plastered with gluey sticky pies and then staying that way all day. Sounds a bit like the mud. At least with the mud scenese we took showers in between times. We would wash it all off and we would get back in it. But with the pies you couldn’t, you were just a living statue.
Bobbie Wygant: Would you ever change something about your character from Meteor, since you went to Russia after making the film?
Natalie Wood: If you had the chance to redo a part, there are always things you would change. But no, I was happy that the research that we did do in terms of clothes and the general look, seemed to coincide with the interpreter that I was assigned to when I was there.
This is a scene from West Side Story in which Natalie Wood plays Maria and actually sings.