Kirk Douglas assaulted Natalie Wood, her sister alleges

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Natalie Wood at an event in 1955Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Natalie Wood at an event in 1955

The late Hollywood actress Natalie Wood was sexually assaulted as a teenager by the actor Kirk Douglas, a new book has claimed.

Ms Wood's sister, Lana, makes the allegations in her memoir "Little Sister", due for release on 9 November.

According to extracts from the book published by the Associated Press, Mr Douglas attacked Ms Wood in the summer of 1955.

The assault allegedly took place while Ms Wood was filming The Searchers.

Lana Wood says that the Hollywood stars' meeting at the famed Chateau Marmont hotel had been arranged by her mother, Maria Zakharenko, who hoped Mr Douglas could help open doors for the young actress.

Mr Douglas, who was in his 30s at the time, was one of Hollywood's most high-profile actors, starring in films such as Spartacus, The Bad and the Beautiful and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

"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 Wood writes.

"She looked awful. She was very dishevelled and very upset, and she and Mom started urgently whispering to each other. I couldn't really hear them or make out what they were saying. Something bad had apparently happened to my sister, but whatever it was, I was apparently too young to be told about it."

Lana Wood, who was eight at the time, says her sister and their mother agreed that it would ruin Natalie's career to publicly accuse Mr Douglas of attacking her.

She writes that her sister did not tell her what happened until years later, when Natalie said she was brought into Mr Douglas' suite and that "he hurt me, Lana."

Mr Douglas died in February 2020 aged 103. Rumours of the alleged assault had been so prevalent, that upon his death Ms Wood's name trended alongside his own on Twitter.

His actor son Michael Douglas, in a statement issued through his publicist, told The Associated Press: "May they both rest in peace."

Ms Wood died under mysterious circumstances in November 1981 after drowning while on a weekend boat trip to Santa Catalina Island in California.

Initially ruled as an accident, her cause of death was changed in 2012 to "drowning and other undetermined factors".

Wood's husband at the time, Robert Wagner, was named as a person of interest by police in 2018 and Lana Wood is among those who hold him responsible for Natalie's death.