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The True Story of the Lost Sci-Fi Movie Brainstorm, Natalie Wood’s Last Film

In 1981, visual effects genius Douglas Trumbull directed a film about a disturbingly advanced form of virtual reality, called Brainstorm. It starred Christopher Walkin, Louise Fletcher, Cliff Robertson, and Natalie Wood. Trumbull selected the story to highlight an advanced technique he had developed in film, but it was not to be. For Natalie Wood, the movie was to be her comeback project after raising her children in the 1970s. That was not be, either.

By Thanksgiving 1981, filming was wrapping up. There were only a few scenes left to shoot, and then Trumbull would have staked his claim in the wild expanse of high-concept science fiction, would have shown the world the very beginning of what he could do with film.

Then Natalie Wood, Robert Wagner, and Christopher Walken went out on a boat for the weekend.

Natalie Wood drowned during that excursion, under mysterious circumstances that are still not understood. The movie project was thrown into chaos, as the studio wanted to call the project un-finishable and collect on insurance, while Trumbull insisted he could easily complete Brainstorm. When editing resumed, a couple of scenes about drowning had to be scrapped. Brainstorm was finally released in 1983, but today hardly anyone remembers the movie, despite its eerily accurate look into the future of technology. Read the complicated story of Brainstorm at Popular Mechanics.

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