September’s Natalie Wood series begins with her breakout role, REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE
Kicking off September’s Essential Cinema series, Natalie Wood: It’s in the Eyes, is the iconic REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, which served as Wood’s breakout role and helped the actress transition from pigtails to the altogether more adult roles to come later in her career.
Before reaching world-wide recognition with films like WEST SIDE STORY, and REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, Natalie Wood was known as a child star, more often than not playing the daughter or granddaughter of famous actors and actresses in films like MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET. At the age of 15, as Wood would later admit, much of her career was decided and facilitated by her parents. So when the role of “Judy” in a film called REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE caught Wood’s eye, it didn’t appear feasible. While this was the first project Wood actively wanted for herself (not pushed to pursue by her parents), it seemed everyone around her deemed it as a bad fit.
Both the film’s director Nicholas Ray and the studio expressed concerns that Wood was seen by the public as “too innocent” and “too pure” to be in the film. During the audition process however, Wood was in a terrible car accident with Dennis Hopper where she was thrown from the car. When police asked for the number of her parents, she told them to call Nicholas Ray. When Ray met her at the hospital, Wood said to him: “Nick, they called me a juvenile delinquent, now do I get the part?” Shortly thereafter she was cast in the film, which would later prove to be her breakout role.