Thursday, January 10, 2013

01/10 Lana Wood

Lana Wood is an American actress and producer. She was born to Russian émigré parents, Nikolai and Maria Zakharenko, and is the younger sister of actress Natalie Wood. Her first major role was at age 9 in the John Wayne western The Searchers. She was a regular on the soap opera Peyton Place. She is best known for her role as Plenty O'Toole in the 1971 James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever. She appeared in a number of small films and television guest roles throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
Wood was born Svetlana Nikolaevna Zakharenko to Russian parents, but they grew up far from their homeland: her father lived in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, while her mother grew up in a Chinese province. After her parents were married, they settled in Santa Monica, California, where Lana was born. By this time her parents had legally changed their surname to Gurdin. Her older sister was actress Natalie Wood. They have a half-sister, Olga Viriapaeff, from their mother's previous marriage.

As an infant, Wood appeared in Driftwood (1947), but her scene was deleted from the final version of the film. Lana's first credited film role was in director John Ford's western classic The Searchers (1956), which stars John Wayne and also features Wood's sister Natalie; Lana and Natalie play the same character at different ages, with similar amounts of screen time. Natalie's stage name was Wood, given to her by the producer of her first film. Maria was asked under what last name Lana should be credited, and Maria agreed it would be best if she could be credited as "Wood," like her sister. As a child, she also made guest appearances in Playhouse 90 (1957), The Real McCoys (1958), and appeared in the films Marjorie Morningstar (1958) and Five Finger Exercise (1962).

Early in her adult career, Lana played bit parts in Natalie's films; but, in the 1960s, her own career took off. One of her roles was in the beach party film The Girls on the Beach (1965). After appearing in the short-lived drama series, The Long, Hot Summer, she landed the role of Sandy Webber in the prime-time soap Peyton Place, which she played from 1966 to 1967.

In 1971, Wood appeared in the April 1971 Playboy issue, along with her poetry. Even though Natalie strongly disapproved of Lana's posing nude, the publicity was a major reason for her being cast as Bond girl Plenty O'Toole in Diamonds Are Forever (1971).

Wood has more than 20 other films and over 300 television shows to her credit, including The Fugitive, Bonanza, Mission: Impossible, Police Story, Starsky and Hutch, Nero Wolfe, Fantasy Island, and Capitol. Some of her other film roles have been in the Disney film Justin Morgan Had a Horse (1972) and the western Grayeagle (1977). After appearing in the horror film Demon Rage (1982), she retired from acting, concentrating on her career as a producer.

In 1984, Wood published the controversial tell-all book Natalie, A Memoir by Her Sister, which reached number three on The New York Times Best Seller list. In 2004, she produced the biopic The Mystery of Natalie Wood. She recently returned to acting and has several projects in production. Lana is a character in the 2009 Steve Alten book Meg: Hell's Aquarium.

Her marriage, at age 30, was to Richard Smedley, with whom she had a daughter Evan, born on August 11, 1974; Lana and Smedley divorced in 1975. In the 1980s, Lana had a long-term relationship with actor Alan Feinstein.

Wood was romantically involved with actors Warren Beatty, Ryan O'Neal, Alain Delon, and Sean Connery. She talks about these relationships in detail in her autobiography.

On November 29, 1981, Natalie Wood drowned near Catalina Island under peculiar circumstances. Lana has said: “The person I loved more than anybody else, with the sole exception of my own daughter, is dead. I cry for her often. I expect I always will." Later, their mother Maria,who had Alzheimer's disease, moved in with Lana. Maria Gurdin died on January 6, 1998. Lana wrote a book about her experience with Maria, which was not published.

In 1984, Wood published her tell-all Natalie: A Memoir by Her Sister, in which she states that Natalie's widower Robert Wagner broke off contact with her just after Natalie had died. Lana cooperated with author Suzanne Finstad on a 2002 biography of Natalie, titled Natasha: The Biography of Natalie Wood.

Wood has three grandchildren: Nicholas (b. 1998), Daphne (b. 2000), and Max (b. 2002). She currently lives in Thousand Oaks, California.

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