- Birth name:
- Robert John Wagner
- Date of Birth:
- 10 February 1930 Detroit, Michigan, USA
- 5' 11" (1.80 m)
Robert Wagner was born in Detroit, and his family moved to Los Angeles when he was seven. Always wanting to be an actor, he held a variety of jobs (including one as a caddy for Clark Gable while pursuing his goal, but it was while dining with his parents at a restaurant in Beverly Hils that he was "discovered" by a talent scout. He had a bit part in The Happy Years (1950) but it was a small part as a crippled soldier in the Susan Hayward film With a Song in My Heart (1952) that got him attention. His fresh, all-American looks landed him a contract with 20th Century-Fox, which put him in a succession of undemanding roles in Technicolor pictures where his looks were more important than his talent (Beneath the 12-Mile Reef (1953), Prince Valiant (1954)), but he did manage to show that he was indeed an actor of talent in several showy roles in smaller pictures (A Kiss Before Dying (1956), Between Heaven and Hell (1956)). As he became one of Fox's rising young stars, the studio, as was customary back then, set him up with a host of nubile young actresses, among them Debbie Reynolds. While the pairing didn't lead to any romance, it did lead to a lifelong friendship. In 1957 Wagner fell in love with teenage actress Natalie Wood. They married on December 28, 1957, in Scottsdale, Arizona. Hollywood trumpeted their marriage as the most "glittering union of the 20th century". Robert (RJ to his friends) and Natalie quickly moved into a $150,000 mansion on Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills. He and Natalie were deeply in love and appeared to be the perfect couple, but were actually living on the edge and were strapped for cash. RJ was being overshadowed by new male leads like Marlon Brando and Paul Newman. Natalie was placed on a 14-month suspension with Warner Bros. for refusing to do a movie in England. These problems led them to divorce after less than four years of marriage. He took the divorce hard.Wagner appeared opposite Steve McQueen in The War Lover (1962), and still trying to escape his pain, he went to Europe to make the movie The Longest Day (1962). In Europe he met with his old friend Marion Marshall. They married on July 22, 1963 and he helped raise her two sons by director Stanley Donen. On May 11, 1964, the couple had a daughter, Katie Wagner. R.J. and Marion seemed to be very happy for the first few years, but Wagner's lagging career put stress on the marriage. In 1968 he reluctantly went into television to star in "It Takes a Thief" (1968) (later he would say it was the right move). Wagner briefly returned to the big screen opposite Paul Newman in Winning (1969). Wagner's career seemed to be thriving, but his personal life wasn't. He and Marion went their separate ways and divorced in 1971 after nearly a decade together.He was still in love with Natalie Wood and kept in touch with her. However, she had just married British producer Richard Gregson and had a daughter Natasha (later Natasha Gregson Wagner) in the fall of 1970. In 1972 Natalie and RJ saw each other by accident in a restaurant and suddenly the old magic was back. Natalie divorced her husband and remarried R.J. on July 16, 1972, on their yacht "Splendour". On March 9, 1974, they had a daughter, Courtney Wagner. Their second marriage was full of love and happiness. They were a real family and loved raising their daughters. Wagner went on to appear in the blockbuster "disaster film" The Towering Inferno (1974), reuniting him with Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, and Faye Dunaway. He also starred in two successful television series. The first was the police show "Switch" (1975) with Eddie Albert, and the series lasted three years. The second was playing Stephanie Powers' husband in the hit "Hart to Hart" (1979)), which lasted five years.His professional and personal lives seemed to be right on track. Then on November 29, 1981, his life was shattered when Natalie drowned in a freak boating accident. In 1982, Wagner began a relationship with a family acquaintance, actress Jill St. John. That same year he adopted Natalie's daughter Natasha and spent the next eight years raising her and Courtney as a single parent. He and Jill finally married on May 26, 1990.Wagner has since revived his career with a recurring role as the eye-patch-wearing henchman Number Two to Mike Myers' sinister Dr. Evil in the spy spoofs Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997), Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999), and Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002). He also became the hose of Fox Movie Channel's "Hour of Stars" (2002), which shows recently discovered and restored episodes of the old TV anthology series "The 20th Century-Fox Hour" (1955), some of which Wagner himself had starred in. In 2008 he began a recurring role on the hit sitcom "Two and a Half Men" (2003). Later that year he published his autobiography "Pieces of My Heart."