Natasha Richardson dies at age 45
Natasha Richardson, the versatile actress known for her nuanced performances on stage, television, and film, has died. She had suffered a traumatic brain injury in a skiing accident in Canada on Monday, March 16, and was later transported to New York, where she passed away at age 45. In a statement, Richardson's husband, Liam Neeson, and their family said, "Liam Neeson, his sons, and the entire family are shocked and devastated by the tragic death of their beloved Natasha. They are profoundly grateful for the support, love and prayers of everyone, and ask for privacy during this very difficult time."
Over the course of a renowned 25-year career that spanned every medium and every conceivable genre, Richardson proved her range time and again. She could acquit herself admirably in even the lightest fare, such as 1998's family film The Parent Trap or the 2002 romantic comedy Maid in Manhattan, but as a member of the legendary Redgrave acting dynasty, which stretched back for generations, she always felt most at home tackling profound human dramas from the likes of Chekhov, Ibsen, Williams, and O'Neill. "I'm comfortable…where the most emotionally painful stuff is," she told EW in 1998. "That's where I feel a connection."
On March 16, Richardson — the British-born daughter of Oscar-winning actress Vanessa Redgrave and the late director Tony Richardson, niece of Lynn Redgrave, and older sister of Nip/Tuck star Joely Richardson — became the center of her own wrenching drama when she suffered a brain injury after a skiing accident at a resort in Canada. Her husband of nearly 15 years, Liam Neeson, left the set of Chloe, a drama he was filming in Toronto, to be with her. Over the next 24 hours, conflicting reports about Richardson's condition spread across the Internet, sowing confusion, disbelief, and sadness.
According to several accounts, Richardson's fall — which occurred on a beginners' trail during a private lesson at the Mont Tremblant resort — did not appear serious at first. "She did not show any visible sign of injury," the resort said in a statement to the Associated Press. After about an hour, however, Richardson began to complain of a headache and ended up at a hospital in Montreal. From there, she was flown by private jet to New York — where she lived with Neeson and their two sons, Micheal, 13, and Daniel, 12 — "so her family could say goodbye to her," a source told EW.
As a member of one of Britain's most famous acting clans, Richardson entered the profession with enormous expectations on her shoulders. Her father, who won an Oscar in 1964 for directing the film Tom Jones, was among his elder daughter's first and fiercest critics, picking apart an early performance in a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. "He said, 'Not good enough,' " Richardson recalled in a 1998 interview. "Then he sent me the play with all the things underlined that I ought to think about."
In time, however, Richardson emerged from the shadows of her famous parents, who had divorced when she was 4. (Her father died of complications from AIDS in 1991, at age 63.) She distinguished herself with her tremendous versatility and beauty on the stage, on television, and on the big screen, with films like 1990's The Handmaid's Tale and 1991's The Comfort of Strangers. Richardson recruited Neeson to costar with her in a 1993 Broadway production of Anna Christie. The two instantly clicked both professionally and romantically. "We started rehearsing," Neeson said in a 1994 interview, "and it was like suddenly walking on air."
Over the past decade, Richardson continued to pivot between work in theater — winning a Tony in 1998 for her work in Cabaret — and in movies. A lifelong gourmet, she appeared this past season as a guest judge on Top Chef. Though her relationship with her mother was strained at times by Redgrave's political activism in earlier years, the two became quite close. They costarred in the 2007 film Evening and recently shared the stage in a one-night performance of Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music.
- More on Natasha Richardson:
- Natasha Richardson: A critical appreciation by Lisa Schwarzbaum
- Natasha Richardson: 'Top Chef' celebrity guest judge
- EW's 1998 profile of Natasha Richardson
- 'Cabaret' stage review
- 'The Parent Trap' movie review
- 'Nell' movie review
- 'Maid in Manhattan' movie review
- 'Closer' stage review
- 'Evening' movie review
- 'The White Countess' movie review
- 'Asylum' movie review
- 'A Streetcar Named Desire' stage review
- 'Chelsea Walls' movie review
- 'Blow Dry' movie review
- 'Widow's Peak' movie review
- 'The Comfort of Strangers' movie review
- 'The Handmaid's Tale' movie review