When I saw this on the Toronto Star website, I got shivers. I thought she would of overcome her injuries and never thought it would end up this way. I am shocked. Very sad.
Mar 18, 2009 09:32 PM
NEW YORK–Natasha Richardson, a gifted and precocious heiress to acting royalty whose career highlights included the film Patty Hearst and a Tony-winning performance in a stage revival of Cabaret, died Wednesday at age 45 after suffering a head injury from a skiing accident.
Alan Nierob, the Los Angeles-based publicist for Richardson’s husband Liam Neeson, confirmed her death in a written statement.
“Liam Neeson, his sons, and the entire family are shocked and devastated by the tragic death of their beloved Natasha,” the statement said. “They are profoundly grateful for the support, love and prayers of everyone, and ask for privacy during this very difficult time.”
The statement did not give details on the cause of death for Richardson, who suffered a head injury when she fell on a beginner’s trail during a private ski lesson at the luxury Mont Tremblant ski resort in Quebec. She was hospitalized Tuesday in Montreal and later flown to a hospital in New York City.
Family members had been seen coming and going from the New York hospital where Richardson was reportedly taken.
Vanessa Redgrave, Richardson’s mother, arrived in a car with darkened windows and was taken through a garage when she arrived at the Lenox Hill Hospital on Manhattan’s Upper East Side at around 5 p.m. Wednesday. An hour earlier, Richardson’s sister, Joely, arrived alone and was swarmed by the media as she entered through the back of the hospital.
As the Star’s Andrew Chung reported Tuesday, a distraught Neeson had crouched inside the back of an ambulance at Montreal’s Sacré-Coeur hospital as Richardson, wrapped in blankets and with tubes covering her face, was loaded inside. Neeson had immediately left the Toronto set of his upcoming movie, Chloe, to be by her side in Montreal, a publicist for the film said.
Later Tuesday evening, a sombre looking Vanessa Redgrave, Richardson’s mother, was seen in photographs walking into Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. Two boys, identified in photos as her sons, Michael Richard Antonio Neeson and Daniel Jack Neeson, and a young woman identified as a niece, Daisy Bevan, were seen leaving the hospital early Wednesday.
Richardson is the elder daughter of Oscar-winning Redgrave and the late director Tony Richardson. She fell Monday during a private lesson at the famed Mont Tremblant ski resort.
According to a Mont Tremblant spokesperson, Richardson appeared to be in “perfect condition” after falling on a beginner trail.
“Mrs. Richardson was on a private lesson (Monday) and she fell while getting the lesson,” said Catherine Lacasse.
“Two ski patrollers came down and checked her vital signs. She was still in perfect condition. She was breathing and laughing,” she said.
The fall, which occurred on the Nansen trail around 3 p.m., did not appear to be serious, Lacasse said.
But the ski patrol took her down to the bottom of the slope and insisted she see a doctor, Lacasse said. Lacasse said Richardson refused and said she wanted to go back to her room at the resort’s Hotel Quintessence, where it is believed she had been staying since Sunday.
Lacasse said the ski instructor as well as the ski patrol accompanied Richardson to her room. They again recommended she see a doctor, and the ski instructor stayed with her at her hotel, Lacasse said.
Lacasse said that approximately an hour after the incident, Richardson said she was not feeling well. “She had a headache and then accepted to go to the hospital and an ambulance came.”
Lacasse said Richardson was not wearing a helmet and did not collide with anything when she fell.
Her death was a sudden and horrifying loss for her family and friends, for the film and theatre communities, for her many fans and for both her native and adoptive countries. Descended from at least three generations of actors, Richardson was a proper Londoner who came to love the noise of New York, an elegant blonde with large, lively eyes, a bright smile and a hearty laugh.
If she never quite attained the acting heights of her Academy Award-winning mother, she still had enjoyed a long and worthy career. As an actress, Richardson was equally adept at passion and restraint, able to portray besieged women both confessional (Tennessee Williams’ Blanche DuBois) and confined (the concubine in the futuristic horror of The Handmaid’s Tale).
Like other family members, she divided her time between stage and screen. On Broadway, she won a Tony for her performance as Sally Bowles in a 1998 revival of Cabaret. She also appeared in New York in a production of Patrick Marber’s Closer (1999) as well as 2005 revival of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, in which she played Blanche opposite John C. Reilly’s Stanley Kowalski.
She met Neeson when they made their Broadway debuts in 1993, co-starring in Anna Christie, Eugene O’Neill’s drama about a former prostitute and the sailor who falls in love with her.
“The astonishing Natasha Richardson … gives what may prove to be the performance of the season as Anna, turning a heroine who has long been portrayed (and reviled) as a whore with a heart of gold into a tough, ruthlessly unsentimental apostle of O’Neill’s tragic understanding of life,” New York Times critic Frank Rich wrote. “Miss Richardson, seeming more like a youthful incarnation of her mother, Vanessa Redgrave, than she has before, is riveting from her first entrance through a saloon doorway’s ethereal shaft of golden light.”
Her most notable film roles came earlier in her career. Richardson played the title character in Paul Schrader’s Patty Hearst, a 1988 biopic about the kidnapped heiress for which the actress became so immersed that even between scenes she wore a blindfold, the better to identify with her real-life counterpart.
“Natasha Richardson … has been handed a big unwritten role; she feels her way into it, and she fills it,” wrote The New Yorker‘s Pauline Kael. “We feel how alone and paralyzed Patty is – she retreats into being a hidden observer.”
Richardson was directed again by Schrader in a 1990 adaptation of Ian McEwan’s The Comfort of Strangers and, also in 1990, starred in the screen version of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.
She later co-starred with Neeson in Nell, with Mia Farrow in Widow’s Peak and with a pre-teen Lindsay Lohan in a remake of The Parent Trap. More recent movies, none of them widely seen, included Wild Child, Evening and Asylum.
She was born in London in 1963, the performing gene inherited not just from her parents (Vanessa Redgrave and director Tony Richardson), but from her maternal grandparents (Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson), an aunt (Lynn Redgrave) and an uncle (Corin Redgrave). Her younger sister, Joely Richardson, also joined the family business.
Friends and family members remembered Natasha as an unusually poised child, perhaps forced to grow up early when her father left her mother in the late ’60s for Jeanne Moreau. (Tony Richardson died in 1991).
Interviewed by The Associated Press in 2001, Natasha Richardson said she related well to her family if only because, “We’ve all been through it in one way or another and so we’ve had to be strong. Also we embrace life. We are not cynical about life.”
Richardson always planned to act, apart from one brief childhood moment when she wanted to be a flight attendant – “wonderful irony now since I hate to fly and have to take a pill in order to get on a plane. I’m so terrified.”
Her screen debut came at age 4 when she appeared as a flower girl in The Charge of the Light Brigade, directed by her father, whose movies included Tom Jones and The Entertainer. The show business wand had already tapped her the year before, when she saw her mother in the 1967 film version of the Broadway show Camelot.
“She was so beautiful. I still look at that movie and I can’t believe it. It still makes me cry, the beauty of it. I could go on and on – in that white fur hooded thing, when she comes through the forest for the first time. You’ve never seen anything so beautiful!” Richardson said.
She studied at London’s Central School of Speech and Drama and was an experienced stage actress by her early 20s, appearing in On the Razzle, Charley’s Aunt and The Seagull, for which the London Drama Critics awarded her most promising newcomer.
Although she never shared her mother’s fiercely expressed political views, they were close professionally and acted together, most recently on Broadway to play the roles of mother and daughter in a one-night benefit concert version of A Little Night Music, the Stephen Sondheim-Hugh Wheeler musical.
Before meeting up with Neeson (who called her “Tash”) Richardson was married to theatre and producer Robert Fox, whose credits include the 1985 staging of The Seagull in which his future wife appeared.
She sometimes remarked on the differences between her and her second husband – she from a theatrical dynasty and he from a working-class background in Northern Ireland.
“He’s more laid back, happy to see what happens, whereas I’m a doer and I plan ahead,” Richardson told The Independent on Sunday newspaper in 2003. “The differences sometimes get in the way but they can be the very things that feed a marriage, too.”
She once said that Neeson’s serious injury in a 2000 motorcycle accident – he suffered a crushed pelvis after colliding with a deer in upstate New York – had made her really appreciate life.
“I wake up every morning feeling lucky – which is driven by fear, no doubt, since I know it could all go away,” she told The Daily Telegraph newspaper in 2003.