Tribute to Natasha Richardson who died yesterday

Natasha Richardson 11th May 1963 - 18th March 2009

Natasha Richardson 11th May 1963 - 18th March 2009

At around 12.05am this morning, it was announced that 45 year old actress Natasha Richardson has died in a New York hospital, so following this sad news, we’d like to pay tribute to this outstanding actress by documenting her life and career in film and TV as well as her personal life.

Vanessa Redgrave & Tony Richardson

Vanessa Redgrave & Tony Richardson

Born on 11th May 1963 in London, Natasha Jane Richardson – who was named Natasha in honour of the heroine in Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace – was a member of the famous Redgrave acting family and daughter of legendary actress Vanessa Redgrave and the late director and producer Tony Richardson, who died of an AIDS related illness in 1991. Since her father’s death, Natasha had been a dedicated campaigner on behalf of AIDS charities and in support of research…

Natasha Richardson AIDS campaign

Natasha was also Joely Richardson’s sister and Lynn Redgrave’s niece. The picture below shows just a few of the members of this famous family…

Redgrave - Richardson family

From left to right, the picture shows Lynn Redgrave, Jemma Redgrave, Corin Redgrave, Corin’s wife Kika Markham, Luke Redgrave, Annabel Clark (Lynn’s daughter) and Vanessa Redgrave.

Here, Natasha is pictured with her mother Vanessa, sister Joely and husband Liam…

Natasha and family

Natasha made her film debut in 1968 at the tender age of four in The Charge of the Light Brigade which was a film directed by her father. Natasha then attended St. Paul’s Girls’ School for several years before studying at London’s Central School of Speech and Drama.

Her first role in theatre was at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds while her small screen debut was in Every Picture Tells a Story in 1984. This was followed by a role on American mini-series Ellis Island which is when she and Liam Neeson first met, though it was to be nearly a decade later that the pair became a couple.

Natasha then went on to choose roles in Shakespeare plays – primarily at the famous Old Vic theatre – as has almost every member of the Redgrave dynasty of actors.

In 1985, Natasha starred alongside her mother Vanessa and Aunt, Lynn Redgrave, in the stage play of Chekhov’s, The Three Sisters, and the following year, she won the London Theatre Critics Award for Most Promising Newcomer. In the years to come, Natasha was honoured with many other awards including Best Actress: Plays and Players in 1990, an Evening Standard Film Award in the same year followed by an award at the Prague Film Festival in 1994, a Tony Award in 1999 and an Evening Standard Film Award in 2006.

From early on in her career, Natasha became a prized and justifiably in-demand actress and has starred in a huge number of plays, films and TV productions including roles in The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes, a London stage production of High Society and a starring role in the film, Gothic. Natasha also starred alongside Kenneth Branagh and Colin Firth in A Month in the Country and went on to achieve critical acclaim for her role in The Handmaid’s Tale in 1990. Here’s the trailer from that film…

In 1998, Natasha won her Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance as Sally Bowles in the Sam Mendes–Rob Marshall collaboration, Kander & Ebb’s Cabaret. Then in 2005, Natasha starred as Blanche DuBois in a revival of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, opposite Stanley Kowalski.

However, it was during the 1993 revival of Anna Christie – at what was then the Criterion Center – and later during the filming of Nell that Natasha and Liam Neeson fell in love. Liam was to become her second husband; her first marriage was to filmmaker Robert Fox – whom she married in 1990 – but it was to prove a short-lived marriage and the couple divorced in 1993 but apparently remained good friends following their split.

Natasha and ex-husband Robert Fox

Natasha and ex-husband Robert Fox

When Natasha and Liam’s courtship became public knowledge, Natasha was quoted in various newspapers as saying, “It was not an easy time when I met Liam. Working with him, what happened between us, and that becoming public knowledge in conjunction with my marriage falling apart, was kind of bad timing. So what can I say? Obviously I fell very much in love with him.”

Natasha married Liam in late 1994 and the couple had two children, Micheál Richard Antonio who’s 14, and Daniel Jack who’s 13.

In 2000, a shadow fell over their lives when Liam had a serious motorcycle accident. Natasha kept a vigil at his side throughout and later, as he recovered, Liam told the Evening Standard that Natasha had been “An angel during my recovery”

He added, “She was there every minute holding my hand, which was a wonderful inspiration. She’s a good girl. Seeing her gave me a little extra strength each day.

“I could have died — but Natasha’s love gave me the strength to pull through.”

Now, tragically, another – but infinitely more devastating accident – has proven to be fatal for Natasha. Just two days ago on 16th March, Natasha was fatally injured following a skiing accident while in Québec, Canada.

Mont Tremblant ski resort

Mont Tremblant ski resort

It was reported by the New York Times though that the accident didn’t at first appear to be serious. Lyne Lortie, a spokeswoman for the Mont Tremblant ski resort in the Laurentian Hills north of Montreal, told the newspaper that Natasha had fallen during a beginner’s lesson. She was not wearing a helmet at the time apparently.

“It was a normal fall; she didn’t hit anyone or anything” said Ms Lortie, adding, “She didn’t show any signs of injury; she was talking and she seemed all right.”

The report added that “As a precaution, when she left the slopes, Ms. Richardson was accompanied by a member of the resort’s ski patrol and her instructor, who then remained with her at her hotel.”

However, she then began to complain of a severe headache and was initially taken to Montréal’s Hôspital du Sacré-Coeur but was later flown by private jet to Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, New York, in order that her family and friends could visit with her in what quickly became apparent were to be Natasha’s last days.

Here’s how CNN reported the accident…

These images are of her sons and mother visiting Natasha in hospital in New York…

Natasha's sons visit her in hospitalVanessa Redgrave visits her daughter in hospital

Liam had been filming in Toronto at the time of his wife’s accident and he immediately flew to be at her side as soon as he heard the devastating news, though at that time, it had not been publically announced just how desperately ill Natasha was.

Natasha and Liam

Natasha and Liam

Natasha is a great loss to Britain, both as an actor and as a shining example of the archetypal ‘English Rose’. She’ll be greatly missed and our condolences go to her family and friends at this sad time.

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.