Natasha Richardson

Natasha Richardson

Richardson in May 1999
Born Natasha Jane Richardson
(1963-05-11)11 May 1963
Marylebone, London, England, UK
Died 18 March 2009(2009-03-18) (aged 45)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Cause of death Epidural hematoma resulting from injuries sustained in skiing accident
Resting place St. Peter's Episcopal Church near Millbrook, New York
Nationality English
Citizenship British and American
Education St Paul's Girls' School
Occupation Actress
Years active 1968–2009
Spouse(s) Robert Fox (m. 1990; div. 1992)
Liam Neeson (m. 1994; her death 2009)
Children 2
Parent(s) Tony Richardson
Vanessa Redgrave
Relatives Joely Richardson (sister)
Carlo Gabriel Nero (half-brother)

Natasha Jane Richardson (11 May 1963 – 18 March 2009) was an English stage and screen actress.

A member of the Redgrave family, she was the daughter of actress Vanessa Redgrave and director/producer Tony Richardson and the granddaughter of Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson. Early in her career, she portrayed Mary Shelley in Ken Russell's Gothic (1986), and Patty Hearst in the eponymous 1988 film directed by Paul Schrader, and later received critical acclaim and a Theatre World Award for her Broadway debut in the 1993 revival of Anna Christie.

She won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical, the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical, and the Outer Critics Circle Award for her performance as Sally Bowles in the 1998 Broadway revival of Cabaret. Some of her notable films included Patty Hearst (1988), The Handmaid's Tale (1990), Nell (1994), The Parent Trap (1998), and Maid in Manhattan (2002).

Her first marriage to filmmaker Robert Fox ended in divorce in 1992. In 1994, she married fellow actor Liam Neeson, whom she had met when the two appeared in Anna Christie, or Nell.

The couple had two sons, Micheál and Daniel. Richardson's father died of AIDS-related causes in 1991. She helped raise millions of dollars in the fight against AIDS through the charity AmfAR, the American Foundation for AIDS Research.

Richardson died on 18 March 2009 from an epidural hematoma after a skiing accident in Quebec, Canada.[1]

Early life

Richardson was born and raised in Marylebone, London, a member of the Redgrave family, known as a theatrical and film acting dynasty. She was the daughter of director and producer Tony Richardson and actress Vanessa Redgrave,[2] granddaughter of actors Sir Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson,[2][3] sister of Joely Richardson, half-sister of Carlo Gabriel Nero and Katharine Grimond Hess,[4] niece of actress Lynn Redgrave and actor Corin Redgrave,[2] and cousin of Jemma Redgrave.

Richardson's parents divorced in 1967.[5] The following year, she made her film debut at the age of four in an uncredited role in The Charge of the Light Brigade, directed by her father.[2]

Richardson was educated in London at two independent schools, the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle in South Kensington, London, and St. Paul's Girls' School in Hammersmith, London,[6] before training at the Central School of Speech and Drama.[7]



Richardson began her career in regional theatre at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds, and, in 1984, at the Open Air Theatre in London's Regent's Park, when she appeared in A Midsummer Night's Dream with Ralph Fiennes and Richard E. Grant. Her first professional work in London's West End was in a revival of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull in 1985.[8] Soon after, she starred in a London stage production of High Society, adapted from the Cole Porter film. In 1993 she made her Broadway debut in the title role of Anna Christie, which is where she met future husband, Liam Neeson. In 1998, she played the role of Sally Bowles in Sam Mendes' revival of Cabaret on Broadway, for which she won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical. The following year she returned to Broadway in Closer, for which she was nominated for the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play, and in 2005, she appeared again with the Roundabout, this time as Blanche DuBois in their revival of Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire,[2] opposite John C. Reilly as Stanley Kowalski. In January 2009, two months before her death, Richardson played the role of Desirée in a concert production of Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music, opposite her mother, Vanessa Redgrave who played Mme. Armfeldt. The two were due to star in a brand new Broadway production (which became the current Broadway revival directed by Trevor Nunn), which never came to existence.


Richardson at the UK premiere of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, June 2008

In 1984, Richardson made her first credited screen appearance as an art tutor in the James Scott-directed Every Picture Tells A Story, based on the early life of the painter William Scott.[9] She later starred as Mary Shelley in the 1986 film Gothic, a fictionalised account of the author's creation of Frankenstein. The following year she starred opposite Kenneth Branagh and Colin Firth in A Month in the Country, directed by Pat O'Connor. Director Paul Schrader signed her for the title role in Patty Hearst, his 1988 docudrama about the heiress and her kidnapping. Her performances opposite Robert Duvall and Faye Dunaway in The Handmaid's Tale and Christopher Walken, Rupert Everett and Helen Mirren in The Comfort of Strangers (directed by Schrader) won her the 1990 Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Actress. In 1991, she appeared in The Favour, the Watch and the Very Big Fish alongside Bob Hoskins. He later credited her with giving him the best kiss of his life during the film. "She got hold of me and kissed me like I've never been kissed before. I was gobsmacked".[10]

Richardson was named Best Actress at the 1994 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival for Widows' Peak, and that same year appeared in Nell opposite Jodie Foster and future husband Liam Neeson. Additional film credits include The Parent Trap (1998), Blow Dry (2001), Chelsea Walls (2001), Waking Up in Reno (2002), Maid in Manhattan (2002), Asylum (2005), which won her a second Evening Standard Award for Best Actress, The White Countess (2005), and Evening (2007). Her last screen appearance was as headmistress of a girls' school in the 2008 comedy Wild Child. During the last week of January 2009, she recorded her offscreen role of the wife of climber George Mallory, who disappeared while climbing Mount Everest during a 1924 expedition, in the 2010 documentary film The Wildest Dream, for which Liam Neeson provided narration. Director Anthony Geffen described listening to the film since her death as "harrowing."[11]


Richardson made her American television debut in a small role in the 1984 CBS miniseries Ellis Island. That same year she made her British television debut in an episode of the BBC series Oxbridge Blues. The following year she appeared as Violet Hunter alongside Jeremy Brett and David Burke in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, in the episode entitled "The Copper Beeches". She starred with Judi Dench, Michael Gambon and Kenneth Branagh in a 1987 BBC adaptation of the Henrik Ibsen play Ghosts; with Maggie Smith and Rob Lowe in a 1993 BBC adaptation of Suddenly, Last Summer by Tennessee Williams; portrayed Zelda Fitzgerald in the 1993 television movie Zelda; and starred in Haven (2001) on CBS and The Mastersons of Manhattan (2007) on NBC.

Personal life

Richardson's first marriage was to filmmaker Robert Fox whom she had met in 1985, during the making of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull; they were married from 1990 to 1992.[12] She married actor Liam Neeson in the summer of 1994 at the home they shared near Millbrook, New York;[13] and had become a naturalized American citizen.[14] Richardson and Neeson had two sons: Micheál (born 1995) and Daniel (born 1996). Richardson helped raise millions of dollars in the fight against AIDS; her father, director Tony Richardson, died of AIDS-related causes in 1991.[15]

Richardson was actively involved in AmfAR, becoming a Board of Trustees member in 2006, and participated in many other AIDS charities including Bailey House, God's Love We Deliver, Mothers' Voices, AIDS Crisis Trust and National AIDS Trust, for which she was an ambassador. Richardson received amfAR's Award of Courage in November 2000.[16]

A long-time smoker,[17] although she had reportedly quit smoking,[18] Richardson was an outspoken opponent of the ban on smoking in New York City restaurants.[19]

Injury and death

On 16 March 2009, Richardson sustained a head injury when she fell while taking a beginner skiing lesson at the Mont Tremblant Resort in Mont-Tremblant about 80 miles (130 km) from Montreal. The injury was followed by a lucid interval, when Richardson seemed to be fine and was able to talk and act normally. The paramedics and an ambulance which initially responded to the accident were told they were not needed and left.[20] Refusing medical attention twice, she returned to her hotel room and about three hours later was taken to a local hospital in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts after complaining of a headache.[21][22] She was transferred from there by ambulance to Hôpital du Sacré-Cœur, Montreal, in critical condition and was admitted about seven hours after the fall.[23][24] The following day, she was flown to Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, where she died on 18 March at the age of 45.[25][26] An autopsy conducted by the New York City Medical Examiners Office on 19 March revealed the cause of death was an "epidural hematoma due to blunt impact to the head", causing laceration of the middle meningeal vessels and the dreaded "talk-and-die" syndrome, and her death was ruled an accident.[21] Her heart, kidneys and liver were donated to other individuals.[27]

On 19 March, theatre lights were dimmed on Broadway in New York and in London's West End as a mark of respect for Richardson.[28] The following day, a private wake was held at the American Irish Historical Society in Manhattan.[29] On 22 March, a private funeral was held at St Peter's Episcopal Church near Millbrook, New York,[30] close to the family's upstate home, and Richardson was buried near her maternal grandmother Rachel Kempson in the churchyard.[31] Richardson's aunt Lynn Redgrave was also buried in the same churchyard on 8 May 2010, near Richardson and Kempson.[32] Richardson's family issued a statement the day of her death, "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."[20]

Richardson was not wearing a helmet when she sustained her injury.[33] This sparked a debate over whether wearing helmets while skiing should be mandatory.[34][35] After the incident, the spokesman for Mont Tremblant ski resort, Ian Galbraith, stated that "We recommend all skiers and boarders wear helmets, (but) it is a matter of personal preference whether our guests choose to do so."[35] A mandatory helmet law was never implemented in Quebec, though the Quebec Ski Areas Association budgeted $200,000 toward a safety campaign.[36] According to a BBC report, the number of skiers and snowboarders who wore helmets increased substantially after Richardson's death and several other high profile incidents.[37]



Year Film Role Notes
1968 The Charge of the Light Brigade Flower girl at wedding Uncredited appearance
1983 Every Picture Tells a Story Miss Bridle
1986 Gothic Mary Shelley
1987 A Month in the Country Alice Keach
1988 Patty Hearst Patty Hearst
1989 Fat Man and Little Boy Jean Tatlock
1990 The Handmaid's Tale Kate/Offred
1990 The Comfort of Strangers Mary
1991 The Favour, the Watch and the Very Big Fish Sybil
1992 Past Midnight Laura Mathews
1994 Nell Dr. Paula Olsen
1994 Widows' Peak Mrs Edwina Broome
1998 The Parent Trap Elizabeth "Liz" James
2001 Blow Dry Shelley Allen
2001 Chelsea Walls Mary
2002 Waking Up in Reno Darlene Dodd
2002 Maid in Manhattan Caroline Lane
2005 The White Countess Countess Sofia Belinskya
2005 Asylum Stella Raphael Also executive producer
2007 Evening Constance Lord
2008 Wild Child Mrs. Kingsley Her final on-screen film
2010 The Wildest Dream Ruth Mallory (wife of George Mallory) Voice only, posthumously released[11]


Year Title Role Notes
1984 Oxbridge Blues Gabriella Folckwack
1985 The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Violet Hunter Episode: "The Copper Beeches"
1987 Ghosts Regina
1993 Zelda Zelda Fitzgerald
1993 Hostages Jill Morrell
1993 Suddenly Last Summer Catharine Holly
1996 Tales from the Crypt Fiona Havisham
2001 Haven Ruth Gruber CTV Television Network
2007 Mastersons of Manhattan Victoria Masterson
2008 Top Chef Guest Judge


Year Production Role Notes
1983 On the Razzle
1983 Top Girls
1983 Charley's Aunt
1985 The Seagull Nina
1985 A Midsummer Night's Dream Helena
1985 Hamlet Ophelia
1987 High Society Tracy
1993 Anna Christie Anna Nominated—Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
1998 Cabaret Sally Bowles Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical
1999 Closer Anna
2003 The Lady from the Sea
2005 A Streetcar Named Desire Blanche DuBois


  1. "Quick treatment could have saved Richardson". MSNBC. 19 March 2009.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 "Natasha Richardson part of legendary acting family". CNN. 18 March 2009. Retrieved 18 March 2009.
  3. Debrett's People of Today. Debrett's Peerage Ltd., 2007
  4. "Natasha Richardson Leaves Bulk of Assets to Husband Liam Neeson". Fox News Channel. 31 May 2009.
  5. Arnold, Laurence; Peter S. Green (19 March 2009). "Natasha Richardson, Actress of Elegance, Pedigree, Dead at 45". Bloomberg. Retrieved 19 March 2009.
  6. Pulleine, Tim (19 March 2009). "Natasha Richardson The daughter of actor Vanessa Redgrave and director Tony Richardson was destined for the theatrical profession". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 19 March 2009.
  7. Singh, Anita (19 March 2009). "Natasha Richardson skiing accident in Canada: profile of actress". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 19 March 2009.
  8. Weber, Bruce (18 March 2009). "Natasha Richardson, actress, Dies at 45". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 March 2009.
  9. "Aesthetica Magazine – James Scott: Every Picture Tells A Story, London". Aesthetica. Retrieved 2015-12-02.
  10. Greenstreet, Rosanna (18 June 2011). "Q&A: Bob Hoskins". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
  11. 1 2 "Director: Natasha Richardson "Powerful and Harrowing" in Final Film". Us Weekly. 19 March 2009. Archived from the original on 22 March 2009. Retrieved 22 March 2009.
  12. "Obituaries – Natasha Richardson". The Daily Telegraph. 19 March 2009. Retrieved 4 June 2012.
  13. "Millbrook's Natasha Richardson suffers critical head injury from ski accident". Poughkeepsie Journal. 17 March 2009. Retrieved 18 March 2009. he and Neeson married in 1994 at their Millbrook home, and now have two sons
  14. "Natasha Richardson: Member of celebrated acting family who found success on stage and screen – Obituaries, News". The Independent. London. 20 March 2009. Retrieved 18 November 2009.
  15. Middlekauff, Tracey (2009). "Fighting AIDS in Memory of Her Father". People. Retrieved 21 March 2009.
  16. "amfAR :: Natasha Richardson :: The Foundation for AIDS Research :: HIV / AIDS Research". Retrieved 17 August 2015.
  17. Bearn, Emily (27 April 2003). "Prime Time for Natasha". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 19 February 2009.
  18. Chui, Alexis (24 March 2009). "Natasha Richardson: 'She Was So Much Fun'". People.
  19. Franck, Elisabeth (8 April 2001). "Cigarette Aficionados Go to War". The New York Observer. Archived from the original on 28 September 2008. Retrieved 19 March 2009.
  20. 1 2 Weber, Bruce (19 March 2009). "Natasha Richardson, actress, Dies at 45". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 February 2011.
  21. 1 2 Italie, Hillel (19 March 2009). "Autopsy: Richardson died from bleeding in brain". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 23 March 2009. Retrieved 19 March 2009.
  22. Ehrich, Kathy (21 March 2009). "Natasha Richardson: Tragic Delays After Her Fatal Fall – Liam Neeson, Natasha Richardson". People. Retrieved 3 November 2011.
  23. Peritz, Ingrid (20 March 2009). "Four precious hours passed before actress was sent to hospital". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. Archived from the original on 25 March 2009. Retrieved 20 March 2009.
  24. Peritz, Ingrid (27 March 2009). "The five-hour scramble to save Natasha Richardson". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. Archived from the original on 1 April 2009. Retrieved 27 March 2009.
  25. "Actress Richardson dies aged 45". BBC News. 19 March 2009. Retrieved 19 March 2009.
  26. "Natasha Richardson dead after ski accident | Irish News". IrishCentral. Retrieved 3 November 2011.
  27. Liam Neeson interview on 60 minutes, aired 02-23-14
  28. "Richardson gets West End tribute". BBC News. 20 March 2009. Retrieved 23 March 2009.
  29. "Natasha Richardson buried in New York". 23 March 2009. Retrieved 24 March 2009.
  30. "Family bid farewell to Richardson". BBC News. 22 March 2009. Retrieved 23 March 2009.
  31. "Natasha Richardson Buried Near Upstate NY Home". The Canadian Press. 23 March 2009. Retrieved 23 March 2009.
  32. Family, friends say goodbye to Redgrave CBC News 8 May 2010 Retrieved:8 May 2010.
  33. Robbins, Liz (18 March 2009). "Richardson's Accident Reignites Ski Helmet Debate". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 February 2011.
  34. Meikle, James (19 March 2009). "Natasha Richardson Death Reopens Debate Over Helmets in Winter Sports". The Guardian. London.
  35. 1 2 Bly, Laura (20 March 2009). "Natasha Richardson Tragedy Rekindles Debate Over Ski Helmets". USA Today.
  36. "Quebec's Ski Helmet Debate Slips". Archived from the original on 23 January 2011.
  37. "Death of Natasha Richardson Sparks Ski Helmet Debate".
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