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Natasha Richardson 1963-2009
 


Country : London, England
Profession : Actress
Date of birth : 1963-05-11
Date of death : 2009-03-18
Cause of Death : Accident

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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 and Patty Hearst in feature films, and she 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 Nell (1994), The Parent Trap (1998) and Maid in Manhattan (2002).

Richardson was raised in London. Her first marriage to filmmaker Robert Fox ended in divorce in 1992. In 1994 she married Irish actor Liam Neeson, whom she had met when the two appeared in Anna Christie. 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 in 2009 following a head injury sustained when she fell during a skiing lesson in Quebec.

Early life

Richardson was born in 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, granddaughter of actors Sir Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson, sister of Joely Richardson, niece of actress Lynn Redgrave and actor Corin Redgrave, and cousin of Jemma Redgrave.

Richardson's parents divorced in 1967. 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.

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

Career

Theatre

Richardson began her career in regional theatre at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds. Her first professional work in London's West End was in a revival of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull in 1985. Soon after, she starred in a London stage production of High Society, adapted from the acclaimed Cole Porter film. In 1998 she won the Tony and Drama Desk Awards for her performance in the Roundabout Theatre Company's production of the Sam Mendes/Rob Marshall-helmed revival of Kander & Ebb's Cabaret. 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, opposite John C. Reilly as Stanley Kowalski.

Film

Richardson portrayed Mary Shelley in the 1986 film Gothic, a fictionalized 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 alleged 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. She 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 unreleased documentary film The Wildest Dream, for which Liam Neeson provides narration. Director Anthony Geffen described listening to the film since her death as "harrowing."

Television

Richardson made her American television debut in a small role in the 1984 CBS miniseries Ellis Island. That same year she made her UK 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, to filmmaker Robert Fox, lasted from 1990 to 1992. She married Irish actor Liam Neeson in late 1994 at the home they shared near Millbrook, New York. Richardson and Neeson have 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.

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.

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

Injury and death

On 16 March 2009, Richardson sustained a head injury, when she fell while taking a skiing lesson at the Mont Tremblant Resort in Quebec, about 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. Paramedics and an ambulance which initially responded to the accident were told they were not needed and left. Refusing medical attention, 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. She was transferred from there by ambulance in Montreal to Hôpital du Sacré-Cœur in critical condition and was admitted about seven hours after the fall. The following day she was flown to Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, where she died on 18 March. 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", and her death was ruled an accident.

On 19 March, theatre lights were dimmed on Broadway and in London's West End as a mark of respect to Richardson. The following day, a private wake was held at the American Irish Historical Society in Manhattan. On 22 March, a private funeral was held at St. Peter's Episcopal Church near Millbrook, New York, close to the family's upstate home, and Richardson was buried near her grandmother Rachel in the church cemetery.

Filmography

Year

Film

Role

Notes

1968

The Charge of the Light Brigade

Flower girl at wedding

Uncredited appearance

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

Evening Standard British Film Awards — Best Actress

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

Widows' Peak

Mrs Edwina Broome

Karlovy Vary International Film Festival — Best Actress

1998

The Parent Trap

Elizabeth James

2001

Blow Dry

Shelley Allen

Chelsea Walls

Mary

2002

Waking Up In Reno

Darlene Dodd

Maid in Manhattan

Caroline Lane

2005

The White Countess

Countess Sofia Belinskya

Asylum

Stella Raphael

Executive producer
Evening Standard British Film Awards — Best Actress
Nominated — British Independent Film Awards — Best Actress

2007

Evening

Constance Lord

2008

Wild Child

Mrs. Kingsley

Final film appearance

TBA

The Wildest Dream

Ruth Mallory (wife of George Mallory)

Voice only, final performance, Liam Neeson narrated.

Television

Year

Title

Role

Notes

1984

Oxbridge Blues

Gabriella

1985

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Violet Hunter

Episode — "The Copper Beeches"

1987

Ghosts

Regina

1993

Zelda

Zelda Fitzgerald

Hostages

Jill Morrell

Suddenly Last Summer

Catharine Holly

1996

Tales from the Crypt

Fiona Havisham

2001

Haven

Ruth Gruber

2007

Mastersons of Manhattan

Victoria Masterson

2008

Top Chef

Guest Judge

Theatre

Year

Production

Role

Notes

1983

On the Razzle

Top Girls

Charley's Aunt

1985

The Seagull

Nina

Plays and Players - Most Promising Newcomer Award

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Helena

Hamlet

Ophelia

1987

High Society

Tracy

1993

Anna Christie

Anna

Theatre World Award — Outstanding Debut
Outer Critics Circle Award — Outstanding Debut of an Actress
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
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical
Outer Critics Circle Award

1999

Closer

Anna

2003

The Lady from the Sea

2005

A Streetcar Named Desire

Blanche DuBois

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