03.19.09 3:10 PM ET
Writers and Actors Recall Her Life
Geordie Greig, the Evening Standard’s editor, who was on the set of The White Countess with Richardson, her mother, and her aunt, Lynne:
"It was incredibly moving seeing Natasha with her mother and aunt on set," he says. "They talked, held hands, chatted, laughed, were one. Family was so important, even more so as they all had very separate professional lives.
"Their intense observations on the comedy of life were always there, as was a vulnerability. Natasha showed her strengths and weaknesses on her sleeve.
"There was a sort of translucent beauty about Natasha on set in Shanghai. She shone. She was also always excited for the moment when Liam and her children were due to arrive and to go on a trip off-set with them.
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"She was private and yet open. She was willing to talk about her father's sad death yet felt protective of his reputation, loving his warmth and big character but aware that he had a complicated life, being himself. She maintained long and loyal friendships with, among others, the writer Joanna Weinberg and her co-star Ralph Fiennes. She wanted to see, show and taste life, and was always more generous than most, in both her art and in her life."
In England, she could never escape the long shadow cast by several generations of famous and often controversial relatives… Natasha Richardson grew up in the public eye.
The Redgrave/Richardson family has been portrayed as one which has suffered divorce, scandal and apparent peccadillos. Yet Natasha was never one to buy into the whole "curse of the Redgraves". Her concern was more that the theatrical bloodline was one she could never escape to carve out her own niche. The family connections meant most mentions of her name always came with a qualification—that she was the daughter of Vanessa, the granddaughter of Michael, the sister of Joely. The subsequent decision to live in New York was in part to escape this level of association, something she explained in an interview in 2003.
Back in the UK, members of her family were anxiously awaiting further news. Her uncle, actor Corin Redgrave, 69, said: “I have heard from a family representative about Natasha’s accident and am very saddened.” His wife Kika Markham, 66, added: “We are very concerned.”
Nick Curtis, theatre critic for The Evening Standard:
Many in the London theatre and film world will share their dismay that such a talented and vibrant woman's life should have ended so abruptly …
Of an interview with her: "I've been in a lot of films that weren't too great," she admitted. "Now I know the stage, and London, is where I want to be." She talked about quitting film altogether but there was one script, a pet project, close to her heart.
Natasha Richardson was not only a fine, magnetic performer and a pillar of the theatrical establishment but also a woman who was always, as billed, lovely.
"She was quite careful about what she did. But what she did, she went into with a full heart and a passion. She was very discerning, very serious about the film roles she chose. It's absolutely tragic that somebody with so much to offer, and of course from this great acting dynasty, should be taken at this time of her life, and tragic of course for her family."
"As a stage actress she was really coming into her own, she was becoming a major star and taken extremely seriously on the stage and also her film work ... was excellent. She had a sort of luminous presence on the stage, but offstage she was a very shy, very easygoing, almost self-deprecating character who didn't like being made a fuss of."
"Natasha is irreplaceable. I cannot think of anyone kinder, more generous, thoughtful, smarter or more fun. She is the godmother of two of my children. The Neesons and Vanessa [Redgrave, Richardson's mother] have always made me feel a part of their wonderful family. My thoughts and prayers are with them."
"She was great, always there, she always had a wonderful optimistic can-do attitude. Natasha had this wonderful way with everything. There was nothing that didn't seem to make sense or find a rationale. She lived a very lovely lifestyle but everyone adored her. She felt she could make a difference and she did. She adored her kids and she adored Liam."
"She was a wonderful woman and actress and treated me like I was her own. I didn't see much of her over the years, but I will miss her. My heart goes out to her family. This is a tragic loss."
Top Chef's Padma Lakshmi (Richardson was a guest judge):
"She was great. She was lovely. She was just like one of the gang. She was very, very articulate. She was very, very opinionated. She was very compassionate. She had a very sophisticated palate."
"She had an incredibly luminous quality, that you seldom see, and a great sense of humor. I thought she was a really great actress."
"I can't talk because I started crying. I'm heartbroken. She was so kind to us when Bruce [Paltrow, Danner's late husband] was ill. She's so generous. I don't think that I can handle it."
"I first met her on the set of Julia [the 1977 drama, starring Richardson's mother, Vanessa Redgrave]. She was a little girl but already beautiful and graceful. It didn't surprise me that she became such a talented actor. I wanted to go to the Lenox Hill Hospital, where I was told she had been taken, to see if there was anything I could do for Vanessa [Redgrave], any comfort I could bring, but today was a two-show day and as the curtain went up tonight, I heard the tragic news. It is hard to even imagine what it must be like for her family. My heart is heavy."
"Natasha combined the best of Redgrave and Richardson: the enormous depth and emotional force of a great actor on the one hand, and the intelligence and objectivity of a great director on the other. She was one of a kind, a magnificent actress. She was also an amazing mother, a loyal friend, and the greatest and most generous host you could ever hope to meet. It defies belief that this gifted, brave, tenacious, wonderful woman is gone."
I chose Natasha because of her ephemeral delicacy and intelligent beauty in her debut stage role as Nina in The Seagull. Natasha was under pressure having such an enormously complex burden for her first film role, but she was always poised, prepared, focused and very, very bright. She was a talented person, full of skill, insight, poetry and searing intellect. Then there is that translucent physical beauty of Natasha's, which, alas, almost upstaged her. Her physical presence was so unique and warm, inviting yet cool, vulnerable yet proud. Her beauty was golden, that's the word that keeps coming to mind. A chip off her mum's perfect bone structure, yes—but her very own blend of tenderness and fire. She was one of the few modern actresses who was as smart as she was pretty, and as gentle as she was fierce. I loved her unashamedly.
"I just want to say how deeply saddened I am, we all are, by the sudden passing of actress Natasha Richardson yesterday. Our thoughts and prayers are with her husband Liam Neeson, their two sons, the rest of their family and friends. Yet another reminder of how fleeting life can be and how precious. We need to value every moment."
The British star, who died last night following a skiing accident, was told years ago that disaster awaited her and Schindler’s List actor Liam. She was given the grim prediction after her acrimonious divorce—and it seemed to have come true when Liam almost died in a road crash in 2000.
Isabel Wilkinson is a Daily Beast intern who attends Columbia Journalism School. She has written for New York magazine and Women’s Wear Daily.