A tribute to Natasha Richardson (1963-2009)

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I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.  -On acting

Theaters on Broadway and London’s West End dimmed their lights Thursday night in honor of 45 year-old British stage/film actress Natasha Richardson.  Not only was she strikingly beautiful- with a great laugh- she had an interesting body of work and a lovely family.  Natasha has two sons w/ her husband of nearly 15 yrs, Irish actor Liam Neeson.  

We talk all the time.  We are very close. -On her relationship w/ her mother

Natasha at 17 (1978)
Natasha at 17 (1978)

I thought this photo was interesting b/c she looks just like a typical teenager.  Natasha is from a respected acting family; she was the daughter of the renowned Vanessa Redgrave, niece of Corin and Lynn, cousin of Jemma, and sister of Joely Richardson (currently seen on the TV series Nip/Tuck).  AmFAR was one of the charities Natasha supported; her father Tony Richardson (a director) died of AIDS in 1991.

The Comfort of Strangers

I think I first saw Natasha in The Comfort of Strangers; it’s a indie thriller-type film where a young married Brit couple get involved with another older, manipulative pair while vacationing in France.

Classing up Disney's The Parent Trap

Another unusual, yet though-provoking, film she starred in was The Handmaid’s Tale.  It’s based on a sci-fi novel, and co-stars Robert Duvall, Faye Dunaway, and Aidan Quinn.

Dancing w/ Marton Csokas in Asylum

In Asylum, Natasha plays the impeccably-dressed/upper-crust/bored wife of an asylum supervisor who gets entangled with one of the patients (played by Aussie actor, Marton Csokas).  Though she knows he’s in the asylum for killing his wife, she begins a torrid affair with him.

The main reason to watch Asylum, aside from Natasha’s risk-taking/emotional performance, is Sir Ian McKellan.  He plays a smart/cunning psychiatrist who relishes in manipulating people around him.

Trying to figure out Sir Ian in Asylum

I cannot imagine a world without her wit, her love, her mischief, her great, great talent and her gift for living. I loved her very much. She was a supreme friend. I shall miss her deeply.

Ralph Fiennes at Natasha’s funeral

With good friend Ralph Fiennes - The White Countess

Natasha worked with good friend Ralph Fiennes on Maid in Manhattan (Oh, that was just for fun!) and The White Countess, a period romance filmed in China.  (Vanessa and Lynn co-star as well.)  As with other Merchant Ivory productions, The White Countess has gorgeous cinematography, exquisite costumes (esp. for Natsha), and intelligent dialogue (it’s based on Kazuo Ishiguro’s book).

 …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 a one-of-a-kind, a magnificent actress.

-Sam Mendes (film/theater director)

The White Countess has gorgeous costumes.

Sofia, a former Russian countess, her young daughter, and her extended family live in a seedy part of Shanghai in the 1930s.  Sofia works as a taxi dancer in a bar where she meets a wealthy/blind American named Todd (Fiennes) who’s recently opened a posh nightclub.  The lonely Todd offers her the job of main hostess in his club, and begins to confide in her.

Natasha and Liam met while working on Broadway.  They both became naturalized US citizens, and lived in both Millbrook NY(where they held big dinner parties) and on the Upper West Side of Manhattan (where a grad school friend of mine spotted Liam and his sons one Saturday ordering breakfast.)

This pic below is from a holiday ep of Top Chef on Bravo.   Natasha served as a guest judge; she was said to be an accomplished chef.

top-chef-2008

Though they came from very different backgrounds- she attended private schools in France and England- he grew up working-class/Catholic in a Protestant area of Northern Ireland, Natasha and Liam seemed to have a solid marriage.

w-liam

818841ae

They have two sons, Micheal and Daniel.   I admire how this classy pair kept their most of their private life out of the public eye (no small feat in Hollywood.)
 
…incredibly luminous quality that you seldom see, and a great sense of humor. I thought she was a really great actress and seemed to simply shine in both film and theater.
-Judi Dench
 

With John C. Reilly in Streetcar

Natasha was best known for her stage work; she was a Tony award winner. The above pic is from summer of 2005 when Natasha played Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire on Broadway.  This revival received many accolades.

The term ‘life force’ seems trite but that is what she was: a woman who powered through life and fascinated everyone she encountered. I have been thinking about the times I spent with her since I heard the news of her tragic accident, and the strongest memory I have is of her laughter, her unmistakable throaty laugh. I think that’s a great way to remember someone.
Alan Cumming (on his personal blog)

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