CINELATION | Movie Reviews by Christopher Beaubien
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Obituary: Natasha Richardson (1963-2009)

Written by Christopher Beaubien • May 18, 2009 • 2 Comments


Renowned actress Natasha Richardson passed away this afternoon in Lenox Hill Hospital on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Last Monday, she suffered a head injury in a skiing accident that took place at Quebec’s Mont Tremblant ski resort. She is survived by her husband Liam Neeson and their two children Michael and Daniel. After learning about the accident, Neeson left the set in Toronto filming Atom Egoyan’s Chloe (also starring Julianne Moore) to be with his wife. She was hospitalized Tuesday in Montreal’s Sacré-Coeur hospital and was flown privately to New York. Natasha was also joined in the hospital by her children, her sister Joely and their mother, Vanessa Redgrave. Her father, Tony Richardson died in 1991.

Natasha Richardson was a generous and talented woman from England. Trained at London’s Central School of Speech and Drama, Richardson performed in a number of films, but was more committed to the stage. After starring in Gothic (1986) as Mary Shelly, director Paul Schrader cast her first major role in Patty Hearst (1988) as the title character who in 1974 was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) and joined her captors’ cause. Richardson earned The London Evening Standard Award for Best Actress of 1990 for her performances in Volker Schlöndorff’s A Handmaid’s Tale and Schrader’s The Comfort of Strangers.

In 1994, she met and later married Liam Neeson on the set of Nell, starring Jodie Foster and directed by Michael Apted (The Up Documentaries). She was also awarded Best Actress at the 1994 Karlovy Vary Festival for her work in John Irvin’s Widow’s Peak.

I initially saw Richardson in The Parent Trap (1998, a remake of the 1961 original) playing Elizabeth James, the lovely mother to the twin sisters. The movie is a blur, but I did remember that she made quite an impression. In that same year, she won Broadway’s 1998 Tony Award as Best Actress (Musical) for a revival of Cabaret.

The most recent films starring Richardson were Ethan Hawke’s Chelsea Walls (2001), David Mackenzie’s Asylum (2005), James Ivory’s The White Countess (2005) and Lajos Koltai’s Evening (2007). Her last film was Nick Moore’s Wild Child (2008). This December she was set to play Miss Julie on Broadway for The Roundabout Theatre. The production directed by David Leveaux is also starring Phillip Seymore Hoffman. I’m sorry for the loss Natasha Richardson has left in her family and her audience.

Jean from August Strindberg’s Miss Julie:

“Do you know how people in high life look from the under world? No … of course you don’t. They look like hawks and eagles whose backs one seldom sees, for they soar up above.”

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  • Lauren

    In The Parent Trap, Natasha Richardson played the lovely Elizabeth James, mother to Annie and Hallie. Elaine Hendrix played the awful Meredith. Natasha Richardson was wonderfully warm in this role, and the viewer roots for her the whole time.

  • Christopher Beaubien

    Thank you, Lauren. I have corrected the oversight.