Natasha Richardson – 1963-2009

Natasha Richardson, star of both the stage and screen, died yesterday at the far too young age of 45, with her husband Liam Neeson, her sons Michael and Daniel and her family gathered around her to bid their farewells at Lenox Hospital in New York. Tonight, Broadway’s lights will be dimmed in her memory.

Richardson died from bleeding in her skull caused by the fall she took while skiing, an autopsy found yesterday. The medical examiner has ruled her death an accident.

However, doctors do believe she might have survived had she received immediate treatment.

Richardson suffered from an epidural hematoma, which causes bleeding between the skull and the brain’s covering, said Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the New York City medical examiner’s office.

“This is a very treatable condition if you’re aware of what the problem is and the patient is quickly transferred to a hospital,” Dr. Keith Siller of New York University Langone Medical Center told the Associated Press. “But there is very little time to correct this.”

Richardson came from a family steeped in the tradition of the performing arts. The daughter of director/producer Tony Richardson and luminous star Vanessa Redgrave, she and her sister Joely Richardson could not help but follow in their parents’ footsteps. Her career was wildly varied and she was always respected, even moreso for her tireless efforts on behalf of amFAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research. The sudden and stunning nature of her skiing accident in Mont Tremblant, Canada, has made her death that much more painful for all who knew her. Even more tragic is the fact that she walked away from the accident and seemed relatively fine at first (The Huffington Post says they even turned the first ambulance that came to her away), only to complain of a horrible headache within the hour, and a startlingly quick slip away from us all. Those in the field of trauma medicine morbidly refer to this as “talk and die syndrome.”

The family released a statement, saying “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.”

What follows is a sampling of the wonderful things her peers had to say about Natasha Richardson’s life and memory, as well as clips of her body of work.

Judi Dench: “She had an 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.”

Jane Fonda: “I first met her on the set of ‘Julia.’ She was a little girl but already beautiful and graceful. It didn’t surprise me that she became such a talented actor. My heart is heavy.”

Alan Cumming: “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. She was a brilliant actress. I will never forget her Blanche Dubois. It was almost too much, too real and raw. Liam and the boys and her whole family have lost an amazing woman. We all have. Goodbye, darling.”

Sam Mendes, director of Cabaret: “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 a 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.”

Lindsay Lohan, co-star in The Parent Trap: “She was a wonderful woman and actress and treated me like I was her own. My heart goes out to her family. This is a tragic loss.”

Kevin Spacey: “Her passion, devotion and talent will forever be etched on those who saw her work on the stage. The bloodlines of greatness were always there and she committed herself to every role she tackled.”

Ken Russell, who directed her 1986 debut Gothic: “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, and wish her remarkable and wonderful mother, who must be suffering greatly at the moment, all courage and strength.”

We will always have her screen work to remember.

Watch her in The White Countess, in which she stars with both Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave.

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This is a clip from Evening, featuring her opposite Toni Collette.

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2005’s Asylum, also starring Ian McKellen.

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A funny clip from The Favor, The Watch and The Very Big Fish with Bob Hoskins and Jeff Goldblum.

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An extended look at her work starring as Patty Hearst.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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