Natasha Richardson, who is hospitalized in New York following a Quebec ski accident Monday, comes from an illustrious British acting family — one whose name she’s often found a challenge.
Richardson, the daughter of Oscar-winning actress Vanessa Redgrave and the late director Tony Richardson (“Look Back in Anger,” “Tom Jones”), has said, more than once, that she found it difficult to live up to the family reputation. “The names Richardson or Redgrave didn’t help,” she told About.com’s Rebecca Murray in 2007. “But the last thing you want is to ride any coattails, because you don’t want people to be accusing you of nepotism. You want to be able to learn and practice, and not to be thrown into a spotlight before you’re ready for it.” But Richardson, 45, was practically born to the stage. Besides her mother and father, several members of her family are performers: Her grandparents were Sir Michael Redgrave, a famed British actor, and actress Rachel Kempson; uncle Corin Redgrave, aunt Lynn Redgrave and sister Joely Richardson also are noted actors. She’s even married to an actor, having been wed to Liam Neeson (“Schindler’s List”) since 1994. Watch as Natasha Richardson is hospitalized » She first appeared in a movie when she was 4, earning a bit part in her father’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade” (1968). By that point, her parents had divorced, and she was living with her mother, who already had dazzled movie audiences with her work in “Morgan!” (1966), “Blowup” (1966) and “Camelot” (1967). Despite her mother’s success, Richardson said that the family was sometimes in financial straits because the politically controversial Redgrave gave away money to various causes, according to the BBC.
Family visits Richardson after ski fall
Though Richardson appeared in regional theater and a CBS television miniseries by the time she was 22, she first gained renown for her performance in Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull” in a 1985 production that featured her mother and Jonathan Pryce. The performance earned her the London Drama Critics’ most promising newcomer award. She’s earned her strongest notices for her stage work. She won a Tony for her performance as Sally Bowles in the 1998 revival of “Cabaret” and earned raves for her Blanche DuBois in a 2005 production of “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Other productions include a 1993 production of Eugene O’Neill’s “Anna Christie” and the original 1999 production of Patrick Marber’s “Closer,” later made into a film with Julia Roberts. Critics have turned into fans. “Her Sally Bowles is a dazzling example of how star power can be harnessed to create a devastating portrait of someone who is definitely not a star,” wrote The New York Times’ Ben Brantley on “Cabaret.” “Born-to-lose characters can be tedious, but Richardson turns this one into an electrifying triumph.” On screen, Richardson deliberately has picked a wide range of roles, many in independent films. She makes no apologies: “I am attracted to the darker places than I am to the lighter, frothier stuff and I’m not sure why that is,” she told the Web site Filmfreakcentral.com in 2006. “I do think that it’s certainly more challenging to play the dark places. But it’s the part, primarily, and on the whole I’d rather play a wonderful part in a movie that few people see rather than a sort of cosmetic role in a blockbuster. Not that I’ve been offered many of those.” There have been a handful of major Hollywood productions, however, most notably the 1998 version of “The Parent Trap” and the Jennifer Lopez vehicle “Maid in Manhattan” (2002), which she took as “a laugh,” she told Filmfreakcentral.com. “You’ll have to blame Ralph [Fiennes] for that one. He’s the most wonderful actor, a good friend; we thought we’d have a laugh.” Richardson met Neeson during the 1993 Broadway run of “Anna Christie” and later made the film “Nell” with him. When the two met, Richardson was married to producer Robert Fox, but that marriage ended. She later married Neeson. The two have generally stayed out of the tabloid press, but they won a 1998 libel suit against the London tabloid The Mirror over a story that claimed their marriage was a sham. The newspaper apologized, and Neeson and Richardson were awarded $85,000, which they donated to victims of a Northern Ireland car bombing. Richardson has come to terms with her famous name — and, having worked with her mother more than once, greatly appreciates her abilities.
“What’s always different about my mother is that there’s always something unexpected about her work, because she’s sort of fearless,” Richardson told About.com’s Murray. “When she hits it, then it sort of is just incandescent.” She added that “her children have entirely forgiven her” for the difficulties when they were younger, “because she is a great mother.” Richardson and Neeson have two children: Michael, 13, and Daniel, 12.