Richardson, Natasha: Film, TV, Stage Actress, Dies at 45

March 18, 2009–Natasha Richardson, film, TV and stage actress, and daughter of actress Vanessa Redgrave and director Tony Richardson, has died.  She was 45.

Richardson suffered a head injury while taking a skiing lesson Monday at the Mont Tremblant ski resort north of Montreal. Although she initially showed no visible signs of injury, she developed a headache about an hour later and was taken first to a local hospital in Ste. Agathe, Quebec, and was then transferred to the Hopital du Sacre-Couer de Montreal.

On Tuesday, she was transported to Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, where her family, including husband Liam Neeson and her mother, Vanessa Redgrave, gathered.  A spokesman for the family announced Wednesday evening in New York that she had died.

In her early 20s, barely out of drama school, Richardson quickly demonstrated her stage presence in a 1985 revival of Chekhov’s “The Seagull” in London’s West End, where the London Drama Critics’ Circle hailed her as most promising newcomer.  At first she appeared to be an unusual choice when director Sam Mendes cast her in his reimagining of “Cabaret” when it transferred from London to New York’s Roundabout Theater in 1996.  She earned a Tony in 1998 for her performance as Sally Bowles in “Cabaret.”

Jill Haworth first created the role onstage and Liza Minnelli had played it in the 1972 screen version, but Richardson was not generally regarded as a musical comedy performer though she had played the socialite Tracey Lord in a 1987 stage version of “High Society.” Instead, she brought a dramatic reality to the part of a struggling cabaret performer caught up in the darkening shadows of Hitler’s Germany.

Tall and elegant, Richardson moved easily between costume drama and contemporary fare. After making her first major film appearance as Mary Shelley in Ken Russell’s 1986 film “Gothic,” she quickly tackled the title role as the kidnapped American heiress in Paul Schrader’s 1988 “Patty Hearst.”  Schrader also cast Richardson opposite Rupert Everett in the tale of an English couple that visits Venice to sort out their relationship in 1990’s “The Comfort of Strangers.”