Natasha Richardson dies at 45


June 18, 2010 Updated Mar 19, 2009 at 1:11 AM EDT

Entertainment was in Natasha Richardson's blood. After her death following a ski accident Monday in Canada, the actress from one of Britain's leading theatrical dynasties will be remembered for carving out her own reputation by lighting up the stage and silver screen.

The 45-year-old daughter of actress Vanessa Redgrave and the late director Tony Richardson appeared in several Hollywood films including "The Handmaid's Tale." However she is perhaps best known for her nuanced stage roles, winning a Tony award for her leading 1998 Broadway performance in "Cabaret."

In 1994 Natasha married Liam Neeson, the Oscar-nominated Hollywood star of "Schindler's List," shortly after they appeared together in the film "Nell." The couple has two sons in what entertainment media routinely describes as a magical marriage.

She once told British newspaper The Independent that she and her husband complemented one another.

"We have a joke that I see the glass half full and he sees it half empty," she said.

"He's more laid back, happy to see what happens, whereas I'm a doer and I plan ahead. The differences sometimes get in the way but they can be the very things that feed a marriage too."

Richardson fell gravely ill after what initially appeared to be a meaningless tumble Monday during a beginner's ski lesson at Mont Tremblant ski resort in Canada.

But her condition worsened and she was eventually taken to hospital in Ste-Agathe, Quebec, and then flown to New York and rushed to intensive care.

Even a blow to the head that leaves no visible injury can sometimes cause brain damage, for example swelling or blood clots.

"Liam Neeson, his sons, and the entire family are shocked and devastated by the tragic death of their beloved Natasha," the family said in a statement issued Wednesday by a spokesman in Los Angeles.

Born in May 1963, Richardson was educated in London and trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama in the city, which has groomed a host of British actors.

She made her film debut at age four in "The Charge of the Light Brigade," a movie her father directed. Her considerable stage experience includes a number of Shakespearean roles, including Ophelia in "Hamlet" and Helena in "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

In 1986 she won the London Drama Critics' most promising newcomer award for her performance as Nina in "The Seagull" alongside her mother.

Richardson went on to win the Tony award for best actress in a musical for her performance as Sally Bowles in "Cabaret," directed by future Oscar-winner Sam Mendes.

Despite her impeccable acting pedigree, Richardson apparently kept a level head about life in a celebrity fishbowl.

"She regarded her mother as theater royalty, but not herself that way," director Scott Ellis told People magazine.

Her family has a reputation for guarding its privacy, but Richardson has nevertheless spoken candidly about her life in public and described her devastation at her father's death.

Tony Richardson, who director such classics as "Look Back in Anger" (1958) and "Tom Jones" (1963), died in 1991 of complications from AIDS.

His daughter was known for her fierce loyalty to her husband and children.

The US actress and comedian Joan Rivers, who told CNN she spent a day on a boat in the Caribbean with the Richardson-Neeson couple, described them as "totally happy, totally devoted to each other."

"And they made such a good-looking couple too. And he doted on what she said, she doted on -- it was just perfect."

On the big screen, Richardson played opposite an 11-year-old Lindsay Lohan in the 1998 film "The Parent Trap," and appeared in "Maid In Manhattan" with Jennifer Lopez in 2002.

Her sister is Joely Richardson, a star of the US TV series "Nip/Tuck."

In July 2000, Neeson broke his pelvis in a motorcycle accident near his family home in New York but made a full recovery. He subsequently described his wife as an "angel" and a pillar of strength during his recovery.

Richardson told London's Evening Standard that caring for her convalescing husband "reinforced what I already knew: that you have to really appreciate life and what you have, because things can change."

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