Acting world pays tribute to Richardson


June 18, 2010 Updated Mar 19, 2009 at 10:11 PM EDT

Broadway was to dim its lights Thursday in honor of Natasha Richardson, as tributes poured in for the actress and member of Britain's Redgrave acting dynasty who died after a ski accident this week.

Richardson, 45, suffered brain damage from an accidental "blunt impact to the head," a spokeswoman for New York's medical examiner said following a post-mortem examination.

The daughter of British stage and screen legend Vanessa Redgrave tumbled while learning to ski in Canada on Monday and became gravely ill soon after. She was taken to New York where she died on Wednesday.

Lights along New York's theater avenue, dubbed the Great White Way, were to be extinguished for one minute at 8:00 pm (0000 GMT).

"The Broadway community is shocked and deeply saddened by the tragic loss of one of our finest young actresses," said Charlotte St Martin, director of the Broadway League, lauding Richardson's "own singular talent."

Tributes also flooded in from her native Britain and elsewhere on Thursday.

Vanessa Redgrave's brother Corin recalled his niece as "adorable" and "generous," telling Britain's ITV news: "I've been very, very sad all day and all night.

"She was adorable, Natasha, she really was, besides being, as we know, a marvelous actress. She was just adorable. We shall miss her terribly."

Expressions of sympathy also notably came from Northern Ireland, where her actor husband Liam Neeson was born.

Actress Dame Judi Dench told the BBC: "She had an incredibly luminous quality that you seldom see, and a great sense of humor... I thought she was a really great actress."

"It's just so shocking, really shocking, and I hope that everybody leaves the family quietly to somehow pick up the pieces," she added.

US actor Kevin Spacey, who is artistic director of London's Old Vic Theatre, paid tribute to Richardson's "passion, devotion and talent," which she inherited from the famous Redgrave acting family.

"There are no words to express how tragic Natasha Richardson's untimely passing is for the theatre community ... The bloodlines of greatness were always there and she committed herself to every role she tackled.

"All of us at the Old Vic Theatre Company mourn her loss and send our heartfelt wishes to Liam and her family," he added.

Sam Mendes, who directed her in a 1998 Broadway production of "Cabaret," added: "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 one of a kind, a magnificent actress," he was cited by British media as saying.

US actress Demi Moore wrote online: "I am sending out prayers for Natasha Richardson and her family. A real reminder of how precious life is and how quickly it can be gone."

Northern Ireland first minister Peter Robinson and his deputy Martin McGuinness also offered their condolences.

McGuinness, who attended an event in New York on Sunday with Richardson's mother, veteran actress Vanessa Redgrave, said: "My thoughts and prayers are with Natasha Richardson's entire family, particularly Liam Neeson and their two sons.

"It is such a tragedy for two young boys to lose their mother so suddenly," he added.

Richardson's tragic death was triggered by what seemed to be a benign tumble on a beginner's slope at a Quebec resort on Monday.

She had initially dismissed medical help, but was rushed to hospital after suffering headaches back at her hotel.

A Canadian lawmaker said the government was "irresponsible" for not mandating the use of safety helmets on ski slopes.

"The recent serious brain injuries on Canada's ski slopes are tragic reminders that these brain injuries are preventable," opposition MP Hedy Fry said in a statement.

The government's "inexplicable failure" to consider a bill she introduced in March 2007 that would require helmets for recreational alpine skiing "is nothing short of irresponsible," she said.

According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information's latest figures, there were 138 hospitalizations for head injuries from ski and snowboard accidents in 2005-2006.

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