Actress Natasha Richardson dies

March 19, 2009 7:27:00 AM PDT
Tony Award-winning actress Natasha Richardson died Wednesday from injuries suffered after a fall on a Canadian ski slope Monday. She was 45. [SIGN UP: Get entertainment news sent to you]

Her husband, actor Liam Neeson, and family members were by her side.

The death was announced in a statement released Wednesday evening by Neeson's publicist.

"Liam Neeson, his sons and the entire family are shocked and devastated by the tragic death of their beloved Natasha," the statement said. "They are profoundly grateful for the support, love and prayers of everyone, and ask for privacy during this very difficult time."

No details about the exact cause of her death were released.

With a gracious wave, Neeson returned home to his New York City home late Wednesday night, cameras shuttering all around him, ABC's Sharyn Alfonsi reported.

Richardson fell Monday at the Mont Tremblant ski resort in Quebec. She initially appeared fine and joked about the fall, but the ski patrol insisted she see a doctor. Richardson declined, the resort said in a statement Tuesday.

On Wednesday, a Canadian newspaper reported that an ambulance was dispatched to the resort right after the accident, but the paramedics were told they were not needed and left.

"They never saw the patient," Yves Coderre, the operations manager for the ambulance service, told the Globe and Mail. "So they turned around."

"When you have a head trauma you can bleed. It can deteriorate in a few hours or a few days," Coderre added. "People don't realize it can be very serious. We warn them they can die and sometimes they start to laugh. They don't take it seriously."

Richardson later complained of a headache and another ambulance was called to take her to the hospital. She was later transferred to Hopital du Sacre-Coeur in Montreal before being flown to New York City's Lenox Hill Hospital Tuesday, where her relatives rushed to her side.

On Tuesday night, Richardson's mother, actress Vanessa Redgrave, was seen entering the New York City hospital. So was Richardson's sister, Joely Richardson. Neeson also reportedly was by her side. Actress Lauren Bacall was photographed visiting the hospital Wednesday afternoon.

Richardson Suffered Head Injury During Ski Lesson

The Toronto Star reported that Richardson, lying heavily wrapped in blankets in an intensive-care bed, tubes covering her face, was loaded into an ambulance outside of Montreal's Hôpital du Sacre-Coeur at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, in preparation for her flight to New York.

Neeson was crouched down in the back of the ambulance watching as she was loaded, according to the Toronto Star.

Tuesday, the Mont Tremblant ski resort, released the following statement regarding her accident:

"Natasha Richardson fell in a beginners trail while taking a ski lesson at Station Mont Tremblant," the statement said. "She was accompanied by an experienced ski instructor who immediately called the ski patrol. She did not show any visible sign of injury but the ski patrol followed strict procedures and brought her back to the bottom of the slope and insisted she should see a doctor.

"As an additional precautionary measure, the ski instructor as well as the ski patrol accompanied Mrs. Richardson to her hotel," the statement continued. "They again recommended she should be seen by a doctor. The ski instructor stayed with her at her hotel. Approximately an hour after the incident Mrs. Richardson was not feeling good. An ambulance was called and Mrs. Richardson was brought to the Centre Hospitalier Laurentien in Ste-Agathe and was later transferred to Hôpital du Sacre-Coeur."

A spokesperson for the resort noted Richardson was not wearing a helmet while skiing and didn't collide with anything when she fell.

Neeson, 56, left the set of "Chloe," a movie he was filming in Toronto, and rushed to his wife's side upon learning the news, according to AccessHollywoood.com.

She had two sons with Neeson, Michael, 13, and Daniel Jack, 12.

Celebrities React to Richardson's Passing

Following the news of Richardson's death, Lindsay Lohan, who co-starred with the actress in 1998's "The Parent Trap," released the following statement through her publicist.

"She was a wonderful woman and actress and treated me like I was her own," Lohan's statement said. "I didn't see much of her over the years but I will miss her. My heart goes out to her family. This is a tragic loss."

Jane Fonda wrote about Richardson on her blog, saying that she met the actress on a movie set when Richardson was just a child.

"I first met her on the set of Julia [in which she starred with Vanessa Redgrave]. She was a little girl but already beautiful and graceful. It didn't surprise me that she became such a talented actor," Fonda said.

On ABC's "The View" Wednesday, Barbara Walters and her co-hosts spoke about their admiration of Richardson and her family.

Walters described Richardson as "lovely" and as a good friend of the show, on which she has appeared more than three times.

"She's beautiful," said Walters.

"The Redgraves are the most wonderful family," said co-host Joy Behar. "They mind their own business, they're talented, they're smart and they love their family."

"Our thoughts and hopes are with the family and with Liam and Vanessa," added Whoopi Goldberg.

Richardson Part of Acting Dynasty

Richardson was a member of one of Britain's most famous acting dynasties. She was the eldest daughter of Oscar-winning actress Vanessa Redgrave, 72, and director Tony Richardson.

Her father passed away in 1991 due to complications with AIDS. She had long been a supporter of AIDS-related charities, including amfAR, on whose board she had served since 2006.

Asked to comment on her skiing accident before Richardson's death was announced, a representative for amfAR told ABCNews.com, "Our thoughts and prayers are with Natasha and her family right now. Obviously, we're very saddened and disturbed by this news."

Richardson also donated her services to God's Love We Deliver, an organization that provides fresh meals to people living with HIV/AIDS.

"Everyone at God's Love We Deliver is profoundly saddened to hear about her accident," Karen Pearl, president of the organization, said in a statement to ABCNews.com before Richardson's death. "As we hope for the best, our thoughts and prayers are with her, Liam, and their entire family at this difficult time."

Richardson's sister, Joely, stars in the TV series "Nip/Tuck."

Richardson's Rich Career

Richardson starred in many films, including "The Parent Trap," "Maid in Manhattan," "A Month in the Country," "Gothic" and "Nell." But her chief experience was in theater. She was trained at London's Central School of Speech and Drama and won a Tony Award in 1998 for playing Sally Bowles in "Cabaret."

Sher met her husband in 1984 while filming the TV mini-series "Ellis Island," but their relationship didn't blossom until 1993, when they reunited on Broadway for a revival of "Anna Christie." Their on-stage chemistry was too strong to ignore, and shortly after "Anna Christie's" run, Richardson separated from her husband, producer Robert Fox. She and Neeson married in 1994.

Richardson acted with her legendary mother at multiple points in her career. In January, Richardson and Redgrave played the roles of mother and daughter in a one-night benefit concert version of "A Little Night Music," the Stephen Sondheim-Hugh Wheeler musical, on Broadway.

The two also acted alongside each other in the 1985 theatrical revival "The Seagull" and the 2007 movie "Evening." In a 2003 interview with UK newspaper The Guardian, Richardson talked about taking on the same profession as her mother.

"I don't know if I could ever put myself in the same category as her," she said. "She is one of the greatest actresses of our time, so I'm not sure I would put myself in that bracket."

She expanded further in a 2005 interview with The Independent.

"I know the pressures of being the daughter of a great actress," Richardson told the newspaper. "But it's inspiring. You learn so much that other people don't get to learn until later on. My father being a director, I learnt a real work ethic. You think: 'One day, I'd like to be as good as that.' But when I was starting out professionally, I had a level of attention put on me that I didn't deserve or wasn't ready for. And it was hard, particularly in England, to make my way. That's partly why I moved to New York, where you can be who you are for your work and not so much to do with family baggage."

But in the same interview, Richardson talked about how she didn't want her sons going into acting.

"They'd be the sons of a great actor," she told The Independent. "And that's quite a gorilla to carry on your back. This profession is very tough and not many people make it , and even if you do, then you can still get slapped in the face constantly. So I hope they do something else -- but if they're determined, so be it."

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