The lights will dim on Broadway tonight:
Sam Mendes helped break her out of perpetual typecasting as a posh English blonde when he surprised many by casting her as Sally Bowles in his Broadway revival of the musical Cabaret. The role won her a Tony award. “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,” Mendes said. “She was one of a kind, a magnificent actress. She was also an amazing mother, a loyal friend, and the greatest and most generous host you could ever hope to meet.”
After shying away from roles made famous by her mother for many years, in 2003 she returned to the London stage to play the lead in Ibsen’s The Lady from the Sea, directed by Sir Trevor Nunn, at the Almeida theatre, where Michael Attenborough had just taken over as artistic director. Attenborough said: “Natasha was a beautiful human in every conceivable way; gracious of manner, witty and sharp of mind, sunny in disposition and stunning in appearance. She was completely her own woman, brave, determined and totally committed to her two major loves – her family and her work.”
Paul Schrader, who gave her the title role in his 1988 film Patty Hearst and two years later cast her again opposite Rupert Everett in The Comfort of Strangers, said: “Natasha Richardson was an extraordinary actress, not just for her beauty, lineage and talent, but for her intelligence and fearlessness. She was brave and smart. I was in awe of her from the time we first met and will miss her dearly.”
Nick Moore, the director on what proved to be her last film, Wild Child, called her “wonderfully generous and kind; a complete joy to be with.”
Praising her “classy and special” qualities, he added: “All the kids in the movie loved being around her. She pitched in and was great with them. She led by example.”
Lindsay Lohan, an unexpectedly successful pairing with Richardson in the 1998 film The Parent Trap, said: “She was a wonderful woman and actress, and treated me like I was her own. My heart goes out to her family.”
She had walked away from an apparently minor fall during a ski lesson with Micheal, 13, and Daniel, 12, on the learner slopes at the Canadian ski resort of Mont Tremblant.
However, within an hour she began to complain of a severe headache, and was transferred first to the local hospital, where she slipped into a coma, then to Sacre-Coeur in Montreal, and was finally flown on a life support machine to Lenox Hill hospital in New York, her husband by her side. Many tributes reflected a feeling that the best was yet to come.
The film director Michael Winner said: “She was a wonderful actress – the whole family is incredible – and she had not yet fulfilled her possibilities. It’s a twinkle and a sparkle that has left the world.”
Her father, the director Tony Richardson, died of Aids in 1991 and she was on the board of the US Foundation for Aids Research, where a spokeswoman said: “Our hearts go out to her family. This is a catastrophic loss for them … Natasha’s passion for the cause and timeless efforts gave hope and inspiration to the scientists and healthcare workers on the frontline of this deadly epidemic, as well as to the millions of people living with HIV/Aids around the world.”
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