Natasha Richardson: A death in the fullness of life

Natasha Richardson, 1963-2009

I didn't write an obituary about Natasha Richardson. I didn't write an appreciation. I didn't write anything. When I learned of her death, I thought: This is wrong. I could not bring myself to go through the business of listing her best roles and describing her life.

At first there was only the information that she had been injured and taken to hospitals in Montreal and New York. The words "brain dead" raced into the news, quoting "friends of the family." No family needs friends like those. I did not want to hear this news.

Did I know her? No. Journalists rarely get to "know" many of their subjects. I had been around her and her husband, Liam Neeson. Nice people. You can tell those things. Oddly, the first memory that came to mind was an inconsequential one that had lain dormant for years.

Once in Los Angeles, Chaz and I found our car next to theirs at a traffic light. We exchanged some jolly small talk. I've interviewed them, but those few seconds were the ones summoned. There was a feeling about them.

This is not important for you to hear. My job should be to tick off her roles and dates, her lineage, her statements about this and that.

But I couldn't bring myself to do that, because her young death was so wrong.

So sudden, so nonsensical, in the fullness of life.

Taking a skiing lesson with her son. Her husband in Toronto making a movie. The sunshine, the fresh air, the laughter, then the tumble on the snow, and laughing off any concern.

Her mother Vanessa Redgrave was the first movie star I ever met. It was on the set of "Camelot" in 1967. I wasn't yet a movie critic. Her aunt Lynn was the first movie star whose home I ever visited. Natasha was a little girl then. I thought of her in a particular way. I was... proud of her. Does that sound possible? She was so good in films like "The White Countess," "The Comfort Of Strangers" and "Patty Hearst," but I didn't think of her objectively, as a figure up there on the screen. I thought of her as... Natasha. It is a mysterious quality of some movie stars that we feel protective.

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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