Natasha Richardson: A Class Act

By now, you’ve heard about the sudden death of actress Natasha Richardson. I wrote about her and husband Liam Neeson’s home theater for the January ’09 issue (“A Class Act”; see story), and I wanted to share a few thoughts about her:

The first time I met Natasha, we’d barely said hello before she grabbed my arm and, smiling, leaned in conspiratorially and whispered, “Pretend you’ve known me for 15 years and we’re best friends.” With that, she led me into the next room — and up to a group of strangers — for some impromptu playacting. If anybody else had made that request, I would have immediately headed for the hills. But there was something so infectious about the impish way she let me in on her little joke that it was impossible to say no.

Natasha was, without a doubt, the most charming and gracious person I’ve ever met. Her heart-melting smile and brilliant, inquisitive eyes could make you feel like your every word was sheer genius, even when you knew you were spouting nothing but drivel.

And you couldn’t help but envy her marriage to Liam Neeson. Their radically dissimilar backgrounds would seem to have allowed for little common ground, and yet they couldn’t have been more perfectly matched. The life they created for themselves on their upstate New York farm was a seemingly effortless extension of their extraordinary relationship.

So, to suddenly lose Natasha is devastating. I’ve encountered very few people who had her ability to relish every moment she was given. She first appears in “A Class Act” entering “briskly” from outside, and her energy did seem boundless, much of it selflessly devoted to the comfort of her husband, family, friends, and guests.

It was exactly because other people were so important to her that she wanted a big, inviting home theater. And rather than just hand the job off to a designer, she involved herself in every step of the planning and execution. (One of her requirements, she told me with a girlish laugh, was that every screening begin with the THX trailer. “You know,” she said, sweeping her arms upward with a flourish, “the one with that tremendous ‘whoosh!’”) Once the theater was done, she was thrilled with how it turned out and loved to show it off to everybody who entered that room.

It’s impossible for me to believe that someone that undeniably present and engaged — that alive — could suddenly be gone forever. I feel immeasurably lucky for having had the opportunity to know her.

— Michael Gaughn

Everyone at Sound & Vision is deeply saddened by this terrible loss, and we would like to send our condolences to the Richardson and Neeson families.