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Actress Natasha Richardson Dies After Skiing Accident

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The wife of actor Liam Neeson and member of the Redgrave theatrical family was 45.

Natasha Richardson, the luminous British actress from one of the world's great acting families, whose performances ranged from the highbrow drama “The Handmaid's Tale" to the lightweight comedy “The Parent Trap" and the Tony-winning Broadway production of “Cabaret," died Wednesday. She was 45.

The wife of “Schindler's List" actor Liam Neeson and the daughter of actress Vanessa Redgrave and the late film director Tony Richardson died at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.

Alan Nierob of Rogers & Cowan said in a statement Wednesday night: “Liam Neeson, his sons and the entire family are shocked and devastated by the tragic death of their beloved Natasha. They are profoundly grateful for the support, love and prayers of everyone, and ask for privacy during this very difficult time."

Richardson suffered a devastating brain injury in a skiing accident Monday at Mont Tremblant, a luxury resort in Canada. The actress was taking a lesson on a beginner's run near the bottom of the ski area and was not wearing a helmet in what first appeared to be a minor accident.

She initially reported that she was well, but soon started to complain of a headache. Hours after the fall, the star of a number of acclaimed stage plays -- including roles in “Anna Christie," “A Streetcar Named Desire" and “Closer" -- slipped into unconsciousness, and she was transported Tuesday from a Montreal hospital back to New York, where she was surrounded by family and friends.

The actress' most recent film credits came in last year's “Wild Child" opposite Emma Roberts and 2007's “Evening" with Meryl Streep, Claire Danes and Redgrave. The “Evening" part was one of a number of recent roles Richardson had with her closest relatives. On television, she appeared as a guest judge on the just-concluded season of the cooking show “Top Chef."

Richardson was born in London on May 11, 1963. In addition to Redgrave, other actors in her family include sister Joely Richardson, a star of the television series “Nip/Tuck," and aunt Lynn Redgrave, whose film credits include “Georgy Girl" and “Gods and Monsters." Richardson's grandfather was legendary Shakespearean actor Michael Redgrave.

Her father was an acclaimed writer, director and producer who won the directing and best picture Oscar for 1963's “Tom Jones." Tony Richardson, who died in 1991 at age 63, also directed “Look Back in Anger" and “A Taste of Honey."

The actress' 72-year-old mother, who won the supporting actress Academy Award for 1977's “Julia" and delivered a famously inflammatory anti-Zionist speech in accepting the trophy, still acts in theater and in film.

Just before the skiing accident, Richardson was considering a Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim's “A Little Night Music" with her mother, following a highly praised one-night January staging at New York's Studio 54.

While Richardson may have come from royal show business blood, she did not try to use her ancestry to advance her career, but rather saw her family's creative business as something of a classroom.

“I know the pressures of being the daughter of a great actress," Richardson said in a 2005 interview with London's Independent 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 [learned] 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."

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