Page last updated at 17:31 GMT, Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Profile: Natasha Richardson

Natasha Richardson is a member of the Redgrave family, arguably the most famous acting dynasty in British history.

Natasha Richardson
Richardson starred in the 2005 period film The White Countess

It is a position which she has at times struggled to come to terms with.

The 45-year-old is often referred to with a parenthesis - daughter of Vanessa, niece of Corin, sister of Joely or granddaughter to Michael.

After her 1994 marriage to Liam Neeson another tag was added to the list.

Speaking to The Mirror in 2003 she said: "I have a famous mother and it took me years to get over that. Now I have this really famous husband. I definitely feel a loss of confidence.

"Perhaps that's partly why I love living in New York, being free of all that family baggage, being open to all sorts of possibilities" she added.

Early pressure

Richardson was born in London to actors Tony Richardson and Vanessa Redgrave. After her parents' divorce she continued to live with her mother, but has spoken of the financial difficulties the family faced after Vanessa gave most of her money away to radical political groups.

Richardson trained as a actress at London's Central School of Speech and Drama, but kept her Redgrave pedigree a secret while studying.

After college she worked in regional theatre and won small roles in television programmes before getting her big screen break as Mary Shelley in Ken Russell's 1986 film Gothic.

She says of the time: "Though my name opened doors it didn't get me work, and a lot of pressure comes from having a mother who is considered one of the greatest actresses of her generation."

Natasha Richardson as a toddler with her mother and baby sister
Richardson went on to star alongside her mother Vanessa Redgrave

Since then the actress has had a steady stream of cinematic roles, although she is the first to admit that many of them are "films no-one has ever seen".

The roles which made her most familiar to film audiences were as Lindsay Lohan's mother in Disney hit The Parent Trap and as the frosty socialite in Maid In Manhattan with Jennifer Lopez.

It is on the stage that she has had most success. Her West End debut came quickly, as Nina in a 1985 production of The Seagull. She co-starred with her mother and won the London Drama Critics' most promising newcomer award.

Richardson went on to win a Tony award for her Broadway role as Sally Bowles in Cabaret in 1998 and a year later earned plaudits in the US premiere of Patrick Marber's play Closer.

It was while playing the title role in Eugene O'Neill's Anna Christie on Broadway in 1993 that Richardson met her future husband Neeson. At the time she was married to the actor Robert Fox.

A divorce followed and in 1994 Richardson and Neeson married. The couple had two sons, Micheal and Daniel.

Mother and daughter

In recent years she seems to have made peace with her family connections.

In 2003 she took the stage role of Eliana in The Lady from the Sea which her mother Vanessa had delivered a definitive version of 25 years earlier.

Natasha Richardson and Liam Neeson
Richardson and Neeson have been married for 15 years

An undaunted Richardson earned rave reviews for what critic Michael Billington called a "stunning portrayal".

She played alongside her mother and aunt Lynn in the 2005 film The White Countess. Two years later she acted alongside Vanessa again for the film Evening, with the two playing mother and daughter.

The script called for Richardson's character to be at her mother's deathbed and the actress commented: "I told my mum I didn't want to discuss the scene where I watch her slowly slip away because I felt the emotions already."

"Neither of us needed to think about it because it felt so real and so heartbreaking. Just seeing her lying there was very hard." she told the Daily Express.

Richardson's father Tony died of an Aids-related illness in 1991 and the actress has been involved with charity work for the disease since then.

She lived with her family in New York and was rumoured to be working on a Broadway production of Sondheim's A Little Night Music, again working with her mother.

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