Page last updated at 00:32 GMT, Friday, 20 March 2009

Tributes to 'luminous' Richardson

Natasha Richardson on acting and her family

Stars of stage and screen have paid tribute to actress Natasha Richardson, who has died after a skiing accident.

Dame Judi Dench said she had a rare "luminous quality", and that Richardson still had great work ahead of her.

Ken Russell, who directed her in 1986's Gothic, praised her "ephemeral delicacy and intelligent beauty". Film-maker Sam Mendes hailed "a magnificent actress".

The New York City medical examiner's office said that 45-year-old Richardson had died of a blunt impact to the head.

On Thursday evening, Broadway, New York's theatre district, dimmed its lights for one minute as a mark of respect.

Natasha Richardson and Liam Neeson
Richardson and Neeson married in 1994

Richardson's husband, Irish actor Liam Neeson, was embraced by fellow actors, including Matthew Broderick, following the tribute.

Richardson's mother, actress Vanessa Redgrave, and sister Joely Richardson, also an actress, also attended the event.

Earlier, the Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes, who worked with Richardson in a Broadway production of Cabaret, added: "It defies belief that this gifted, brave, tenacious, wonderful woman is gone."

Kevin Spacey, the director of London's Old Vic, said: "There are no words to express how tragic Natasha Richardson's untimely passing is for the theatre community.

"Her passion, devotion and talent will forever be etched on those who saw her work on the stage. The bloodlines of greatness were always there and she committed herself to every role she tackled," he added.

Richardson fell on a beginners' slope at the Mont Tremblant resort in Quebec on Monday.

The accident happened while she was taking a supervised skiing lesson.

The New York City medical examiner's office said on Thursday night that Richardson had died of epidural haematoma caused by a blunt impact to the head.

Medical examiner spokeswoman Ellen Borakove said the death had been ruled an accident.

Richardson died in a New York hospital, close to the home she shared with Neeson and their two sons.

Dame Judi Dench
She had an incredibly luminous quality that you seldom see, and a great sense of humour
Dame Judi Dench

The family were devastated by the death of their "beloved Natasha", her husband's publicist said.

Richardson initially showed no sign of injury but about an hour later she was taken to a nearby hospital after feeling unwell. It was later confirmed her injuries were critical.

Hollywood star Neeson, 56, flew from the set of his new film in Toronto to be with his wife as soon as he heard news of the accident.

He accompanied her as she was flown from Canada to Lenox Hill Hospital, in New York, on Tuesday.

Neeson, her mother and two sons, Michael, 13, and Daniel, 12, had gathered at her bedside.

Nip/Tuck actress Joely Richardson was also pictured visiting the hospital.

Richardson's death was announced shortly before midnight GMT on Wednesday. Neeson left the Manhattan hospital in a people carrier at about 2030 local time (0030 GMT).

Alan Nierob, Neeson's publicist, said: "Liam Neeson, his sons, and the entire family are shocked and devastated by the tragic death of their beloved Natasha.

This is such a tragic shame, the world will be poorer for the loss of such a wonderful actress
Jeanine Reid, Northern Ireland

"They are profoundly grateful for the support, love and prayers of everyone, and ask for privacy during this very difficult time."

Richardson starred in films and TV but won most acclaim for her stage work.

Part of the Redgrave acting dynasty, she was the daughter of Redgrave and director Tony Richardson.

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