Why do people watch romantic movies? It is because we all want that love story for ourselves – where we meet that one true love, that individual out of millions in the whole world that brings meaning to our life – our soulmate! In 1993, a similar love story played out in the public eye, when actors Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson fell in love on stage, and in real life.
That year would be an auspicious year for Neeson. As a steadily working actor since the 1970s, he found regular work on stage, film, and television, with opportunities to act with reputable actors and directors.
In 1993, he starred in the Broadway play Anna Christie. Steven Spielberg would see him in that play, and decide to cast him as the lead in Schindler’s List. The film soon became one of the best movies on World War II, and led to Liam Neeson’s Academy Award nomination for best actor.
Anna Christie turned out to be the spark that ignited both his professional and personal life. He starred opposite Natasha Richardson, herself an acclaimed actress and member of the highly respected Redgrave family of actors. At the time, Richardson was 29 and married, while Neeson had something of a reputation as a ladies man. But this was special.
He recalled, “I’d never had that kind of an explosive chemistry situation with an actor, or actress. We had just this wonderful kind of dance—free dance on stage every night. She and I were like Astaire and Rogers.” The attraction showed through, and the play was a hit for both Broadway fans and critics, leading to Tony Award nominations for the two actors. Their romance later became public knowledge, leading Richardson to remark, “What can I say? Obviously, I fell very much in love with him.”
Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson soon made it official, marrying on a farm near New York in 1994. They eventually had two children, Michael in 1995, and Daniel in 1996. The couple settled into the normal life of working – albeit rich, famous, and critically-acclaimed – actors, juggling family life and careers at the same time.
Unfortunately, like many Hollywood movies, tragedy would strike this idyllic love story. In 2009, on a family skiing holiday in Quebec, Canada, Richardson was taking private skiing lessons on a beginner’s slope when she fell and hit her head. What was initially presumed to be a simple bump turned into a fatal head injury. When told that she was brain dead, Neeson said, “I went in to her and I just told her I loved her. I said, ‘Sweetie, you’re not coming back from this’.”
They had made a pact that if either one ever got into a vegetative state, the other would have to pull the plug. “So when I saw her and saw all these tubes and stuff that was my immediate thought, ‘OK, these tubes have to go. She’s gone’.”
In the midst of the heart-wrenching pain of her death, Neeson found some solace in Richardson’s decision to be an organ donor. “She donated three of her organs, so she’s keeping three people alive at the moment…her heart, her kidneys and her liver. It’s terrific…and I think she would be very thrilled and pleased by that.”
Neeson may have lost his beloved wife, but her love for her endures. In 2016, five years after her death, he posted a loving tribute to Natasha Richardson on Facebook:
“They say the hardest thing in the world is losing someone you love. Someone you grew old with and watched grow everyday. Someone who showed you how to love. It’s the worst thing to ever happen to anyone. My wife died unexpectedly. She brought me so much joy. She was my everything. Those 16 years of being her husband taught me how to love unconditionally. We have to stop and be thankful for our spouses. Because, life is very short.
Spend time with your spouses. Treat them well. Because, one day, when you look up from your phone, they won’t be there anymore. What I truly learned most of all is, live and love everyday like it’s your last. Because, one day, it will be. Take chances and go live life. Tell the ones you love, that you love them everyday. Don’t take any moment for granted. Life is worth living.”
More recently, in an interview Liam Neeson said, “Her death was never real. It still kind of isn’t. There’s periods now in our New York residence when I hear the door opening, especially the first couple of years… Anytime I hear that door opening, I still think I’m going to hear her.”
Their love story might have had a heartbreaking ending, but it is a love that burns to this day.