Entertainment

Family, close friends at private wake for Natasha Richardson

The family of actress Natasha Richardson, who died after a skiing accident in Quebec, held a private viewing for relatives and close friends in New York City, attended by the likes of Mike Nichols, Ralph Fiennes, Matthew Broderick and Uma Thurman.
Natasha Richardson died Wednesday after an accident on the slopes of Mont Tremblant, a resort north of Montreal, on Monday. ((Peter Kramer/Associated Press))
The family of actress Natasha Richardson, who died after a skiing accident in Quebec, held a private viewing for relatives and close friends in New York City, attended by the likes of Mike Nichols, Ralph Fiennes, Matthew Broderick and Uma Thurman.

Her husband, Irish actor Liam Neeson, and the couple's two sons, aged 12 and 13, were joined by Richardson's mother, Vanessa Redgrave, and sister, Joely Richardson, both actresses, at the American Irish Historical Society in Manhattan on Friday.

"It's been a very, very sad few days and I think it will stay that way for a good while," said Broderick.

Theatres in London's West End dimmed their lights Friday to mark the 45-year-old actress's death, a day after theatres on Broadway in New York City did the same.

Richardson, who performed on stage and screen, won a Tony Award in 1999 for her role in the stage version of Cabaret.

The actress died last Wednesday at a hospital in Manhattan's Upper East Side after tumbling two days before at the Mont Tremblant resort, north of Montreal.

The New York City medical examiner's office has ruled her death as accidental, saying she died from an epidural hematoma, or bleeding inside the skull, due to blunt impact to the head."

The incident has sparked some discussion in medical circles in Quebec about a lack of medical helicopters.

Tarek Razek, head of trauma services for the McGill University Health Centre — which represents six of Montreal's hospitals — has questioned what could have been done after Richardson's fall on the slopes.

"It's impossible for me to comment specifically about her case," said Razek. "What I could say is … driving to Mont Tremblant from [Montreal] is a 2½ -hour trip and the closest trauma centre is in the city."

Richardson was driven first to a hospital near the ski slopes and then to one in Montreal.

Razek said the actress should have been sent right away to the Montreal hospital since the first clinic, Centre Hospitalier Laurentien in Ste-Agathe, does not specialize in head trauma.

That said, Razek says it's still difficult to say whether that would have saved her life.
Liam Neeson, left, embraces an unidentified man at the exit of the American Irish Historical Society where the body of Neeson's wife, Natasha Richardson, was lying in repose on Friday in New York City. ((Tina Fineberg/Associated Press))

"There are so many variables. It's hard to speculate what might have been done differently."

Neeson halts film projects

Meanwhile, Neeson, whose appearance in Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List 1993 catapulted him to fame, is putting his career on hold.

That decision has an immediate impact on Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan. Neeson had rushed from the set of Egoyan's Chloe in Toronto to be at his wife's side.

Neeson stars with Julianne Moore and Amanda Seyfried as a man whose wife suspects him of having an affair. The production began shooting last month.

Egoyan said he was "devastated" to hear of Neeson's loss.

"There are some scenes with Liam Neeson which have not been completed. However, we do not feel this is the time to address that matter. Our concern is for Liam and his family at this difficult time," said a statement released by the film's producers on Thursday.

Neeson is also due to team up again with Spielberg on Lincoln, a biopic of the U.S. president.

Two of the actor's films are due out this year: Five Minutes of Heaven stars Neeson as a former IRA man seeking forgiveness for his actions while the horror movie After Life has him portraying a funeral director with powers over the dead.

With files from the Associated Press