Liam Neeson is known for some heartbreaking moments on screen, but he has had his fair share in real life too. The actor lost his wife, Natasha Richardson in 2009, after nearly a decade and a half of marriage. Years later, Neeson is still grappling with grief, especially since he himself made the decision to take her off of life support.
Neeson's romance with Richardson was big news when it began. The couple got together just as Richardson's previous marriage was crumbling, and some saw it as a scandal. However, fans soon came to understand the real passion between them. Neeson recalled their love story in a 2014 interview on CBS' 60 Minutes.
Neeson and Richardson met in 1993, while co-starring in a revival of the play Anna Christie on Broadway. Their performances lit fireworks in the theater, and even after years of acting, it was a transformative experience for Neeson.
“I’d never had that kind of explosive chemistry situation with an actor or actress," he said. "We just had this wonderful kind of dance-free dance on stage every night. She and I were like [Fred] Astaire and [Ginger] Rogers.”
However, Richardson's relationship status posed a problem for the young lovers. The actress was still married to producer Robert Fox, though their union had already begun to deteriorate. In an interview with Country Living, she said that her spark with Neeson coincided with the death throes of her marriage, creating a bad look.
“Working with him, what happened between us, and that becoming public knowledge in conjunction with my marriage falling apart, was kind of bad timing," she said.
Richardson, however, said that she "fell very much in love with" Neeson, and it was she who pursued him. When Neeson sent her a friendly birthday card later that year, she replied with an admonishing note, saying: "this is like a letter from a buddy. What is our relationship?"
“That was when I knew I really loved this person," Neeson recalled in his 60 Minutes interview. "I thought, ‘This is real and genuine and is something that has to be protected.’”
Neeson and Richardson married the following year, and quickly began a family. In their years together they had two sons, Micheál and Daniel, and set up their home in upstate New York. However, tragedy eventually came knocking.
In March of 2009, Neeson was filming a movie in Toronto, Canada while Richardson was skiing at a resort near Montreal. The actress took a serious fall while learning the sport, resulting in a blow to the head.
“I spoke to her and she said, ‘Oh darling. I’ve taken a tumble in the snow.’ That’s how she described it," Neeson remembered.
Eventually, Richardson accepted that she needed medical care. This came not a moment too soon, as she had suffered serious trauma in her fall. Neeson rushed to the hospital where she was at, discovering that the impact had left her brain "squashed up against the side of her skull."
“I was told she was brain dead… She was on life support and stuff," the actor said. "And I went in… and told her I loved her. I said, ‘Sweetie, you’re not coming back from this. You’ve banged your head. It’s – I don’t know if you can hear me, but that’s – this is what’s gone down.’”
Neeson had Richardson moved back home to New York. However, he knew all along that he would have to remove her from life support. He told 60 Minutes host Anderson Cooper that he and Richardson had "made a pact" that if either one of them “got into a vegetative state that we’d pull the plug.”
That left Neeson with unthinkable grief, as he and Cooper discussed in the interview. The actor found comfort where he could, including in his wife's organ donor status. He revealed that her heart, kidneys and liver all went to people in need, saying that Richardson “would be very thrilled and pleased by that.”
As for Neeson himself, he turned back to his work, as most movie-goers know. He said that he did this in part as a show of strength for his sons.
“I’m not good without work," he said. And I just didn’t want to – especially for my boys – seem to be wallowing in sadness or depression.”0comments
Thankfully, that state of constant motion has helped Neeson process his feelings for real. The actor has become more and more open about his grief over the years, as evidenced in his interview. Later on, in a 2016 Facebook post, he sang Richardson's praises yet again.
“They say the hardest thing in the world is losing someone you love," he wrote. “My wife died unexpectedly. She brought me so much joy. We have to stop and be thankful for our spouses. 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 every day like it’s your last. Because, one day, it will be.”