Micheál Richardson — son of Liam Neeson and the late Natasha Richardson — is reminiscing about his mother ahead of the release of his first leading film role in a movie that co-stars his dad and shares parallels of their grieving over Natasha’s 2009 death.
Richardson, just 13 when the actress died after a ski accident, still hasn’t fully processed that she’s gone, telling Vanity Fair, “I think the pain was a little too overwhelming. I think the mind is very powerful, and subconsciously, or unconsciously, it can protect you. That’s what it did when she passed. I just pushed it aside and didn’t want to deal with it.”
Now 25, “I don’t, even still, think that I’ve fully comprehended it, and that seems to be a similar journey to a lot of people I’ve spoken to. Fifty-year-olds who lost their parents when they were 12, 13… One day they’re out gardening, and something comes over them and they just break down.”
But he has many sunny memories of his mom, who he said was actually a lot like her character in Parent Trap, the 1998 film she appeared with Lindsay Lohan and Dennis Quaid. (The cast paid tribute to Natasha in its recent reunion.)
“That’s more or less what she was like,” said Richardson, who adopted his mom’s surname in 2018 in a tribute to her, of his mom’s Parent Trap character. “She was this sweet, amazing mother figure — my best friend. She had these amazing, big welcomes when we’d come home or she would come home. ‘Darling!’ I’m so lucky because I have her captured on film.”
Richardson has his first leading film role in Made in Italy, out Aug 7. He recalled how his movie star dad approached him with the script, written by James D’Arcy.
“He had this look in his eye,” said Richardson recalled. “He was like, ‘I want you to read this.’ He didn’t say anything else.”
The film is about an artist (Neeson) who travels from London to Italy with his estranged son (Richardson) to sell the house they inherited from his late wife. Richardson talked about how it mirrored their life — an even deep connection because, at the time, Richardson’s mother’s family — the famed Redgrave-Richardson acting dynasty — was in the process of selling the family’s home in France, where Natasha was raised and where Richardson felt most connected to her.
“The parallels were so apparent,” Richardson said, “that it felt like my mom, in a spiritual sense, had a hand in it.”
Asked about taking on such a personal role for his first leading film role, he said, “I think as I get older, keeping my mom more in mind and doing things to honor her allows me to remember her and to go through the grief, and properly heal.”
And he said the process of making the movie — filming poignant scenes with his dad and bonding with the crew over their own losses — helped him connect with his late mom.
“That’s where I felt Mom, in a way,” explained Richardson. “Through everybody.”
Richardson took little interest in the family business initially, instead taking a fashion internship in London. However, while doing so, he learned fashion wasn’t for him. So he auditioned for, and landed, a part in his father’s 2019 action film Cold Pursuit. From there, his desire to act grew.
“My great-aunt, Lynn Redgrave, was very into our ancestry,” Richardson said. “She traced our family back to these traveling actors in the 18th century. That’s really cool to be carrying that on.”
Though Richardson, who’s also in Amazon Prime Video’s Big Dogs, added, “Although we’re family, I’m very different from them, and I know I have something different to offer.”
Neeson told Vanity Fair that he worried about his son pursuing acting because of the constant rejection.
“If you get an audition and don’t get a recall and then don’t get the part and subsequently the job, it’s got nothing to do with your upbringing or what schools you attended; you’re rejected because of YOU; how you look, sound, the space you occupy as a human being. That is f’king tough,” Neeson said.
That said, “With Micheál, acting is certainly in his blood,” Neeson added, “On his mother’s side, that acting link goes back to the late 1700s!”
Natasha, a Tony winner, fell while skiing with an instructor on a beginner’s slope in Canada in 2009 and sustained a head injury. While she spoke with Neeson after the fall, Natasha — who initially declined treatment thinking she was OK — died from epidural hematoma due to a blunt impact to the head with Neeson making the difficult decision to pull the plug. Neeson has been candid about his grief through the years, saying he still sometimes thinks his late wife will walk in the door when he hears it open.
In 2015, Richardson gave his first-ever interview and talked about hitting “rock bottom” after his mother died, drinking heavily and smoking marijuana. “Everybody said, ‘This kid has lost his mum, that’s where the problem comes from. “And I was like, ‘No, it isn’t. I just like to party.’ But looking back, I realize it was a delayed reaction.”
Neeson and Natasha shared one other son, Daniel, who’s 24. The brothers quarantined with their dad at the family’s upstate New York home as the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. Quarantine been an especially difficult time for the family as Neeson’s mother, Kitty Neeson, died in Ireland in June.
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