Long before tragedy ended their 16-year marriage, Natasha Richardson and Liam Neeson shared the kind of love that inspired the Hollywood movies and productions they starred in.
Their love story began when the two performed opposite each other in Anna Christie on Broadway in 1993. Natasha, 29 at the time, was married to producer Robert Fox, but that didn't stop romance from budding between her and Liam.
"I'd never had that kind of an explosive chemistry situation with an actor, or actress," Liam told Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes. "We had just this wonderful kind of dance—free dance on stage every night. She and I were like [Fred] Astaire and [Ginger] Rogers."
Their chemistry was obvious. Critics and theatergoers alike loved the show, and both actors earned Tony nominations for their roles, according to the New York Daily News. Luckily for Liam, who was 40 at the time, Natasha's marriage to Robert was already coming to an end. "Working with him, what happened between us, and that becoming public knowledge in conjunction with my marriage falling apart, was kind of bad timing," Natasha said. "So what can I say? Obviously I fell very much in love with him."
While Liam was known as a bit of a ladies' man at the time, his reputation didn't phase Natasha. "I'm pleased that women fall in love with him, because I know why," she said.
When Natasha celebrated her 30th birthday, Liam sent her a card from the set of Schindler's List. It simply read, "You're catching up with me. Lots of love, Oskar." (Liam played Oskar Schindler in the film.) Natasha didn't find it very romantic and decided it was time to be up front. She responded by saying, "This is like a letter from a buddy. What is our relationship?"
Right then and there, Liam knew he had fallen in love with her. "That was when I knew I really loved this person," he said. "I thought, 'This is real and genuine and is something that has to be protected.'" Not long after, in the summer of 1994, the two were married on a farm in upstate New York.
After tying the knot, Liam was cast in the movie Nell. Natasha wasn't thrilled by the idea that they would be separated during filming, and hoped to work alongside him again. "It was difficult to kind of go, 'Bye, honey! Have fun with the other girls!'" she said. "I thought I would do anything to play this part [of]." Her wish came true. The couple starred opposite each other yet again after Natasha ended up being cast in the film, too.
Life continued to move fast for the couple. Less than a year after getting married, they became parents to their first son, Micheál, in the spring of 1995. Their second son, Daniel, was born just 18 months later.
Tragically, Natasha passed away in 2009 at age 45 after a bad fall during a skiing accident in Quebec. What she thought was a minor bump to the head turned out to be fatal brain injury. Liam, who was filming Chloe in Toronto, rushed to the hospital a few hours after the fall to be by his wife's side. Upon arriving, doctors told Liam she was brain dead. He knew this would be the end.
"She and I had made a pact," he said. "If any of us got into a vegetative state that we'd pull the plug. So when I saw her and saw all these tubes and stuff, that was my immediate thought. But [she] donated three of her organs, so she's keeping three people alive at the moment." Liam says he knew that's what she would have wanted.
Looking back at their marriage, one of Liam says one of his favorite things about Natasha was her generous and infectious maternal love. "She cared for everybody," he said. "She has a motherly instinct. And she'd make dinners for everyone and just looked looked after us all."
It's now been eight years since her death, and the grief is still overwhelming at times. "There's periods now when I hear the door opening," Liam told Loaded magazine, "especially the first couple of years, anytime I hear that door opening, I still think I'm going to hear her."
In 2016, Liam shared a message with fans on social media remembering his late wife. He urged everyone to cherish their partners and to make the most of every day together. "They say the hardest thing in the world is losing someone you love," he wrote on Facebook, according to CBS. "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, 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."
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