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Natasha Richardson, Liam Neeson's son says death of mom put him in a 'head spin'

Micheál Richardson describes himself as a "mama's boy" who spent years distracting himself from his grief.
/ Source: TODAY

Micheál Richardson is opening up about the devastation he experienced after the death of his mom, Tony award-winning actor Natasha Richardson.

The 25-year-old actor, whose dad is Hollywood star Liam Neeson, told The Times that he went into a "head spin" after his mother died in 2009 at age 45 after a tragic skiing accident during a family vacation in Quebec.

Micheál Richardson, right, with his dad, Hollywood star Liam Neeson, in 2015.
Micheál Richardson, right, with his dad, Hollywood star Liam Neeson, in 2015.David M. Benett / Getty Images

"It was so sudden," said Micheál Richardson, who was 13 when his mom died. "When it’s unexpected and it’s just a complete freak accident, it really sort of messes with your mind, whether you believe in fate or not. It can send you for a bit of a head spin, and so you just latch on to the tiny little memories, whether it’s her laugh or her energy in the room or her cooking. ...

"I do have her films to go back and watch her in, which I’m incredibly grateful for," he added.

Richardson's parents met in 1993 when they starred together in a Broadway revival of Eugene O’Neill’s "Anna Christie." They tied the knot the following year, welcoming Micheál in 1995 and younger son Daniel in 1996.

Natasha Richardson with her son Micheál at the "Billy Elliot The Musical" opening night on Broadway in New York in November 2008.
Natasha Richardson with her son Micheál at the "Billy Elliot The Musical" opening night on Broadway in New York in November 2008.Bruce Glikas / FilmMagic

The self-described "mama's boy" said he and his mom, who starred in "The Parent Trap," shared a special bond.

“She was a terrific, terrific mother," he said. "I was a mama’s boy growing up and she was really my best friend. I mean we were all a close family, but Danny was my dad’s boy and I was my mom’s boy, for sure."

The young actor appeared alongside his father in the 2020 comedy "Made in Italy," which tells the story of an artist (Neeson) who travels from London to Italy with his estranged son (Richardson) to restore his late wife's house after she dies in a car crash.

Though Neeson worried at first that his son might be re-traumatized while shooting the movie, the project actually helped Richardson to cope with his loss.

"You know, people lose loved ones. That’s a part of life and there were a lot of people involved who had. So there was this really kind of warm, vulnerable energy on set," he said. "At the times when it had to be emotional, it made it sort of meaningful, in a way, if that makes sense. Also I feel it was sort of like a shedding. We shed a layer of loss in a way by creating this."

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Though Richardson is from a famous acting family — in addition to his parents, his grandmother is Tony, Emmy and Oscar winner Vanessa Redgrave; his great-aunt Lynn Redgrave also has an Oscar, a Tony and an Emmy; his grandfather was Oscar-winning director Tony Richardson — acting wasn't always in his plans.

Richardson spent his teenage years partying at boarding school in an effort to distract himself from his grief. He said acting was the furthest thing from his mind.

“If you’ve lost a loved one at a young age, years will go by and then you’re out walking and it just kind of hits you. I definitely went through years of distracting myself from it," he said. "Our brains are amazing, they protect us to a degree, but they can overprotect us too, when we don’t face this thing."

The former wild child entered an internship at a Savile Row tailor and considered a career in fashion before eventually returning to New York, where he enrolled in acting classes at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute.

After making the decision to follow his family's footsteps to Hollywood, the devoted son decided to honor his late mom by changing his surname from Neeson to Richardson.

“It was mainly like (an) homage to my mother, a way to carry her with me," he explained. "Going into this industry, carrying her last name, it definitely inspires me and it is also comforting.”

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