Micheál Richardson lost his mother, actor Natasha Richardson, in 2009. But today, 11 years later, the 25-year-old actor still can't wrap his mind around the loss.
"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," he told Vanity Fair in a new interview. "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."
Natasha Richardson was a veteran actor when she died at 45, following a fall while skiing. She was married to actor Liam Neeson at the time, and had two children: Micheál, who was 13 at the time of her death, and Daniel, who was 12. Micheál took her surname two years ago to honor her.
"I think the pain was a little too overwhelming," he said. "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."
Richardson comes from a long line of actors: 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. And, of course, his father has a long string of theatrical hits.
He told Vanity Fair that he hasn't seen all of his parents' films, but has favorites: For dad, it's 1993's "Schindler's List," which earned Neeson an Academy Award nomination. For his mother, it's lighter fare: 1998's "The Parent Trap" remake, in which she played mom to Lindsay Lohan's twin characters.
"That’s more or less what she was like," he said. "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." He imitated her by saying "Darling!" then added, "I'm so lucky because I have her captured on film."
"Watch What Happens Live" host Andy Cohen echoed that sentiment elsewhere in the Vanity Fair story, telling the magazine, "You watch her in 'The Parent Trap,' and she’s kind of playing the perfect mother…That's reminiscent of how she was as a mom. She was not a checked-out superstar. She was involved and engaged and wonderful and loving. I mean, I think of her every day. So I can't imagine being her son and losing her. It's heartbreaking to me still."
Meanwhile, acting is providing a place for Richardson to feel close to both of his parents, in different ways. He and Neeson are now appearing in a new film, the comedy "Made in Italy," which releases on Aug. 7. There are similarities in the story to the loss of his mother, which he says gave him some peace.
"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," he said.