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Natasha Richardson, 45, is dead, family says

Actress Natasha Richardson, 45, died Wednesday after a skiing accident near Montreal earlier this week.

"Liam Neeson, his sons, and the entire family are shocked and devastated by the tragic death of their beloved Natasha," the family said in a statement released shortly before 8 p.m. Wednesday. "They are profoundly grateful for the support, love and prayers of everyone, and ask for privacy during this very difficult time."

>>Natasha Richardson remembered for her elegance
>>PHOTOS: Natasha Richardson through the years

Richardson was flown from Montreal Tuesday night to Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan. She had reportedly suffered from bleeding on the brain after the Monday accident, which occurred during a beginner's ski lesson.

Grim reports about her condition emerged throughout Wednesday afternoon, as media assembled in a vigil outside the hospital. Family and friends came and went during the day.

Natasha Richardson was born May 11, 1963, in London, part of a theatrical dynasty that also included Sir Michael Redgrave, her grandfather, her mother, Vanessa Redgrave, and Lynn Redgrave, her aunt.

Her first national reviews came in 1986 with an appearance opposite her mother in Chekhov's "The Seagull." The performance won her the London Drama Critics' Circle award as most promising newcomer.

Her feature film debut came the same year, as Mary Shelley in "Gothic." During the next five years, she made films as diverse as the sci-fi drama "The Handmaid's Tale" and Paul Schrader's dark thriller "The Comfort of Strangers." In 1998, Richardson played Lindsay Lohan's mother in "The Parent Trap."

Still, it was her theatrical bloodlines that ran deepest. In her 1993 Broadway debut, she played a former prostitute in a revival of Eugene O'Neill's "Anna Christie" and was nominated for a Tony Award.

But it was not the Tony nod that proved her greatest reward from that effort - it was her relationship with co-star Liam Neeson. In April 1993, as rumors of an affair with Neeson began to take hold, Richardson ended a decade-long marriage to producer Robert Fox. She and Neeson wed the following year.

The couple have a home on Central Park West, and also kept a retreat in upstate Millbrook, where they entertained celebrity guests, including Ralph Fiennes, Griffin Dunne, Meryl Streep and Laura Linney.

In 1998, Richardson returned to Broadway, triumphing as Sally Bowles in "Cabaret." Richardson won the Tony, Outer Critics Circle, Drama League and Drama Desk Awards for best actress in a musical.

Richardson made her last Broadway appearance in 2005, as Blanche DuBois in "A Streetcar Named Desire."

In January, Richardson and her mother performed in a benefit concert reading of Stephen Sondheim's "A Little Night Music." There had been rumors the duo were planning a longer run of the revival in New York.

In addition to Neeson, and her mother, Richardson is survived by two sons, Michael and Daniel, and "Nip/Tuck" actress Joely Richardson. Her father was Oscar-winning director Tony Richardson.

Pervaiz Shallwani and Peter Holley contributed to this story which was supplemented with an Associated Press report.

>>Natasha Richardson remembered for her elegance
>>PHOTOS: Natasha Richardson through the years


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