Share A week later, the lights were all out on Broadway because Natasha Richardson was dead. She fell on a ski slope in Canada, got up, went back to her hotel, had a headache and then went into a coma. Brain-dead, she was flown back to New York, while her family rushed from all corners of the world to her bedside. Then the decision was made to turn off her life-support system. Her organs were removed — someone is looking through her forget-me-not eyes right now — and she was pronounced dead in the late afternoon, three days after the accident.
I go with Robert Fox to see Natasha for the last time. She turns to me, those blue-diamond eyes dead with disappointment. We must have terrified faces, because she looks up at Robert, with a classic Vanessa half-smile — biting her lip, boring into him with her burning eyes. He touches her hands instead. I never really noticed them when she was alive. Her long sensitive fingers are crossed over her belly and for a moment they seem to be rising and falling as she breathes.
We all look down into the casket, searching for life, but it only whispers round the rigid features. I start to feel giddy. Robert and I stand on either side of the coffin, lost in thought, searching the face for some recognisable trace, but death has sucked all the character away. Her lashes lie against her cheek and tremble slightly at the hum of the outside world, the traffic, the brakes, horns and wailing sirens that she will never hear again.
It was dusty and over-decorated with vast swooshing curtains lined with plastic, complicated wallpapers peeling and lampshades dripping with tassels. The lift trembled and groaned up the building, driven by a series of sweet doddery lift-boys.
The curtain was hanging off the rail in one corner and the tightly packed, blue-squiggle wallpaper had a damp patch over the bed. It was a drunken affair and Robert was like a coiled spring. As it happened, the couple had just had a blinding fight the night before and — unbeknown to the rest of us — were thinking of calling the whole thing off.
In reply, he began reciting from Romeo And Juliet: As I enter her dressing room, she pecks at my reflection in the glass and goes on with her work.
Angela plays Madame Arcati, the clairvoyant, originally played by Dame Margaret Rutherford, and has the funniest lines. Her entrance on stage sometimes extends for five whole minutes while the rest of us stand around and she beams star quality across the footlights, nodding modestly and waving her public on with subtle movements of encouragement.
An editor has published a bloated mugshot of my so-called botched facelift. She has the eyes of an owl and the tenacity of a mountain goat. Old-fashioned descriptions suit Angela best. Most of hers go into her performance. Many of them have loved her since Gaslight. They always love the show. She receives them in the doorway like a headmistress preparing for bed — clutching their hands but pushing them firmly out at the same time.
On stage, she takes no prisoners, grabbing all the reviews and a Tony award, leaving the rest of us dazed and confused in her undertow. As the winter sun shone on his face through the window, he looked ancient — like the crumbling statue of a Roman emperor. In the wedding photo, Robert — one of the best-looking men I know — seems slightly chubby.
This was his last year of drinking. Natasha looked beautiful but strained. The service was agnostic. The wedding breakfast — or late lunch — took place in a dark restaurant with raw brick walls, where the theme tune from The Godfather played endlessly.
This meant a lot to Robert who, I think, loved Tony more than he loved Tasha. Adding to the transitory nature of the event, everyone was leaving directly for the airport after the lunch, so we all had our bags. I was making a film with an orang-utan in the morning. Tony and Jeremy were leaving for Africa that night, embarking on one of their legendary trips.
No luggage and no medication for Tony, who was terribly unwell [he later died of Aids] — though no one knew this apart from him. Not even Robert and Natasha. My final image was of Robert and Natasha laughing, smoking and drinking — as Vanessa and I brought the house down, and Tony watched like a wizard.
When we pull ourselves away from it, others succumb and are slowly enveloped by its field, edging closer and closer. As I watch, Vanessa and Uma Thurman are leaning over her. Then Vanessa holds Uma back, looking like a heroine in a nineteenth-century melodrama. This is a theatrical wake for theatricals. Many of us here have played scenes like this in rep and on the West End stage. I walk over to Broadway in a strange, twisting mood.
Rupert pictured last year at the unveiling of the renovated tomb of Oscar Wilde at the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris The truth is Tasha and I gave one another a wide berth while she was alive. Perhaps we were more alike than we cared to admit. Both of us dreamt, after all, of entirely different careers for ourselves than the ones that we ultimately achieved. Both of us had a sharp tongue concerning others, oversensitivity about ourselves and equal doses of practicality and hysteria.
Both of us tried endlessly to remodel ourselves — physically and psychologically — for those elusive conventional careers. The fact is, we were both better character actors than love interests.
Suddenly I see the fiasco at the stage door in a new light: Tasha was holding out an olive branch to me, and it all went wrong. Advertisement Share or comment on this article: Death of Natasha Richardson plunged Rupert Everett into the strangest scene of his life.