Mad for it

James Mottram

meets NATASHA RICHARDSON and tries to lead her away from the Asylum.

part of one of Britain’s most celebrated

acting dynasties. Natasha Richardson

has always been rather overshadowed. By her parents. director Tony Richardson and legendary mother. Vanessa Redgrave: by more glamorous. younger sister. Joely: even by her husband of ll years. Liam .\'ceson. Despite starring for Paul Schrader as the eponymous kidnap victim in Party Ilt'ursl. playing Mary Shelley in Ken Russell’s (,‘m/m- and taking the lead in Harold l’inter”s adaptation of The

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llunzlmuul's 'lule. of late her career has been more fruitful on Broadway. Hollywood tends to cast her in one-dimensional roles most recently. the J-Lo vehicle. Maid in Mun/rattan.

But in David McKenzie's Asylum. the 42- year—old actress finally gets to shine on screen in what may one day be regarded as the role of a lifetime. She plays Stella. the wife of a psychiatrist (Hugh Bonneville) at a high- security l‘)5()s mental hospital. who falls for a patient (Marton (‘sokasl and begins a torrid affair. Based on Patrick McGrath's novel. it's been a pet-project for Richardson who takes an executive producer credit as well since she read the book eight years ago.

‘11 felt like my part.‘ she says. ‘I felt so connected to it. I thought. “I must play her!" I couldn't let anyone else do this. It was sheer burning passion and determination. I just couldn‘t let it go. It was very rare for an actor to feel such a connection with a part. It doesn't happen very often and I think it means something special when it does.~ She admits it was partly as a way of generating work in an industry that tends to overlook her. ‘I thought.

Nobody is going to offer me this." It’s a miracle they let me do this. It’s difficult to get a film financed and l‘m not Nicole Kidman.‘ Enduring what she called ‘huge setbacks” as the project was bounced between directors. writers and studios Richardson eventually convinced Patrick Marber to adapt McGrath‘s book. after making a trade to appear in the Broadway version of his play. Closer. By this point. she had witnessed the departure of her husband from the project when he decided to head off and make Kinsey. Whether that caused any arguments over the dinner table she will not say. just cautiously noting: ‘I think it‘s

just how it was meant to be.’

Asking politely if she can smoke. the smartly dressed Richardson reiterates how tough it was to make the film from the explicit sex scene on a greenhouse floor that left her back ‘cut to ribbons’ to the brief collapse of the project midway through the shoot. ‘I nearly fell apart.‘ she confesses. Luckily. she didn’t go the same




way of her character. who becomes tormented by her obsession and estranged from her family. 'I don‘t think this story could happen outside of l95()s class—ridden "gin-and-tonic and tea-on-the-lawn" Iingland.‘ says Richardson. ‘Here is this woman living in a very constricted society. with no outlet for her intelligence. her sexuality unfulfilled. no job. no way out. Then it's like a bomb exploding.‘

While Richardson vehemently disagreed with McKenzie (Young {IdUNIl at a press conference at the Berlin Film Festival. where Asylum made its world bow earlier in the year. after he called it a ‘cautionary tale‘. she admits such arguments are healthy. 'I think we did have different viewpoints about some things. and on other areas. we were very much on the same page. It’s difficult with a book because everyone has his or her idea of what it should be. But film is a director‘s medium. so it‘s always his vision.’

If nothing else. the Asylum experience has made her more protective of her two sons. Michael and Daniel Jack. She admits she’s not overly keen on her children joining the family business. ‘lt‘s really tough she says. “I know the pressures of what it was like being the daughter of a great actress. And they‘d be the sons of a great actor. That‘s quite a gorilla to carry on your back. So I hope they do something else.‘ Nevertheless. she‘s just completed the Merchant/Ivory production The “lure Countess. co-starring with her mother and her aunt. Lynn Redgrave. ‘My mother plays my aunt and my aunt plays my mother- in-law!‘ she laughs. secretly aware she's finally on equal footing with her clan.

Cameo, 0131 653 8030, 18 Aug, 9.15pm. Cineworld, 0131 653 8030, 20 Aug, 10.15pm. GFT, 0141 332 8128, 23 Aug, all £7.95 (£5.20).