Goodbye, Darling

I first heard her crisp, regal, British accent over the phone one day while working as an intern. “Hello Darling,” she said. “This is Natasha. With whom am I speaking?” Once I gave her my name, she never forgot it in four years of phone conversations. Every time she called, no matter who answered, it was always “Hello Darling.” It felt classy and very Old-Hollywood glamorous.

I heard her voice at its most upbeat (when talking about her sons or about a film she was about to do) and at its most devastating, in a voice message she left while trying to locate her close friend (my co-worker) right after her husband, Liam Neeson’s nearly fatal motorcycle accident. The fear and desperation in her voice was chilling.

A year later, my friend became her assistant and called me to do some script reading for her. “I told her how much you love adaptations,” said my friend.“And she’s sending a book she’s passionate about.” The book was Asylum by Patrick McGrath. It came with a handwritten note and a copy of a first draft of the script. “Be honest” was all the note said. I devoured the book. It was incredible, it was the perfect story to get lost in. It would make a great movie. My notes started with “This must get made.” Natasha had an instinct and went with it. Seven years later, with many writers and directors circling the material, hoping she would give it up, she raised the money and got the movie made on her terms: script approval, starring role, producer. The movie that ended up making its way to theaters wasn’t quite the one she envisioned, but it got MADE. Despite the cries of “She’s too old to play the lead,” “The project needs a name actress,” “Can’t she get her husband to play opposite her?” She projected her passion on the screen.

I wrote her a note after seeing the film, congratulating her on her intuition and fortitude. We exchanged a few emails after that, but then lost touch. Last year I saw her at a preview of “The Year of Magical Thinking,” which starred her mother. I watched her watch her mother on stage with complete joy and pride. We exchanged a quick hello after the show, having not seen each other in five years and even then, having only met a few of times in person. After reminding her who I was, a smile lit up her face, she grabbed my hands and said, “Hello, Darling.”

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