ENTERTAINMENT
02/15/2011 04:40 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Liam Neeson Talks Natasha Richardson's Death, Grief In Esquire

Liam Neeson tried to run away, but the pain still hits him hard. And no matter how many jobs he takes, the planned healing doesn't quite happen.

The Oscar-nominated actor and icon opened up to Esquire Magazine about his life and the loss of his wife, actress Natasha Richardson, who died after a skiing accident in March 2009.

Neeson was in Montreal shooting a movie when it happened -- ironic, he says, because she was in Canada when he suffered a life-threatening accident -- and when he got to the hospital, just getting to his ailing wife was problematic.

"I walked into the emergency -- it's like seventy, eighty people, broken arms, black eyes, all that -- and for the first time in years, nobody recognizes me. Not the nurses. The patients. No one... So I went outside. It's freezing cold, and I thought, What am I gonna do? How am I going to get past the security?

"And I see two nurses, ladies, having a cigarette. I walk up, and luckily one of them recognizes me. And I'll tell you, I was so f**king grateful -- for the first time in I don't know how long -- to be recognized. And this one, she says, 'Go in that back door there.' She points me to it. 'Make a left. She's in a room there.' So I get there, just in time. And all these young doctors, who look all of eighteen years of age, they tell me the worst. The worst."

After the initial shock, Neeson went back to work, in part so that he could heal. "I think I survived by running away some. Running away to work," he said. Neeson began filming "Clash of the Titans" in April of that year, less than a month after the tragedy.

And even though he's been prolific in his movie output of late -- including "Taken," "The A Team," and his upcoming film, "Battleship," -- the pain always catches up.

"It's easy enough to plan jobs, to plan a lot of work. That's effective. But that's the weird thing about grief. You can't prepare for it. You think you're gonna cry and get it over with. You make those plans, but they never work.

"It hits you in the middle of the night -- well, it hits me in the middle of the night. I'm out walking. I'm feeling quite content. And it's like suddenly, boom. It's like you've just done that in your chest."

In June of 2009, Neeson spoke at Queens University Belfast, where he received an honorary degree years after dropping out. He quoted a poet in saying that art heals the heart.

For so much more, including Neeson talking about his and Richardson's sons, stories about growing up and the politics in his home country of Northern Ireland, click over to Esquire.