Alan Nierob, the publicist of Richardson’s husband Liam Neeson said: “Liam Neeson, his sons, and the entire family are shocked and devastated by the tragic death of their beloved Natasha.
“They are profoundly grateful for the support, love and prayers of everyone, and ask for privacy during this very difficult time.”
Judi Dench said Richardson “had an incredibly luminous quality that you seldom see, and a great sense of humour”.
“I thought she was a really great actress,” she said.
Asked if she had had more great work to come, Ms Dench said: “I have no doubt about it. It’s just so shocking, really shocking, and I hope that everybody leaves the family quietly to somehow pick up the pieces.”
Film star Jane Fonda recalled meeting the young Richardson on the set of Julia, the 1977 film in which Fonda starred opposite Richardson’s mother, Vanessa Redgrave.
“She was a little girl but already beautiful and graceful. It didn’t surprise me that she became such a talented actor,” she said on her blog.
“It is hard to even imagine what it must be like for her family. My heart is heavy.”
Actress Demi Moore wrote online: “I am sending out prayers for Natasha Richardson and her family. A real reminder of how precious life is and how quickly it can be gone.”
Actor Kevin Spacey, artistic director of London’s Old Vic Theatre, paid tribute to Richardson’s “passion, devotion and talent”.
He said: “There are no words to express how tragic Natasha Richardson’s untimely passing is for the theatre community.
“Her passion, devotion and talent will forever be etched on those who saw her work on the stage. The bloodlines of greatness were always there and she committed herself to every role she tackled.
“All of us at the Old Vic Theatre Company mourn her loss and send our heartfelt wishes to Liam and her family.
“We hope that the warmth we all feel about her will bring some comfort to those closest to her, who shared her life, her wit, her style and know that she will never be forgotten.”
Lindsay Lohan, who co-starred with Richardson in the 1998 film The Parent Trap, said: “She was a wonderful woman and actress and treated me like I was her own. My heart goes out to her family. This is a tragic loss.”
Sam Mendes — in whose 1998 Broadway production of Cabaret Richardson starred as Sally Bowles, winning a Tony award — said: “Natasha combined the best of Redgrave and Richardson: the enormous depth and emotional force of a great actor on the one hand, and the intelligence and objectivity of a great director on the other. She was one of a kind, a magnificent actress.
“She was also an amazing mother, a loyal friend, and the greatest and most generous host you could ever hope to meet.
“It defies belief that this gifted, brave, tenacious, wonderful woman is gone.”
Film maker Ken Russell, 81, who directed Richardson in her 1986 movie debut, Gothic, said she had a “blend of tenderness and fire”.
He wrote in The Times: “She was one of the few modern actresses who was as smart as she was pretty, and as gentle as she was fierce.
“I loved her unashamedly, and wish her remarkable and wonderful mother, who must be suffering greatly at the moment, all courage and strength.”
Film director Michael Winner said: “It’s a terrible, terrible thing. It’s always tragic when people of such buoyancy and life are taken away in what appears to be utterly trivial events.
“She was a wonderful actress... and she had not yet fulfilled her possibilities.
“Whenever you met her, it was like a joy. It’s a twinkle and a sparkle that has left the world.”
Former chat show host Michael Parkinson said: “Liam is one of the nicest guys I’ve met in the business, and so was she. They were very unshowy people, they did a job, got on with their lives, enjoyed their lives — it’s very sad.”
Comedienne Joan Rivers said of the couple: “They were totally happy, totally devoted to each other. That is what kills me. Just shouldn’t happen.
“He doted on what she said, she doted on [him] — it was just perfect.”