English actress Diana Rigg, known to seniors for her groundbreaking role as a spy in The Avengers in 1961 and known to younger fans as a matriarch in Game of Thrones, died today at the age of 82, her family announced.
Rigg first came to stardom as Emma Peel in the British TV Series, The Avengers (1961-1969), where she co-starred with Patrick MacNee (1922-2015), who played John Steed.
Most recently Rigg portrayed Olenna Tyrell, matriarch of the powerful House Tyrell, in HBO’s Game of Thrones. Rigg is also famed for having the only starring role as the wife of James Bond and for hosting PBS Mystery.
“She was at home with her family who have asked for privacy at this difficult time. Dame Diana was an icon of theatre, film, and television,” Beresford told Fox News in a statement. “She was the recipient of BAFTA, Emmy, Tony and Evening Standard Awards for her work on stage and screen. Dame Diana was a much loved and admired member of her profession, a force of nature who loved her work and her fellow actors. She will be greatly missed.”
Rigg’s daughter, Rachael Stirling, said that the cause of death was cancer, which Rigg had been diagnosed with in March. A smoker from the age of 18, Rigg was still smoking 20 cigarettes a day in 2009. By December 2017, she had stopped smoking after serious illness led to heart surgery, a cardiac ablation, two months earlier.
Rigg as Emma Peel
You can see the entire Avengers series for a rental fee on Amazon Prime.
Fans of The Avengers will recognize the introduction to the series below. This was posted on Youtube by VideoBeat
Rigg was interviewed about her role as Emma Peel on The Avengers by The British Film Institute in 2015; here is the interview.
Diana Rigg as Wife of James Bond
Rigg starred as the wife of James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969. Here’s a preview from Classic Trailers. You can view the complete movie at:
About Diana Rigg (from Wikipedia)
Dame Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg, Emma Peel in the TV series The Avengers (1965–68), Countess Teresa di Vicenzo, wife of James Bond, in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) and Olenna Tyrell in Game of Thrones (2013–17). She also enjoyed a career in theatre, including playing the title role in Medea, both in London and New York, for which she won the 1994 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play. She was made a CBE in 1988 and a Dame in 1994 for services to drama.(20 July 1938 – 10 September 2020) was an English actress. She played
Rigg appeared in the British 1960s television series The Avengers (1961–69) opposite Patrick Macnee as John Steed, playing the secret agent Emma Peel in 51 episodes. Rigg auditioned for the role on a whim, without ever having seen the programme. Although she was hugely successful in the series, she disliked the lack of privacy that it brought. Also, she was not comfortable in her position as a sex symbol. In an interview with The Guardian in 2019, Rigg stated that “becoming a sex symbol overnight had shocked” her. She also did not like the way that she was treated by production company Associated British Corporation (ABC). Her starting weekly salary was £150 and for her second series she held out for a pay raise to £450; she said in a 2019 interview.
On the big screen she became a Bond girl in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), playing Tracy Bond, James Bond‘s only wife, opposite George Lazenby. She said she took the role with the hope that she would become better known in the United States.
Beginning in 1998, Rigg played the role of Mrs. Adela Bradley, a well-to-do psychoanalyst and amateur detective, in The Mrs Bradley Mysteries television series. Produced by the BBC and set in the 1920s, the stylish series was based on a character created by British detective writer Gladys Mitchell, and ran between August 1998 and February 2000.
In 2013 Rigg secured a recurring role in the third season of the HBO series Game of Thrones, portraying Lady Olenna Tyrell, a witty and sarcastic political mastermind popularly known as the Queen of Thorns, the paternal grandmother of regular character Margaery Tyrell. Her performance was well received by critics and audiences alike, and earned her an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series.
She reprised her role in seasons four, five and six four of Game of Thrones, and her character was finally killed off in the seventh season.
In the 1960s, Rigg lived for eight years with director Philip Saville, gaining attention in the tabloids when she disclaimed interest in marrying the older, already-married Saville, saying she had no desire “to be respectable.” She was married to Menachem Gueffen, an Israeli painter, from 1973 until their divorce in 1976, and to Archibald Stirling, a theatrical producer and former officer in the Scots Guards, from 25 March 1982, until their divorce in 1990. With Stirling, Rigg has a daughter, actress Rachael Stirling, who was born in 1977.
Rigg was an outspoken critic of feminism, saying in 1969, “Women are in a much stronger position than men.”
Michael Parkinson, who first interviewed Rigg in 1972, described her as the most desirable woman he ever met, who “radiated a lustrous beauty”. A smoker from the age of 18, Rigg was still smoking 20 cigarettes a day in 2009. By December 2017, she had stopped smoking after serious illness led to heart surgery, a cardiac ablation, two months earlier. A devout Christian, she commented that: “My heart had stopped ticking during the procedure, so I was up there and the good Lord must have said, ‘Send the old bag down again, I’m not having her yet!'”
In a June 2015 interview with Stephen Bowie of The A.V. Club, Rigg also commented about the chemistry between Patrick Macnee and herself on The Avengers, despite being 16 years apart: “I sort of vaguely knew Patrick Macnee, and he looked kindly on me and sort of husbanded me through the first couple of episodes. After that we became equal, and loved each other and sparked off each other. And we’d then improvise, write our own lines. They trusted us. Particularly our scenes when we were finding a dead body—I mean, another dead body. How do you get ’round that one? They allowed us to do it.” She also said about the improvisation of the dialogue: “Not for an instant, no. Well, when I say improvising, Pat and I would sit down and work out approximately what we’d say. It wasn’t sort of…who’s the American duo? Mike Nichols and Elaine May. It was definitely not that.” Asked if she had ever stayed in touch with Macnee (the interview was published two days before Macnee’s death and decades after they were reunited for one last time on her short-lived American series Diana): “You’ll always be close to somebody that you worked with very intimately for so long, and you become really fond of each other. But we haven’t seen each other for a very, very long time.”
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