Thursday, 10 September 2020

RIP Dame Diana Rigg

Famed British actress Dame Diana Rigg has sadly passed away at the age of 82.

Born in Doncaster, South Yorkshire in 1938, Rigg was raised by her parents in Bikaner, India. Returning to the UK, she trained as an actress and made her stage debut in 1957 and her TV debut two years later. In 1965 she was cast in the first of her three major screen roles on the fourth season of British spy series The Avengers, playing Emma Peel. Peel was an action heroine with a line in witticisms, engaged in a constant battle of comebacks and ambiguous tension with her co-star Patrick Macnee (playing John Steed). The Avengers was a huge success, one of the few UK shows which also aired in prime-time in the United States, but Rigg was unhappy with being paid only a quarter or so the amount of her co-star. For her second season she argued and won a big pay increase, but news of the dispute leaked to the press and Rigg was castigated in the tabloids for being greedy, despite still being paid less than Macnee. She quit the show after the fifth season ended in 1968.

Although the move was not seen as helpful for her career, it surprisingly paid off when she was cast in the next James Bond film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), as Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo. She was the love interest for James Bond (George Lazenby in his sole outing in the role) but rather than a typical "Bond girl" she was presented as Bond's intellectual equal, winning his genuine respect. She and Bond marry, but in a memorable twist she is killed at the end of the film (this was actually material shot for the start of the next film, Diamonds Are Forever, but Lazenby quitting the role caused them them to be moved back into Majesty). Arguably Teresa has a greater impact on Bond's life than any of his other partners, and is the only one to be referred to (if often obliquely) in multiple other films.

Rigg continued to act on stage and on screen in both the UK and USA, and maintained a steady stream of appearances, including an acclaimed performances in Evil Under the Sun (1982). Between 1989 and 2003 she hosted the PBS television series Mystery! Always happy to play for laughs as well as in more serious roles, she appeared in The Great Muppet Caper (1981) and sent up both herself and co-star Daniel Radcliffe in Extras (2006).

In 2013 Rigg starred in Doctor Who, in the episode The Crimson Horror, alongside her daughter Rachael Stirling. Rigg then chalked up her final iconic role when she was cast as Lady Olenna Tyrell, the "Queen of Thorns," in the third season of Game of Thrones. She reprised the role across five seasons, becoming the nemesis of Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey). Her character was killed off in the seventh season.

During her career she was nominated for three Tony Awards and seven Emmy Awards, winning one (in 1997 for her role in Rebecca). She also won two BAFTAs during her career.