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"Why do you persist in rescuing me, Mr. Bond?"

- as Tracy from from On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)

Diana Rigg was forced to turn down the role of Elizabeth in Paint Your Wagon (1969) with Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin, due to illness. Jean Seberg replaced her.

Diana Rigg, DBE (1938 - 2020) was an English actress who played Emma Peel in the TV series The Avengers (1965–1968); Countess Teresa di Vicenzo, wife of James Bond, in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969); and Olenna Tyrell in Game of Thrones (2013–2017). 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.

Rigg was born in Doncaster in 1938, to Louis Rigg, a railway engineer (1903–1968) and Beryl Hilda (née Helliwell; 1908–1981). Between the ages of two months and eight years, Rigg lived in Bikaner, Rajasthan, India, where her father was employed as a railway executive in the Bikaner State Railway. She spoke Hindi as her second language in those years.

She was later sent back to England to attend a boarding school, Fulneck Girls School, in a Moravian settlement near Pudsey. Rigg hated her boarding school where she felt like a fish out of water but she believed that Yorkshire played a greater part in shaping her character than India did. She trained as an actress at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art from 1955–57, where her classmates included Glenda Jackson and Sian Phillips.

Rigg's career in film, television and the theatre was wide-ranging, including roles in the Royal Shakespeare Company between 1959 and 1967. Her professional debut was as Natasha Abashwilli in the RADA production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle at the York Festival in 1957, then joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1959.

She returned to the stage in the Ronald Millar play Abelard and Heloise in London in 1970 and made her Broadway debut with the play in 1971, earning the first of three Tony Award nominations for Best Actress in a Play. Rigg was the first major actor (along with co-star Keith Michell) to appear nude on stage in the production of Abelard and Heloise in 1970. A savage review from John Simon for her performance in Abelard and Heloise led her to collect devastating theatrical reviews throughout history. The result was her book, "No Turn Unstoned", published in 1982. She received her second Tony nomination in 1975, for The Misanthrope. A member of the National Theatre Company at the Old Vic from 1972 to 1975, Rigg took leading roles in premiere productions of two Tom Stoppard plays, Dorothy Moore in Jumpers (National Theatre, 1972) and Ruth Carson in Night and Day (Phoenix Theatre, 1978).

In 1982, she appeared in a musical called Colette, based on the life of the French writer and created by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, but it closed during an American tour en route to Broadway. In 1987, she took a leading role in the West End production of Stephen Sondheim's musical Follies.

Rigg played Medea in 1992 at the Almeida and Wyndham's in London and again in New York, where she won the 1994 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play. She was also awarded the 1992 London Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Actress for her performance in "Medea". She was awarded the 1996 London Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Actress for her performances in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" and "Mother Courage". her performances have led critics to proclaim her one of the greatest actresses on the British stage.

In 2004, she appeared as Violet Venable in Sheffield Theatres' production of Tennessee Williams's play Suddenly Last Summer, which transferred to the Albery Theatre. In 2006, she appeared at the Wyndham's Theatre in London's West End in a drama entitled Honour which had a limited but successful run. In 2007, she appeared as Huma Rojo in the Old Vic's production of All About My Mother, adapted by Samuel Adamson and based on the film of the same title directed by Pedro Almodovar.

She appeared in 2008 in The Cherry Orchard at the Chichester Festival Theatre, returning there in 2009 to star in Noel Coward's Hay Fever. In 2011, she played Mrs. Higgins in Pygmalion at the Garrick Theatre, opposite Rupert Everett and Kara Tointon, having played Eliza Doolittle 37 years earlier at the Albery Theatre.

In February 2018, she returned to Broadway in the non-singing role of Mrs. Higgins in My Fair Lady. She commented on taking the role, "I think it's so special. When I was offered Mrs. Higgins, I thought it was just such a lovely idea." She received her fourth Tony nomination for the role.

But Rigg is probably best known for appearing 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, replacing Elizabeth Shepherd at very short notice when Shepherd was dropped from the role after filming two 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).

For her second series of the Avengers she held out for a pay rise from £150 a week to £450; she said in 2019, when gender pay inequality was very much in the news, that "not one woman in the industry supported me ... Neither did Patrick [Macnee, her co-star]... But I was painted as this mercenary creature by the press when all I wanted was equality. It’s so depressing that we are still talking about the gender pay gap." She did not stay for a third year. Patrick Macnee noted that Rigg had later told him that she considered Macnee and her driver to be her only friends on the set.

In a June 2015 interview with the website The A.V. Club, Rigg commented about the chemistry between Patrick Macnee and herself on The Avengers despite there being a 16 years age difference between them: "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 professionally 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." Asked if she had 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."

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 (below). She said she took the role with the hope that she would become better known in the United States. In 1973 she ventured into American sitcom TV with the short lived series Diana. It was NBC's answer to The Mary Tyler Moore Show but was cancelled after 15 episodes.

Her other films from this period include The Assassination Bureau (1969), Julius Caesar (1970), The Hospital (1971), Theatre of Blood (1973), In This House of Brede (1975), based on the book by Rumer Godden, and A Little Night Music (1977). She appeared as the title character in The Marquise (1980), a television adaptation of play by Noel Coward. She appeared in the Yorkshire Television production of Ibsen's Hedda Gabler (1981) in the title role, and as Lady Holiday in the film The Great Muppet Caper (1981). The following year she received acclaim for her performance as Arlena Marshall in the film adaptation of Agatha Christie's Evil Under the Sun, sharing barbs with her character's old rival, played by Maggie Smith.

She appeared as Regan, the king's treacherous second daughter, in a Granada Television production of King Lear (1983) which starred Laurence Olivier in the title role. As Lady Dedlock, she costarred with Denholm Elliott in a television version of Dickens' Bleak House (BBC, 1985) and played the Evil Queen, Snow White's evil stepmother, in the Cannon Movie Tales's film adaptation of Snow White (1987). In 1989, she played Helena Vesey in Mother Love for the BBC; her portrayal of an obsessive mother who was prepared to do anything, even murder, to keep control of her son won Rigg the 1990 BAFTA for Best Television Actress.

In 1995, she appeared in a film adaptation for television based on Danielle Steel's Zoya as Evgenia, the main character's grandmother.

She appeared on television as Mrs Danvers in Rebecca (1997), winning an Emmy, as well as the PBS production Moll Flanders, and as the amateur detective Mrs Bradley in The Mrs Bradley Mysteries. In this BBC series, first aired in 2000, she played Gladys Mitchell's detective, Dame Beatrice Adela Le Strange Bradley, an eccentric old woman who worked for Scotland Yard as a pathologist. The series was not a critical success and did not return for a second series.

From 1989 until 2003, she hosted the PBS television series Mystery!, shown in the United States by PBS broadcaster WGBH, taking over from Vincent Price, her co-star in Theatre of Blood.

She also appeared in the second series of Ricky Gervais's comedy Extras, alongside Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe and in the 2006 film The Painted Veil in which she played a nun.

In 2013, she appeared in an episode of Doctor Who in a Victorian-era based story called "The Crimson Horror" alongside her daughter Rachael Stirling, Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman. The episode had been specially written for her and her daughter by Mark Gatiss and aired as part of series 7. It was not the first time mother and daughter had appeared in the same production, that was in the 2000 NBC film In the Beginning, but the first time she had worked with her daughter and also the first time in her career her roots were accessed to find a Doncaster, Yorkshire, accent.

The same year, 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 (played by Natalie Dormer). Her performance was well received by critics and audiences alike, and earned her an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series in 2013. She reprised her role in season four of Game of Thrones, and in July 2014 received another Guest Actress Emmy nomination. In 2015 and 2016, she again reprised the role in seasons five and six in an expanded role from the books. The character was killed off in the seventh season, with Rigg's final performance receiving critical acclaim. In April 2019 Rigg said she had never watched Game of Thrones, before or after her time on the show.

In the 1960s, Rigg lived for eight years with director Philip Saville, gaining attention in the tabloid press 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 1982, until their divorce in 1990 after his affair with the actress Joely Richardson. With Stirling, Rigg has a daughter, actress Rachael Stirling, who was born in 1977, five years before their marriage.

Rigg was a Patron of International Care & Relief and was for many years the public face of the charity's child sponsorship scheme. She was also Chancellor of the University of Stirling, a ceremonial rather than executive role, that lasted for ten years.

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 (one pack) a day in 2009. By December 2017, she had stopped smoking after serious illness led to heart surgery, a cardiac ablation, two months earlier. She joked later, "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!'"

Her first grandchild, a boy named Jack (born to Rachael Stirling and Elbow frontman Guy Garvey), was born in April 2017. Rigg died at her home in London on September 10th 2020, at the age of 82. Her daughter said that the cause of death was cancer, which Rigg had been diagnosed with in March.

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    Selected Diana Rigg TVography

Affairs of the Heart
- Grace (1974)

All Creatures Great and Small
- Andante (2020)
- Another Farnon? (2020)

Armchair Theatre
- The Hothouse (1964)

The Avengers
- series co-star as Emma Peel (1965 - 1968)

Black Narcissus (TV Mini-Series)
- as Mother Dorothea (2021)

Bleak House (TV Mini-Series)
- as Lady Honoria Dedlock

Charles II: The Power & the Passion
- Episode #1.3 (2003)
- Episode #1.1 (2003)

Detectorists
- as Veronica (6 episodes - 2015 - 2017)

Diana
- series star as Diana Smythe (1973 - 1974)

Doctor Who
- The Crimson Horror (2013)

Extras
- Daniel Radcliffe (2006)

Festival
- The Comedy of Errors (1964)

Game of Thrones
- as Olenna Tyrell (18 episodes - 2013 - 2017)

ITV Play of the Week
- Women Beware Women (1965)

ITV Saturday Night Theatre
- Married Alive (1970)

Mother Love (TV Mini-Series)
- as Helena Vesey, Episodes 1-4 (1989)

The Mrs Bradley Mysteries
- The Worsted Viper (2000)
- Laurels Are Poison (2000)
- The Rising of the Moon (2000)
- Death at the Opera (2000)
- Speedy Death (1998)

Murder in Mind
- Suicide (2003)

Mystery!
- Host (1989-2004)

Oresteia (TV Mini-Series)
- Furies (1979)
- Grave Gifts (1979)
- Agamemnon (1979)

Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero
- as Mayor Pink Panda (2015 - 2017)

The Play on One
- Unexplained Laughter (1989)

Three Piece Suite
- Little Things... That Go Bump in the Night/Every Day in Every Way/Walking the Dog (1977)
- Come in, No.1/This Situation/All in the Mind (1977)
- Miss/Celluloid Dreams/Mea Culpa (1977)
- Bitter Suite/Entrance Fee/Public Lives (1977)
- After You're Gone/Little Things... Parking/Wonderful Woman (1977)
- Hearts and Flowers/Screen Night/Briefer Encounter (1977)

The Sentimental Agent
- A Very Desirable Plot (1963)

The Snail and the Whale
- Narrator (2019)

Road to Avonlea
- The Disappearance (1993)

You, Me and the Apocalypse
- The End of the World (2015)
- 24 Hours to Go (2015)
- T Minus... (2015)
- Home Sweet Home (2015)
- Still Stuff Worth Fighting For (2015)

Victoria
- as Duchess of Buccleuch (9 episodes - 2017)

    Selected Diana Rigg Filmography

1968

A Midsummer Night's Dream

1969

Mini-Killers

The Assassination Bureau

On Her Majesty's Secret Service

1970

Julius Caesar

1971

The Hospital

1973

Theatre of Blood

1977

A Little Night Music

1981

The Great Muppet Caper

1982

Evil Under the Sun

1987

Snow White

1994

A Good Man in Africa

1998

Parting Shots

2005

Heidi

2006

The Painted Veil

2015

The Honourable Rebel

Professor Branestawm Returns (TV Movie)

2017

A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong (TV Movie)

Breathe

2021

Last Night in Soho

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