I know this is late. Diana Rigg was my adolescent fantasy.
The first time I saw her was her Emmy winning role in the British espionage/satire series The Avengers. She was everything I ever wanted in a woman. Strong, beautiful, powerful, agile, kind, compassionate, and ravishingly intelligent. She set the bar for every female action hero to come. In her prime, she would have made a perfect Black Widow.
She threatened to leave the show if she didn’t get equal pay to Patrick McNee and she was popular enough she made it stick. It is said her character’s name was a play on the term “m appeal” which was jargon for “man appeal.”
“Mrs Peel. We’re needed.” And off they would go fighting villainy and pointing out the absurdity in the British class system.
The beginning and the end of a superstar
She was, IMHO, the perfect Bond girl. The only one he married. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is often considered one of the Bond franchise’s lesser lights but Diana Rigg shone in it like a tragic firebrand. Roger Moore is seen laying flowers on her grave in the next movie in the series. No other Bond girl ever got that. She is the only person to have featured in both a James Bond flick and a Dr. Who episode.
Diana was never shy about her body. At one point she delivered a sex education lecture – to a church group no less – topless.
She was so versatile! After the Avengers and the Bond movie, she starred opposite George C. Scott in the movie The Hospital. The movie won an Oscar and she was nominated for the Golden Globe Award. Then turned around and starred in a US sitcom, The Diana Rigg Show. Then in the 80s, she did an Agatha Christie film, Evil Under the Sun, with another Company actress you might have heard of, Dame Maggie Smith. And then back to her roots in a production of King Lear opposite Sir Laurence Olivier for the US television audience.
1969 or thereabouts I saw her in the CBS production of a Midsummer Night’s Dream. Dame Diana cut her acting teeth in the Royal Shakespeare Company. The show included a couple of other actresses you might remember, Dame Helen Mirren and Dame Judy Dench.
Along the way she married and then divorced an Israeli artist. Later on, she married a theater operator and former soldier, Archie Stirling that didn’t last long either but did leaver her with a beautiful daughter Rachel Stirling.
In the early 90s she hosted Mystery! on Masterpiece Theater, replacing her good friend Vincent Price. Another part of my childhood long dead. And continued acting, mostly for the British audience
She was still active right up to the end with her famous turn as Olenna Tyrell in Game of Thrones. And there are still yet roles to be seen. Next year two shows will come out. A horror show with Matt Smith, late of Dr.Who fame, Last Night In Soho will open, starring Rigg alongside Matt Smith and a part in a TV miniseries, Black Narcissus.
I shall miss her. Almost all my childhood heroes and heroines are gone now. She was most precious.
I stepped into Honor Blackman‘s shoes; Honor was what the first. I played her part, but the irony, the real irony is, that The Avengers (1961) started out as two men; it was Patrick Macnee and another actor, and the actor dropped away at the very last minute and they put Honor in and they didn’t change the script, so, she was doing all those things that men do and these gentlemen (who are no longer with us) couldn’t believe their luck, because suddenly they had female icons and they were going, ‘How did it happen?’ We didn’t have a choice, but that’s really, so I can take no credit; at all, but all I can say is, thank you very much, because it was a wonderful part and Patrick was adorable to work with and I think it came through that we really did love each other, no sex, but we loved each other. I think I got mutual respect, and we did get that.