Acting Legend, Dame Diana Rigg, who is famous for her roles in franchises like Game of Thrones and James Bond, has died at the age of 82. According to her daughter, the actress died of cancer.
A statement from Simon Beresford said, “It is with tremendous sadness that we announce that Dame Diana Rigg died peacefully early this morning. She was at home with her family, who have asked for privacy at this difficult time,” the statement read. “Dame Diana was an icon of theatre, film, and television. 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.”
“She spent her last months joyfully reflecting on her extraordinary life”
Born Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg, in Doncaster, Yorkshire, England, in 1983, Dame Diana spent most of her early childhood in India. She did her training as an actress at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art from 1955 to 1957. And made her professional stage debut in Brecht’s “The Caucasian Chalk Circle” in 1957. The actress was also a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1959 to 1964 and appeared on Broadway three times.
She got married to the Israeli painter, Menachem Gueffen, in 1973. However, three years later, the couple got a divorce. She was also married to theatrical producer, Archibald Stirling from 1982 until their divorce in 1990. Rigg is survived by her daughter with Archibald, actress Rachael Stirling.
Rachael issued a statement sharing her grief over the loss of her mother. “My Beloved Ma died peacefully in her sleep early this morning, at home, surrounded by family. She died of cancer diagnosed in March, and spent her last months joyfully reflecting on her extraordinary life, full of love, laughter and a deep pride in her profession. I will miss her beyond words.”
“She went to work with her sleeves rolled up and a smile for everyone”
Big names in the industry, the likes of Sir David Hare and Sir Tom Stoppard also paid tribute to the late actress.
Sir David honored Rigg in his statement, “Diana Rigg had a dazzling change of direction in middle age as a great classical actor. When Emma Peel played Euripides’ Medea, Albee’s Martha and Brecht’s Mother Courage she swept all before her.”
Fondly remembering the late actress, Sir Tom wrote, “For half her life Diana was the most beautiful woman in the room, but she was what used to be called a trooper. She went to work with her sleeves rolled up and a smile for everyone. Her talent was luminous.”
“She was a beautiful kind and generous human being that enhanced the lives of all that knew her as well as a great actress. She leaves a great void in my heart,” said Lionel Larner, Rigg’s longtime friend and talent agent.
“I think it’s quite wrong that I’m being paid less than the cameraman”
Rigg rose to prominence in the 1960s thanks to her role in hit TV series The Avengers where she played the role of secret agent, Emma Peel alongside Patrick Macnee. Rigg was remembered not only for her performance on the show but for her actions outside the show as well. During her time on the Avengers, the actress was stunned to discover that she was being paid significantly less than her male co-stars. She threatened to quit the show until and unless the producers gave her a pay rise. The higher ups eventually obliged, especially since the show was doing incredibly well in America.
She previously spoke about the incident, saying, ‘I was a lone voice in the wilderness, nobody backed me up. Pat Macnee kept his head well below the parapet when I stepped forward and said ”I think it’s quite wrong that I’m being paid less than the cameraman.”
‘Of course then I was painted as this sort of mercenary woman. And hard headed and money grabbing and all the rest of it. But it struck me as being unfair so I spoke out. I’ve always thought that equal pay gets you a long way to being treated equally by a man,” said the legendary actress.
Rigg went on to star in the 1979 hit show All Creatures Great and Small. She was also popularly recognized for her role as Tracy, the only woman who became Mrs James Bond, in the 1969 film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The actress also appeared in ITV’s Victoria.
More recently she played the iconic Lady Olenna Tyrell, also known as the Queen of Thorns, in HBO’s Megahit series, Game of Thrones. She was Emmy nominated for Guest Actress in a Drama for her work on the series in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Although Rigg admitted in 2019 that she never watched the show.
She was currently seen playing Mrs Pumphrey in Channel 5’s new adaptation of All Creatures Great and Small. The actress also had two projects in development including Last Night in Soho and Black Narcissus.
Rigg was a regular recipient of award nominations for her work both on stage and on screen. In 1994 she won the Best Actress in a Play Tony for Medea. She also won an Emmy for Rebecca in 1997, a BAFTA TV award in 1990, and received several Olivier nominations.