2020 has taken yet another legend as THEE Dame Diana Rigg, one of The Greats who conquered the stage, television, film, and James Bond, and was friends with the Muppets, is now bringing grace, talent, and beauty to the afterworld. She was 82.
Dame Diana’s agent, Simon Beresford, delivered the sad news in a statement, saying that she died peacefully at home with her family. And the overflowing FUCK CANCER! file is overflowing, even more, today, because Diana’s daughter, Rachael Stirling, said in a statement that she was diagnosed with cancer in March and Rachael was by her side when she left the world:
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.
Dame Diana Rigg (born name: Dame Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg. Yes, she came out of the womb as a Dame, don’t fact check me on that) spent a piece of her childhood in India before going off to boarding school in England. Once she graduated, she started her journey in becoming the legendary actress that she was by training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts where Glenda Jackson was one of her classmates.
Diana made her professional acting debut in a York Festival production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle in 1957 before acting in several productions for the Royal Shakespeare Company. And in 1961, she got the role that made her an instant STAH. Diana joined the cast of The Avengers (not to be confused with those other Avengers) as Emma Peel after Elizabeth Shepherd left the role after just two episodes.
Diana became an overnight sex symbol, which was a little uncomfortable for her. In an interview with The Guardian last year, Diana said that her mother handled her fan mail and splashed ice water on her horny young fans.
I didn’t know how to handle it and I kept all the unopened fan mail in the boot of my car because I didn’t know how to respond and thought it was rude to throw it away. Then my mother became my secretary and replied to the really inappropriate ones saying: “My daughter’s far too old for you. Go take a cold shower!”
When Diana found out that the cameraman on The Avengers was paid a lot more than her, she fought for a raise from £150 a week to £450 for her second series and got a lot of shit for it. She said that nobody supported her including Patrick Macnee, the John Steed to her Emma Peel, but she never held it against him.
When Diana shimmied out of the Emma Peel leather jumpsuit for good, she played James Bond’s wife, Tracy Bond, opposite George Lazenby in 1969’s (wink wink) On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
Diana returned to the stage in London in 1970 by starring in Abelard and Heloïse, and when the play went to Broadway a year later, she got her first Tony nomination. She was also nominated in 1975 for her performance in The Misanthrope, and finally won the Best Actress in a Play Tony in 1994 for playing the title role in Medea. Diana starred in many, many theater productions during her career, and most recently, she played Mrs. Higgins in the Broadway revival of My Fair Lady in 2018. Lauren Ambrose played Eliza Doolittle in that production and got the honor of getting checked by Dame Diana Rigg for not doing all 8 shows a week.
Diana’s other movie and TV credits include The Hospital, A Little Night Music, Heidi, The Painted Veil, Last Night in SoHo (which is coming out next year), Diana, Road to Avonlea, The Worst Witch, Rebecca, Victoria & Albert, Doctor Who, Extras, and The Great Muppet Caper, where she was perfection as the sternly elegant Lady Holiday:
And the children of today might know Dame Diana Rigg best as Lady Olenna Tyrell on Game of Thrones where Lady Olenna joined The Bad Bitch Hall of Fame with this:
I didn’t even watch Game of Thrones and can you tell you that Dame Diana Rigg was the best part of it. Playing Lady Olenna got Diana four Emmy nominations. She was also nominated for The Avengers, Victor & Albert, In This House of Brede, and Rebecca. She won the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie Emmy in 1997 for Rebecca.
Rest in peace, Dame Diana Rigg, a badass to the very end.