London: Commanding British actress Diana Rigg whose career stretched from iconic 1960s spy series The Avengers to fantasy juggernaut Game of Thrones, has died. She was 82. Rigg’s agent, Simon Beresford, said she died Thursday morning at home with her family. Daughter Rachael Stirling said Diana Riggs died of cancer that was diagnosed in March.
Rigg ‘spent her last few months joyfully reflecting on her extraordinary life, full of love, laughter and a deep pride in her profession. I will miss her beyond words’, Stirling said.
Rigg starred in The Avengers as secret agent Emma Peel alongside Patrick Macnee’s bowler-hatted John Steed. The pair was an impeccably dressed duo who fought villains. They also traded quips in a show whose mix of adventure and humour was enduringly influential.
Rigg also starred in 1969 James Bond thriller On Her Majesty’s Secret Service as Tracy di Vicenz. Incidentally it was in the film she became the only woman ever to marry, albeit briefly, Agent 007. Bond producers Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli said Rigg was ‘much beloved by Bond fans for her memorable performance’.
George Lazenby made his only appearance as Bond in the film. He said on Instagram that he was ‘so sad to hear of the death of Diana Rigg. She undoubtedly raised my acting game when we made On Her Majesty’s Secret Service together in 1968-69’.
Later, she played ‘Olenna Tyrell’ – the formidable ‘Queen of Thorns’ – in Game of Thrones. She received an Emmy Award nomination for the role.
Other television roles included the ‘Duchess of Buccleuch’ in period drama Victoria. Rigg also starred alongside her daughter in the gentle British sitcom Detectorists.
Rigg spent several years in the 1960s as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. She combined screen work with a major stage career, in plays including William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Rigg had several acclaimed roles in the 1990s at London’s Almeida Theatre, including Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and the title role in Greek tragedy Medea.
Rigg won a Tony Award for Medea on Broadway. She was nominated on three other occasions – most recently in 2018 for playing ‘Mrs Higgins’ in My Fair Lady.
Jonathan Kent directed Rigg in some of her great stage roles. He said her ‘combination of force of personality, beauty, courage and sheer emotional power made her a great classical actress’.
Rigg never retired. One of Rigg’s final television roles was in rural veterinary drama All Creatures Great and Small which is currently running on British television.