Dame Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg was born in Doncaster in Yorkshire in 1938 and perhaps best known for playing Emma Peel in the TV series The Avengers and Countess Teresa di Vicenzo, wife of James Bond, in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service from 1969. To the younger amongst us she is best known these days for playing Olenna Tyrell in four series of Game of Thrones. Rigg was the first Game of Thrones cast member to be a knight in real life, having been made Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for services to the arts in 1994.
After studying at RADA Diana Rigg became famous on both sides of the Atlantic for playing Emma Peel in ABC’s The Avengers. After a dozen episodes, however, she found out that she was being paid less than a cameraman. For her second series of the show she managed to triple her pay from £150 a week to £450. In 2019 she was reported for saying:
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.
Rigg smoked 20 cigarettes a day for over fifty years and only gave up in 2009. In December 2017 she had heart surgery and afterwards said: “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!'”
In Game of Thrones Rigg played the role of Olenna Tyrell and first appeared in season three and killed off in the seventh. Rigg is the first Game of Thrones cast member to be a sort of knight in real life, having been made Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for services to the arts in 1994.
“I hope there’s a tinge of disgrace about me. Hopefully, there’s one good scandal left in me yet.”
There were no prototypes for me – the telly was full of little blonde juveniles.
If you’re earning equal pay to a man, you get respect. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is.
‘Game of Thrones’ is wonderful. My theory is they employ all these British actors because, one, they are like me and grateful. Two, we turn up, and we know our lines. Three, we don’t demand a 60 ft. Winnebago and PA, and four, largely we are very uncomplaining.
There is a life after being at the pinnacle of your beauty. Plenty of life and fun.
I’m portrayed as this tough broad, but I’m not.
In actual fact, I doubled ‘Twelfth Night’ and ‘The Avengers’. I was going backwards and forwards to Stratford. I played matinees Wednesday, matinee and evenings Saturdays, and the other days of the week, I was filming in Elstree.
I hope there’s a tinge of disgrace about me. Hopefully, there’s one good scandal left in me yet.
I wouldn’t like to see a female Bond, because we wouldn’t want to lose the Bond girls. But we could have a lesbian Bond – why not?
Mostly what you remember and enjoy are the scenes you played with people. And quite often, they’re the combative scenes!
I’d love to have done more film, but you can’t have everything.
Television has taught me an economy of style I didn’t have before. I feel it has done me nothing but good.
I confess I do a lot of the wrong things: I smoke, and I drink wine, and people might be horrified at my eating habits – I eat when I’m hungry, and if I’m not, I don’t.
I’ve always been on the side of fully emancipated women with independent minds.
An awful lot of actors shy away from the uglier aspects of the human condition. They want to be liked, which is a cop-out. You’ve got to go for it.
George Lazenby was ill-equipped. It’s not for nothing that they didn’t offer him any sequels.