Diana Rigg has played some notable villainesses on TV. Firstly came Lady Honoria Dedlock in the BBC mini-series Bleak House (1985); then there was Helena Vesey in the mini-series
Dame Diana Rigg
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It was a great thrill to meet Dame Diana Rigg at the Entertainment Media Show held at Earls Court, London in October 2011.
She signed my Jeff Marshall lithograph of On Her Majesty's Secret Service and also her photograph in my Bond Girls book.
Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg was born in Doncaster in 1938. Her parents were based in India, where her father, Louis Rigg, was a civil engineer for a railway company owned by the Maharaja of Bikaner. Herm
The iconic Emma Peel from The Avengers, isn't normally a guest at conventions, so it was a rare chance to meet, and be photographed with, this star of the theatre.
Her mother, Beryl, came back to England just for the birth, before returning to India with the babytwo
baby two months later. Diana has one older brother, Hugh (b. 1934) who later became an RAF test pilot.
Young Diana in India
Diana Rigg as a child
For the first eight years of her life, Diana lived in India but she returned to England in 1946, and was sent to a boarding school at Great Missenden
Missenden in Buckinghamshire. Three years later she was moved to Fulneck School (established
(established in 1753 by the Moravian Church) in Pudsey after failing to get a place at Leeds Grammar School. Although she disliked this school, she found the elocution teacher there, Sylvia Greenwood, quite inspirational. She had ambitions for Diana, and was instrumental in helping her to get an audition atRADA
Diana Rigg aged about 13
at RADA, where she was accepted in 1955. Mrs Greenwood then approached LeedsC
Leeds City Council for finance, and the Council eventually gave Diana a scholarship.
Diana Rigg was not a star pupil at RADA. She admits that she didn't workh
Diana Rigg & Paul Scofield in King Lear
work hard enough, knew little about the theatre, and had no idea what she was aiming for. Despite this, she eventually scraped through. he made her professional debut with RADA in 1957 as Natella Abashwili in Brecht's The Caucasian Chalk Circle, at the Theatre Royal in York. After leaving RADA, she was turned down by the Royal Shakespeare Company and went into weekly repertory theatre, later becoming an assistant stage manager at Chesterfield.
Christopher Bidmead & Diana Rigg in an
RSC production of Twelfth Night
Chesterfield. Diana Rigg did eventually join the RSC. After a year's apprenticeship there ("I carried spears, literally, as an amazon in A Midsummer Night's Dream"), she was given a three-year contract under their director Peter Hall. She played Bianca, Helena & Lady Macduff, also Cordelia to Paul Scofield's King Lear.
Diana Rigg & Michael Jayston in
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Diana Rigg also did some TV work which led to her role as Emma Peel in The Avengers. She was selected from hundreds of other actresses who auditioned for the part, which had been written for a man to play, hence the 'all-action' nature of the role. She didn't enjoy her time on the series
The Avengers (Series 5)
Series (saying that Patrick
Patrick McNee was her only friend) and left it in 1968 after only two years with the series. She did, however, make 51 episodes of the series, and her character Emma Peel is the one by which many people still remember Diana Rigg.
Diana Rigg & Patrick MacNee in The Avengers
Patrick MacNee and Rigg in The Avengers
More theatre work followed with Shaw's Pygmalion in 1974; two plays by Tom Stoppard - Jumpers (1973) and Night and Day
Michael Hordern & Diana Rigg in Jumpers
Keith Michell & Diana Rigg in
Abelard and Heloise
Day (1978) and Abelard and Heloise (1971) in which Rigg had a nude scene with Keith Michell. In this, she was famously described by one critic as being 'built like a basilica with insufficient
insufficient flying buttresses'.
John Thaw & Diana Rigg in Night and Day
In 1987, she played a leading role
Diana Rigg in Sondheim's Follies
Diana Rigg as Lady Macbeth
role in the Stephen Sondheim musical Follies at the West End Theatre, with the words of one song ("Ah, But Underneath") specifically written for her to sing.
Diana Rigg in the title role of Medea
It was in her mid-fifties that Rigg hit a purple patch, playing three award-winning leads in succession
Diana Rigg in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
succession for Almeida productions. In Medea (1993), at Wyndham's Theatre, she played a vengeful wife and child killer, which won her a Tony Award for Best Actress. This success was followed by Brecht's Mother Courage (1995atthenational
Diana Rigg in Mother Courage
Diana Rigg in Phedre
Diana Rigg in Pygmalion
Diana Rigg's more recent stage appearances have been as Violet Venable in Tennessee Williams' Suddenly Last Summer (2004) on a national tour; Huma Rojo in All About My Mother (2007) at the Old Vic; Madame Ranevskaya in The Cherry Orchard (2008) at the Chichester Festival Theatre and Mrs Higgins in Shaw's Pygmalion (2011) at the Garrick Theatre.
On the big screen, Rigg tookthepart
took the part of Bond girl Tracy Di Vicenzo in the Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969). Tracy is Bond's only wife, and Rigg says she took the part to increase her profile in America. She had little time for George
George Lazenby, even suggesting she would eat garlic before filming the love scene!
Later films included the black comedy The Hospital (1971) with George C. Scott; the musical A Little Night Music (1977) with Elizabeth Taylor; and the film adaptation of Agatha Christie's Evil Under the Sun (1982) for which she received critical acclaim for her performance. However she still remains somewhat mystified as to why her film career never really took off.
Diana Rigg and George Lazenby in
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
George C Scott & Diana Rigg in
Diana Rigg in Evil Under the Sun
Diana Rigg in A Little Night Music
Diana Rigg has many TV roles
being her first TV role in a Shakespeare play. Later, she appeared in the title role of Yorkshire TV's production of Hedda Gabler in 1981, and as Regan in Granada TV'spro#
TV's production of King Lear in 1983, with Laurence Olivier.
Diana Rigg in the TV version of Hedda Gabler
Diana Rigg & Laurence Olivier in King Lear
Rigg as Adrianna in Comedy of Errors
mini-series Mother Love (1989) and finally Mrs Danvers (for which she won an Emmy Award) in Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca (1997) starring Charles Dance and Emilia Fox.
Less successful was the series The Mrs Bradley Mysteries (1998-2000) with Diana Rigg in the title role as an eccentric old pathologist who worked for Scotland Yard. In 2001, she played Baroness Lehzen in the lavishly produced TV movie Victoria and Albert. Another memorable TV appearance wason
Diana Rigg as Mrs Danvers with
Emilia Fox in Rebecca
Diana Rigg in Victoria and Albert
Diana Rigg in Mother Love
Diana Rigg as Lady Dedlock in Bleak House
was when she madeag
Diana Rigg in The Mrs Bradley Mysteries
made a guest appearance as Nell Gwynne on the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show in 1975.
Diana Rigg with Eric and Ernie on
As a result of some bad press reviews of some of her theatre roles, Diana Rigg compiled a book of them
them called No Turn Unstoned. Published in 1982, it quickly became a best seller. Although Rigg
Rigg has said that she will not bew
be writing an autobiography, a book Diana Rigg: The Biography by Kathleen Tracy, was published in 2004.
The Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show
Diana Rigg has been a lifelong smoker "I started smoking when I was 12 years old and never stopped", but at the age of 72, she gave up the habit "because I had to".
Diana Rigg smokes in All About My Mother
Diana Rigg has been married twice.
Rigg with Manachem Gueffen
Diana Rigg with Archibald Stirling
twice. Her first husband was the Israeli artist Menachem
Menachem Gueffen. They married in 1973 and divorced three years later. In 1982, Rigg married the Scottish landowner and theatrical producer Archibald Stirling, but this too ended in divorce in 1990. They had one daughter, the actress Rachael Stirling (b.1977).
Diana Rigg was awarded the CBE in 1988, and became a Dame in 1994. For ten years from 1998, she was Chancellor of the University of Stirling.
Diana Rigg asChancellor of
the University of Stirling
Entertainment Media Show in October 2011
I took this photo of Diana Rigg at the
Diana Rigg has signed her photo
in my Bond Girls book
roles to her name. She was first seen in the BBC's Ondine in 1961, with Adrianna in Comedy of Errors (1964) being
(1995) at the National Theatre and Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1996), co-starring David Suchet at the Aldwych Theatre. Rigg won London Evening Standard Drama Awards
Awards for Best Actress in each of these plays. In the 1998 production of Racine's Phèdre at the Albery Theatre, Diana Rigg played the queen who falls in love with her stepson. The play was translated by the then poet laureate Ted Hughes.
As Lady Macduff in Macbeth
Jeff Marshall lithograph