- British actor Diana Rigg, who proved a prolific talent on stage and screen, has passed away at the age of 82, her agent has confirmed in a statement. The iconic performer “died peacefully” earlier today, and “was at home with her family who have asked for privacy at this difficult time.”
Rigg became a TV staple in the 1960s playing Emma Peel in spy show The Avengers, a role which that she played for over three years and across 51 episodes. During her time on the show, she is said to have successfully fought for better pay after learning that she was earning less than the cameraman, and eventually left the show in 1967 to play other roles. She fronted her own American sitcom Diana between 1973 and 1974, and decades later played the role of Mrs Danvers in Jim O’Brien’s 1997 TV adaptation of Rebecca.
In her later years, Rigg became known to a whole new generation of TV viewers on HBO’s epic fantasy series Game Of Thrones, playing the genial but acid-tongued role of Olenna Tyrell between Seasons 2 and 7. A fan-favourite character, she was beloved for sparring on screen with Charles Dance in the earlier seasons, and in her – SPOILER ALERT – final scene in the show, she delivered the iconic “Tell Cersei, I want her to know it was me” speech.
Following her time on Game Of Thrones, Rigg went on to play the Duchess of Buccleuch on ITV’s royal period drama Victoria.
On the big screen, Rigg was best well-known for playing Teresa ‘Tracy’ Draco in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, notable among female characters in James Bond movies as the woman that Bond actually married, becoming Mrs. Tracy Bond – though the character was famously killed in a dramatic twist at the end of the film.
Her Bond co-star George Lazenby wrote a touching tribute to Rigg, released on his Instagram page. “I’m so sad to hear of the death of Diana Rigg,” he writes. “She undoubtedly raised my acting game when we made On Her Majesty’s Secret Service together in 1968-9. I remember the press conference at the Dorchester in London, knowing she was going to play my wife. We had fun together on the set of the movie in Switzerland and Portugal. Her depth of experience really helped me. We were good friends on set. Much was made of our supposed differences but that was the Press looking for a news story. I was sorry to have lost my wife in the film at the end. The death of Contessa Teresa di Vincenzo Draco created a memorable cinema moment over 50 years ago. As my new bride, Tracy Bond, I wept for her loss. Now, upon hearing of Dame Diana’s death, I weep again. My deepest condolences for her family. Love George xx”
Elsewhere, Rigg was a notable Shakespearean actor, appearing in many Shakespeare plays on stage, and starring in film adaptations of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Julius Caesar, and on TV in King Lear.
Rigg can currently be seen in Channel 5’s acclaimed adaptation of All Creatures Great And Small, and in the BBC’s upcoming take on Black Narcissus. Her final film role is expected to be in Edgar Wright’s psychological horror-thriller Last Night In Soho. Our thoughts are with her friends, family, and loved ones.