|Dame Diana Rigg|
20 July 1938 |
Doncaster, West Riding of Yorkshire, England
Archibald Stirling (1982–90, divorced)
Dame Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg, DBE (born 20 July 1938) is an English actress. She is perhaps best known for the role of Emma Peel in the TV series The Avengers, which she appeared in from 1965 to 1968. She has also had an extensive career in the theatre both in Britain and America.
Rigg made her professional stage debut in 1957 in The Caucasian Chalk Circle and joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1959. In 1971, she made her Broadway debut in Abelard & Heloise. She played Medea in 1992 at the Almeida and Wyndham's in London and again in New York, where she won the 1994 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play.
On television, she starred in the 1989 BBC miniseries Mother Love, for which she won a BAFTA Award for Best Actress and the 1997 adaptation of Rebecca, which won her an Emmy Award. Her film roles include, Helena, in A Midsummer Night's Dream (1968), Countess Teresa di Vicenzo in the James Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), Lady Holiday in The Great Muppet Caper (1981) and Arlene Marshall in Evil Under the Sun (1982).
Early life and education
Rigg was born in Doncaster, then in the West Riding of Yorkshire, now in South Yorkshire to Louis Rigg (1903–1968) and Beryl Hilda Helliwell (1908–1981); her father was a railway engineer who had been born in Yorkshire. Between the ages of two months and eight years Rigg lived in Bikaner, India, where her father was employed as a railway executive.
Hindi was her second language in those young years (and she still today enjoys finding a smattering of words and phrases when ordering dining out Indian). She was then sent to a boarding school, the Moravian School in Fulneck, near Pudsey. She disliked her boarding school, where she felt like a fish out of water, but she believes that Yorkshire played a greater part in shaping her character than India did. She trained as an actress at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art from 1955-57.
Rigg's career in film, television and the theatre has been wide-ranging, including roles in the Royal Shakespeare Company between 1959 and 1964. Her professional debut was in The Caucasian Chalk Circle in 1957.
A return to the stage and a nude scene with Keith Michell in the Ronald Millar play Abelard and Heloise in 1970 led to a notorious description of her as 'built like a brick basilica with insufficient flying buttresses', by the acerbic critic John Simon. (Simon's line is often rendered incorrectly, with "mausoleum" in place of "basilica."). Following its success in London, she made her Broadway debut with the play in 1971, earning the first of three Tony Award nominations for Best Actress in a Play. She received her second nomination in 1975, for The Misanthrope. A member of the National Theatre Company at the Old Vic from 1972 to 1975, Rigg took leading roles in premiere productions of two Tom Stoppard plays, Dorothy Moore in Jumpers (National Theatre, 1972) and Ruth Carson in Night and Day (Phoenix Theatre, 1978).
In 1982, she appeared in a musical called Colette, based on the life of the French writer and created by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, but it closed during an American tour en route to Broadway. In 1987 she took a leading role in the West End production of Stephen Sondheim's musical Follies. In the 1990s, she had triumphs with roles at the Almeida Theatre in Islington, including Medea in 1992 (which transferred to the Wyndham's Theatre in 1993 and then Broadway in 1994, for which she received the Tony Award for Best Actress), Mother Courage at the National Theatre in 1995 and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Almeida Theatre in 1996 (which transferred to the Aldwych Theatre in 1997).
In 2004, she appeared as Violet Venable in Sheffield Theatres' production of Tennessee Williams's play Suddenly Last Summer, which transferred to the Albery Theatre. In 2006, she appeared at the Wyndham's Theatre in London's West End in a drama entitled Honour which had a limited but successful run. In 2007, she appeared as Huma Rojo in the Old Vic's production of All About My Mother, adapted by Samuel Adamson and based on the film of the same title directed by Pedro Almodóvar.
She appeared in 2008 in The Cherry Orchard at the Chichester Festival Theatre, returning there in 2009 to star in Noël Coward's Hay Fever. In 2011 she played Mrs Higgins in Pygmalion at the Garrick Theatre, opposite Rupert Everett and Kara Tointon, having played Eliza Doolittle 37 years earlier at the Albery Theatre.
Film and television career
Rigg appeared in the cult British 1960s television series The Avengers (1965–67) playing the secret agent Mrs Emma Peel in 51 episodes, replacing Elizabeth Shepherd at very short notice when Shepherd was dropped from the role after filming two episodes. Rigg auditioned for the role of Emma Peel on a whim, without ever having seen the programme. Although she was hugely successful in the series, she disliked the lack of privacy that it brought. She also did not like the way that she was treated by the Associated British Corporation (ABC). After a dozen episodes she discovered that she was being paid less than a cameraman. For her second season she held out for a pay rise from £150 a week to £450, but there was still no question of her staying for a third year. Patrick Macnee, her co-star in the series, noted that Rigg had later told him that she considered Macnee and her driver to be her only friends on the set.
On the big screen she became a Bond girl in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), playing Tracy Bond, James Bond's only wife. She said she took the role with the hope that she would become well known in America. Throughout the filming of the movie, there were rumours that the experience was not a happy one, owing to a personality clash with Bond actor George Lazenby. The rumours may have arisen from a reporter witnessing her say "I'm having garlic for lunch George, I hope you are!" before a love scene between the two. However, both Rigg and Lazenby have denied the claims, and both wrote off the garlic comment as a joke.
Her other films from this period include The Assassination Bureau (1969), The Hospital (1971), Theatre of Blood (1973), In This House of Brede (1975) (based on the book by Rumer Godden) and A Little Night Music (1977). She appeared as the title character in The Marquise (1980), a television adaptation of play by Noël Coward. In 1981 she appeared in a Yorkshire Television production of Hedda Gabler in the title role, and as Lady Holiday in the film The Great Muppet Caper (1981). The following year she received acclaim for her performance as murder victim Arlena Marshall in the film adaptation of Agatha Christie's Evil Under the Sun.
She appeared as Regan, the king's treacherous second daughter, in a Granada Television production of King Lear (1983), which starred Laurence Olivier in the title role. She costarred with Denholm Elliot in a television version of Dickens' Bleak House (BBC, 1985), and played the Wicked Queen in the Cannon adaptation of Snow White (1987). In 1989 she played Helena Vesey in Mother Love for the BBC; her portrayal of an obsessive mother who was prepared to do anything, even murder, to keep control of her son won Rigg the 1989 BAFTA for Best Television Actress.
In the 1990s she appeared on television as Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca (winning an Emmy Award in the process), as well as the PBS production Moll Flanders, and as the amateur detective Mrs. Bradley in The Mrs Bradley Mysteries. In this BBC series, first aired in 2000, she played Gladys Mitchell's detective, Dame Beatrice Adela Le Strange Bradley, an eccentric old woman who worked for Scotland Yard as a pathologist. The series was not a critical success and did not return for a second season.
From 1989 until 2003, she hosted the PBS television series Mystery!, taking over from Vincent Price, her co-star from Theatre of Blood. Her TV career in America has been varied; anomalously she starred in her own sitcom Diana in 1973, but it was not successful.
In 2013 she appeared in an episode of Doctor Who in a Victorian-era based story called The Crimson Horror alongside her daughter Rachael Stirling, Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman. The episode had been specially written for her and her daughter by Mark Gatiss and aired as part of series 7. It was the first time she had worked with her daughter and had been able to use her native Doncaster accent.
That year she also co-starred in the third season of the HBO series Game of Thrones, portraying Lady Olenna Tyrell, a witty and sarcastic political mastermind popularly known as the Queen of Thorns. Her performance earned her an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards.
In the mid-1960s, Rigg lived for eight years with actor/director Philip Saville, causing some degree of scandal in the tabloids when she disclaimed interest in marrying the older, already-married Saville, by saying she had no desire "to be respectable". Her marriage to Menachem Gueffen, an Israeli painter, lasted from 1973 until their divorce in 1976, at which time Saville gave her moral support by phoning every day, while telling the press "when a woman has been in your life a long time, she never really leaves it. I hope to be seeing her often, but I have no plans to marry her." She was married to Archibald Stirling, a theatrical producer and former officer in the Scots Guards, from 1982 until they divorced in 1990. The marriage broke up when Stirling had an affair with actress Joely Richardson. With Stirling, Rigg has a daughter, actress Rachael Stirling, who was born in 1977.
Rigg is a Patron of International Care & Relief and was for many years the public face of the charity's child sponsorship scheme. She was also Chancellor of the University of Stirling, being succeeded by James Naughtie when her ten-year term of office ended on 31 July 2008.
|1968||Midsummer Night's Dream, AA Midsummer Night's Dream||Helena|
|1969||Assassination Bureau, TheThe Assassination Bureau||Sonya Winter|
|1969||On Her Majesty's Secret Service||Contessa Teresa (Tracy) di Vicenzo/Mrs James Bond|
|1971||Hospital, TheThe Hospital||Barbara Drummond|
|1973||Theatre of Blood||Edwina Lionheart|
|1977||Little Night Music, AA Little Night Music||Charlotte Mittelheim|
|1981||Great Muppet Caper, TheThe Great Muppet Caper||Lady Holiday|
|1982||Evil Under the Sun||Arlena Marshall|
|1987||Snow White||The Evil Queen, Snow White's evil stepmother|
|1994||Good Man in Africa, AA Good Man in Africa||Chloe Fanshawe|
|2006||Painted Veil, TheThe Painted Veil||Mother Superior|
|1959||Midsummer Night's Dream, AA Midsummer Night's Dream||Bit part||TV film|
|1963||Sentimental Agent, TheThe Sentimental Agent||Francy Wilde||Episode: "A Very Desirable Plot"|
|1964||Festival||Adriana||Episode: "The Comedy of Errors"|
|1964||Armchair Theatre||Anita Fender||Episode: "The Hothouse"|
|1965||ITV Play of the Week||Bianca||Episode: "Women Beware Women"|
|1965–1968||Avengers, TheThe Avengers||Emma Peel||Main role (51 episodes)|
|1970||ITV Saturday Night Theatre||Liz Jardine||Episode: "Married Alive"|
|1973–1974||Diana||Diana Smythe||Main role (15 episodes)|
|1974||Affairs of the Heart||Grace Gracedew||Episode: "Grace"|
|1975||In This House of Brede||Philippa||TV film|
|1975||The Morecambe & Wise Show||Nell Gwynne||Sketch in Christmas Show|
|1977||Three Piece Suite||Various||Regular role (6 episodes)|
|1980||Marquise, TheThe Marquise||Eloise||TV film|
|1981||Hedda Gabler||Hedda Gabler||TV film|
|1982||Play of the Month (BBC)||Rita Allmers||Episode: Little Eyolf|
|1982||Witness for the Prosecution||Christine Vole||TV film|
|1983||King Lear||Regan||TV film|
|1985||Bleak House||Lady Honoria Dedlock||TV miniseries|
|1986||Worst Witch, TheThe Worst Witch||Miss Constance Hardbroom||TV film|
|1987||Hazard of Hearts, AA Hazard of Hearts||Lady Harriet Vulcan||TV film|
|1989||Play on One, TheThe Play on One||Lydia||Episode: "Unexplained Laughter"|
|1989||Mother Love||Helena Vesey||TV miniseries
British Academy Television Award for Best Actress
Broadcast Press Guild Award for Best Actress
|1992||Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris||Mme. Colbert||TV film|
|1993||Road to Avonlea||Lady Blackwell||Episode: "The Disappearance"|
|1993||Running Delilah||Judith||TV film|
|1993||Screen Two||Baroness Frieda von Stangel||Episode: "Genghis Cohn"
Nominated – CableACE Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie
|1995||Haunting of Helen Walker, TheThe Haunting of Helen Walker||Mrs. Grose||TV film|
|1996||Fortunes and Misfortunes of Moll Flanders, TheThe Fortunes and Misfortunes of Moll Flanders||Mrs. Golightly||TV film|
|1996||Samson and Delilah||Mara||TV film|
|1997||Rebecca||Mrs. Danvers||TV miniseries
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
|1998||American, TheThe American||Madame de Bellegarde||TV film|
|1998–2000||Mrs Bradley Mysteries, TheThe Mrs Bradley Mysteries||Mrs. Adela Bradley||Main role|
|2000||In the Beginning||Mature Rebeccah||TV film|
|2001||Victoria & Albert||Baroness Lehzen||TV miniseries
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
|2003||Murder in Mind||Jill Craig||Episode: "Suicide"|
|2003||Charles II: The Power and the Passion||Queen Henrietta Maria||TV miniseries|
|2006||Extras||Herself||Episode: Daniel Radcliffe|
|2013||Game of Thrones||Lady Olenna Tyrell||Season 3
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series
|2013||Doctor Who||Mrs. Winifred Gillyflower||Episode: The Crimson Horror|
|1964||King Lear||Cordelia||Royal Shakespeare Company (European/US Tour)|
|1966||Twelfth Night||Viola||Royal Shakespeare Company|
|1971||Abelard and Heloise||Heloise|
|1974||Pygmalion||Elisa||Albery Theatre, London|
|1978||Night and Day||Ruth||Phoenix Theatre, London|
|1975||Misanthrope, TheThe Misanthrope||Célimène|
|1982||Colette||Colette||US national tour|
|1983||Heartbreak House||Lady Ariadne Utterword||Theatre Royal Haymarket, London|
|1985||Little Eyolf||Rita||Lyric Theatre, London|
|1985||Antony and Cleopatra||Cleopatra||Chichester Festival Theatre, UK|
|1986||Wildfire||Bess||Theatre Royal, Bath & Phoenix Theatre, London|
|1987||Follies||Phyllis||Shaftesbury Theatre, London|
|1990||Love Letters||Melissa||Stage Door Theatre, San Francisco|
|1992||Putting It Together||Old Fire Station Theatre, Oxford|
|1992||Berlin Bertie||Rosa||Royal Court Theatre, London|
|1998||Phaedra||Phaedra||Almeida Theatre, London|
|1998||Britannicus||Agrippina||Almedia Theatre, London & New York City|
|2001||Humble Boy||Flora||National Theatre, London|
|2002||The Hollow Crown||International Tour: New Zealand, Australia, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK|
|2004||Suddenly, Last Summer||Violet||Albery Theatre, London|
|2006||Honour||Honour||Wyndham's Theatre, London|
|2008||Cherry Orchard, TheThe Cherry Orchard||TGanevskya||Chichester Festival Theatre, UK|
|2011||Pygmalion||Mrs Higgins||Garrick Theatre, London|
Awards and nominations
|1967||Emmy Award||Best Actress in a Drama Series||The Avengers||Nominated|
|1968||Emmy Award||Best Actress in a Drama Series||The Avengers||Nominated|
|1971||Tony Award||Best Actress in a Play||Abelard and Heloise||Nominated|
|1972||Golden Globe||Best Supporting Actress (motion picture)||The Hospital||Nominated|
|1975||Tony Award||Best Actress in a Play||The Misanthrope||Nominated|
|1975||Emmy Award||Best Actress in a TV Movie||In This House of Brede||Nominated|
|1990||BAFTA TV Award||Best Actress||Mother Love||Won|
|1990||Broadcasting Press Guild Award||Best Actress||Mother Love||Won|
|1994||Olivier Award||Best Actress||Medea||Nominated|
|1994||Tony Award||Best Actress in a Play||Medea||Won|
|1996||Olivier Award||Best Actress||Mother Courage||Nominated|
|1997||Olivier Award||Best Actress||Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf||Nominated|
|1997||Emmy Award||Best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie||Rebecca||Won|
|1999||Olivier Award||Best Actress||Britanicus and Phedre||Nominated|
|2002||Emmy Award||Best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie||Victoria & Albert||Nominated|
|2013||Critics' Choice Television Award||Best Guest Performer in a Drama Series||Game of Thrones||Nominated|
|2013||Emmy Award||Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series||Game of Thrones||Nominated|
- Parkinson, Michael (14 October 2010). Parky's People. Hodder & Stoughton. p. 316. ISBN 978-1-84894-696-5. Retrieved 12 April 2012.
- DiPaolo, Marc (31 March 2011). War, Politics and Superheroes: Ethics and Propaganda in Comics and Film. McFarland. p. 79. ISBN 978-0-7864-4718-3. Retrieved 12 April 2012.
- Meet... Dame Diana Rigg, BBC South Yorkshire. Retrieved 14 July 2006.
- Nigel Farndale (17 August 2008). "Diana Rigg: her story". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
- Diana Rigg during her Parkinson Interview 15 September 2007 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpmdE68R_w0&feature=related
- Dave Rogers The Complete Avengers, London: Boxtree, 1989; New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989, p.169
- J.G. Lane, "Diana Rigg Biography". Retrieved 3 December 2010
- Bond's Beauties – James Bond, Diamonds Are Forever, Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Live and Let Die, Moonraker, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, The Man With the G...
- Doctor Who, "Dame Diana Rigg and Rachael Stirling to Star in New Series!". Retrieved 3 July 2012
- "Dame Diana Rigg Joins Season 3 of HBO's 'Game of Thrones' | The Playlist". Blogs.indiewire.com. Retrieved 28 April 2013.
- Miss Peelpants (7 February 2011). "Diana Rigg and Philip Saville". Vintage-a-Peel. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
- Tracy, Kathleen (2004). Diana Rigg: The Biography. Dallas: BenBella Books. p. 38. ISBN 978-1932100273.
- Hauptfuhrer, Fred (15 July 1974). "Being Mr. Diana Rigg Was Too Much for Gueffen". People 2 (3). Retrieved 19 September 2013.
- Groskop, Viv (17 February 2010), "Rachael Stirling is a rising stage star – and she's in love with her ass", London Evening Standard, retrieved 12 June 2011
- My body & soul – Diana Rigg, actress, 70
- Ciaran Brown. "Ciaran Brown meets Avengers actress Dame Diana Rigg". Ciaranbrown.com. Retrieved 28 April 2013.
- Biography for Diana Rigg at the Internet Movie Database
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Diana Rigg.|
- Diana Rigg at the Internet Broadway Database
- Diana Rigg at the Internet Movie Database
- Diana Rigg at the TCM Movie Database
- DianaRigg.net, unofficial website
Jill St. John