Diana Rigg, ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘The Avengers’ Star, Dies at 82
Diana Rigg, one of the biggest stars in British television history, has died. Rigg, whose TV, film, and theater career spanned half a century, and included several of the most influential TV shows ever, passed away at her home in England on Thursday. She was 82 years old.
Rigg won a Tony Award for Medea in 1994 and an Emmy for a television miniseries version of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca three years later. But her most famous and important work remains The Avengers, the popular British spy series that first aired in the 1960s. (No relation to the Marvel comic and movies.) Through the years, The Avengers cycled through various partners for Patrick Macnee’s John Steed; Rigg’s Emma Peel joined the show in its fourth season. Though she appeared in less than a third of The Avengers’ 161 episodes, Peel (not to mention her leather catsuit) became synonymous with the show.
Rigg left The Avengers in 1967 after just two seasons on the show, frustrated with her treatment as a sex symbol and her low pay. (Her salary was supposedly lower than the show’s cameraman.) A few years ago, she spoke at the BFI about her tenure on The Avengers and her reasons for the departure.
One of the reasons Rigg left The Avengers was to take the role of Teresa in the 1969 James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. More than a mere “Bond girl,” Teresa became Bond’s partner on his latest adventure — and then, at the end of the film, his wife. Teresa’s shocking death in On her Majesty’s Secret Service’s final scenes reverberated through the franchise for decades. Rigg might the best and most important Bond girl in the series’ 25-film history.
Rigg, who spent part of her early career with the Royal Shakespeare Company, worked steadily through the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, appearing in movies like Julius Caesar, The Hospital, and The Great Muppet Caper, as the star of her own TV sitcom Diana, and in stage productions of Macbeth, Pygmalion, and Antony and Cleopatra. In 2013, she got another signature role when she joined the cast of Game of Thrones as the sharp-tongued Olenna Tyrell.
It all adds up to a remarkable career, for an actor who left an enormous impact on popular culture, and even on fashion. She will be missed, but she leaves a legacy to rival any actress of her era.
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