Diana Rigg, the Tony and Emmy winner who splashed into the world of television with her commanding turn as intelligence agent Emma Peel on "The Avengers" in the 1960s and played Lady Olenna Tyrell on "Game of Thrones" decades later, has died, BBC News reported Thursday. She was 82.
On "Game of Thrones" Rigg recurred as Olenna Tyrell, also known as the Queen of Thorns, beginning with the third season in 2013, and she was Emmy nominated for guest actress in a drama for her work on the show in 2013,2014 and 2015.
In "The Avengers," a British espionage series with sci-fi, fantasy and surreal elements that ran from 1961-69, Patrick Macnee starred as bowler hat-bedecked John Steed, who worked opposite various female agents over the course of the show, of which Rigg's intelligent, witty and catsuit-wearing Mrs. Peel was by far the most memorable. The actress appeared in 51 episodes of the series from 1965-68, and was twice Emmy nominated for her work, in 1967 and 1968. In 2000 she shared a special Bafta Award with Honor Blackman, Joanna Lumley and Linda Thorson, who had all appeared opposite Macnee's Steed in "The Avengers." A feature adaptation of the series, starring Ralph Fiennes as Steed and Uma Thurman as Mrs. Peel, was released in 1998. Macnee died in June 2015.
More recently Rigg also appeared in BSkyB and NBC's "You, Me and the Apocalypse " in 2016.
In between she won an Emmy for playing Mrs. Danvers in a TV adaptation of "Rebecca" in 1997. She also received an Emmy nomination in 1975 for lead actress in a special program for "In This House of Brede," in which she played a London businesswoman who opts to become a nun, and in 2002 for supporting actress in a miniseries or movie for "Victoria & Albert."
Rigg was also a noted stage actress in England who appeared on Broadway three times, starring in "Abelard and Heloise" in 1971 (her nude scene in the play and critic John Simon's tart assessment of her body generated publicity); a revival of Moliere's "The Misanthrope" in 1975; and a staging of "Medea" in 1994 -- drawing a Tony nomination each time for best actress in a play and winning for "Medea."
Rigg also made a number of notable appearances on the bigscreen. She played a significant role in the history of the James Bond film franchise by portraying, with great elan, Tracy Di Vicenzo, the woman whom Bond, played by George Lazenby, marries with great joy in 1969's "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," only to see her murdered by the minions of arch villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
The actress also starred with George C. Scott in the Arthur Hiller-directed, Paddy Chayefsky-penned satire "The Hospital" (1971); the classic Vincent Price horror film "Theatre of Blood" (1973); the 1982 Agatha Christie adaptation "Evil Under the Sun," in which she played the despised and thus dispatched Arlena Marshall; and most recently 2006's "The Painted Veil," in which she played the Mother Superior.
Other film credits include "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (1968),"The Assassination Bureau" (1969),"Julius Caesar," starring Charlton Heston (1970),"A Little Night Music," with Elizabeth Taylor (1977),"The Great Muppet Caper" (1981),"Snow White," as the Evil Queen (1987), Bruce Beresford's "A Good Man in Africa," starring Sean Connery (1994),"Parting Shots" (1998) and "Heidi."
Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg was born in Doncaster, Yorkshire, England; she spent her early childhood in India. She did her training as an actress at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art from 1955-57, and made her professional stage debut in Brecht's "The Caucasian Chalk Circle" in 1957.
Rigg was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1959-64, touring Europe and the U.S. as Cordelia in a RSC production of "King Lear" (she revisited the play in 1983, when she was Regan to Laurence Olivier's Lear); she was also Viola in a 1966 RSC staging of "Twelfth Night."
Though she had considerable stage experience, Rigg had few TV credits when she was cast in "The Avengers" in 1965.
During the 1960s Rigg lived for eight years with actor-director Philip Saville, who was both older and otherwise married; she caused some scandal in the British tabloids when she proclaimed no interest in marrying Saville, saying she had no desire "to be respectable".
She married Israeli painter Menachem Gueffen in 1973, but the couple divorced three years later.
She was married to theatrical producer Archibald Stirling from 1982 until their divorce in 1990; they broke up when Stirling had an affair with actress Joely Richardson.
Rigg is survived by a daughter she had with Stirling, actress Rachael Stirling. – Reuters
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