Dame Diana Rigg, a British actress known for her iconic roles in James Bond and Game of Thrones, has died at the age of 82, the BBC confirmed today. “She died peacefully early this morning. She was at home with her family who have asked for privacy at this difficult time,” her agent said in a statement.
Rigg was actually the first person to tie down 007 in a committed relationship at the end of 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (the only Bond installment to star George Lazenby as the MI6 super-spy). However, her character, Teresa “Tracy” di Vicenzo, was tragically gunned down by Blofeld and his henchwoman shortly after her wedding to James, who was emotionally scarred (at least canonically) for years afterward.
“I knew perfectly well why I got the job. George Lazenby was ill-equipped, he was a male model,” Rigg noted during an interview in 2011. “So, I was there to sort of steer him through and give it some gravitas, which I did.”
Rigg was the perfect candidate to babysit Bond, as she already had experience in the world of espionage after playing Emma Peel on The Avengers (no relation to the Marvel team) between 1965 and 1968. The show followed the exploits of the bowler-hatted secret agent Patrick Macnee (John Steed), who worked alongside a number of female agents. Peel (whom Variety describes as “intelligent, witty, and catsuit-wearing”) was the most famous of them all and nabbed Rigg two consecutive Emmy nods in 1967 and 1968. The series was eventually adapted into an ill-fated feature film in 1998, where Uma Thurman played the role of Peel.
“She was ahead of her time,” Rigg once said of her beloved Avengers character. “Because she was highly intelligent, capable, witty, sexy, independent.”
Born in Yorkshire, England in July of 1938, Rigg’s acting career began on the stage in 1957. She arrived on the screen in a 1959 TV adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and went on to enjoy a presence in entertainment that lasted over six decades. She became a Dame in 1994.
Even at the age of 75, Rigg proved that she still had some serious acting chops when she took the part of Olenna Tyrell (aka the Queen of Thorns) on HBO’s Game of Thrones. The scheming, eloquent, and sassy grandmother of Margaery (Natalie Dormer) and Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones) became one of the most popular characters on the show until her grand plan to undermine Queen Cersei (Lena Headey) collapsed around her, and Olenna was forced to commit suicide.
“I loved the complexity of Olenna,” Rigg told Entertainment Weekly last year. “She was a political woman, and she played the game brilliantly. Anything and everything executed ruthlessly for the survival of her family, which is historical in a way, like the Borgias and various other famous families.”
In a different interview with CBS, she put it another way: “I’m thrilled young people identify with this naughty old bag I was playing.”
Rigg is survived by her daughter, Rachael Stirling. Rigg turned 82 in July.
(certain biographical info via IMDB)