Dame Diana Rigg and Vanessa Red­grave

diana Rigg on why she quit The Avengers, her joy at be­ing a Bond girl and shoot­ing scenes in the big­gest show in the world

TV Times - - My Week - game of Thrones Kara Warner Is pre­viewed on pages 52-53

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Dame Diana Rigg changed tele­vi­sion. In the 1960s al­most all women on TV were ei­ther happy house­wives or damsels in dis­tress, un­til the ac­tor broke the mould as Emma Peel, a cat­suit-wear­ing se­cret agent who karate-chopped bad guys in cult se­ries The Avengers.

‘What I re­mem­ber most is the ex­tra­or­di­nary ef­fect she had on the view­ing pub­lic be­cause she was the pro­to­type of the in­de­pen­dent woman,’ says Diana fondly of the role that shot her to fame. ‘Every bit as in­tel­li­gent as any man.’

At 79, Diana still has the husky voice, wicked smile and ra­zor-sharp wit that made her so pop­u­lar. And now she has won new fans – and Emmy award nom­i­na­tions – as schem­ing dowa­ger Olenna Tyrell in

Game of Thrones, which con­tin­ues on Sky At­lantic this week.

‘She’s bril­liantly writ­ten,’ smiles Diana. ‘She’s a joy to play.’

Born in Don­caster, Diana’s par­ents soon took her to In­dia, where her fa­ther worked as a rail­way en­gi­neer, be­fore re­turn­ing to Eng­land when she was eight. By 12, Diana had vowed to be­come an ac­tor. ‘It was a wild hope, com­ing from a York­shire fam­ily with no the­atri­cal tal­ent,’ she says.

Fiercely am­bi­tious, she joined the Royal Shakespeare com­pany. Since then she’s been di­vorced twice, raised a daugh­ter, ac­tor Rachael Stir­ling, be­come a dame, and has never stopped work­ing.

Here she looks back at her amaz­ing ca­reer and re­veals why she’ll never re­tire…

one of your first act­ing roles was as a teenager in the 1950s play­ing a dy­ing emily Brontë. what do you re­mem­ber about the ex­pe­ri­ence? It was an over­dra­matic play called Wild De­cem­bers. It was all about the Bron­tës, and they all, one af­ter the other, died of tu­ber­cu­lo­sis. I re­mem­ber tak­ing every op­por­tu­nity to cough over other peo­ple’s lines.

why did you de­cide to quit your role as emma peel in The avengers in 1968?

I’m deeply grate­ful to the char­ac­ter, but I needed to move for­ward and de­velop as an ac­tor.

Ev­ery­thing

I was be­ing of­fered at that point was a pale im­i­ta­tion of Emma.

a year later you fa­mously starred op­po­site ge­orge Lazenby in his one and only out­ing as 007 in on her Majesty’s se­cret ser­vice. as Tracy, did you en­joy be­ing the only Bond girl ever to marry the spy?

My God, I loved it. It was so prof­li­gate – money was no ob­ject. There was a 10-se­cond bit where I looked at my watch, and they sent for a watch­maker to ar­rive with a case full of watches.

I just chose one, and they gave it to me. I also had a huge beau­ti­ful fox fur coat that

I wore in the film, and they gave that to me, too! I loved it. How did you re­act when the game of Thrones pro­duc­ers asked you to play olenna? I hadn’t seen it. But the scripts were ab­so­lutely won­der­ful, and its pro­duc­tion val­ues are won­der­fully rich.

what’s your favourite part of mak­ing game of Thrones?

Mostly what you re­mem­ber and en­joy are the scenes you played with peo­ple. And quite of­ten they’re com­bat­ive scenes!

so, you’re en­joy­ing life?

I love my life. I’m very lucky. I’m in a po­si­tion to do ex­actly what I want. I travel quite a lot. I read prodi­giously. I go to the theatre, to con­certs. Lon­don is a won­der­ful city to live in. I’ve played the Greek clas­sics, I’ve played the English clas­sics. I prom­ise you, I’m not com­pla­cent, be­cause I hope to be play­ing all sorts of stuff that I’ve never played be­fore, while the mind and body still func­tions.

Re­tir­ing is not an op­tion, then?

I’m an im­mensely cu­ri­ous per­son, I just want to keep learn­ing. Life is full.

My God, I loved mak­ing James Bond

Diana Rigg

Still game: Diana as Olenna Tyrell

Diana with her daugh­ter, Rachael Stir­ling Lead­ing lady: Diana as Emma Peel (left) and as Bond girl Tracy with Ge­orge Lazenby as 007

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