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Dame Diana Rigg dies aged 82


Dame Diana Rigg has died (Picture: VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images)

Dame Diana Rigg has died aged 82.

It has been confirmed that the legendary actress, famed for her roles in The Avengers and Game Of Thrones, died this morning, six months after being diagnosed with cancer.

Her agent Simon Beresford confirmed: ‘It is with tremendous sadness that we announce that Dame Diana Rigg died peacefully early this morning. She was at home with her family who have asked for privacy at this difficult time. Dame Diana was an icon of theatre, film, and television.

‘She was the recipient of BAFTA, Emmy, Tony and Evening Standard Awards for her work on stage and screen. Dame Diana was a much loved and admired member of her profession, a force of nature who loved her work and her fellow actors. She will be greatly missed.’

Her daughter Rachael Stirling said: ‘My Beloved Ma died peacefully in her sleep early this morning, at home, surrounded by family. She died of cancer diagnosed in March, and spent her last months joyfully reflecting on her extraordinary life, full of love, laughter and a deep pride in her profession. I will miss her beyond words.’

Dame Diana was one of the UK’s most accomplished actresses, establishing a successful career on stage and on the small and big screens since her debut in 1957. 

Dame Diana starred as Emma Peel in The Avengers (Picture:: Bettmann Archive)

Playwright David Hare said: ‘Diana Rigg had a dazzling change of direction in middle age as a great classical actor. When Emma Peel played Euripides’ Medea, Albee’s Martha and Brecht’s Mother Courage she swept all before her.’

Jonathan Kent, who directed Dame Diana in Medea, said: ‘Diana Rigg’s combination of force of personality, beauty, courage and sheer emotional power, made her a great classical actress – one of an astonishing generation of British stage performers. I was so fortunate to direct her in a series of great classical roles – Medea, Phèdre – in Ted Hughes’ version, specially written for her – Mother Courage and Dryden’s Cleopatra. 

‘Her dazzling wit and that inimitable voice made her an unforgettable leading figure in British theatre.’

And playwright Sir Tom Stoppard said: ‘For half her life Diana was the most beautiful woman in the room, but she was what used to be called a Trouper. She went to work with her sleeves rolled up and a smile for everyone. Her talent was luminous.’

On the small screen, Dame Diana found fame in the 1960s series The Avengers, in which she played secret agent Emma Peel.

The role turned her into a sex symbol overnight, which she was not comfortable with, and she fought against pay disparity by holding out for a £300 a week pay rise to sign onto the second series.

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Speaking about her fight for gender pay equality last year, Dame Diana said: ‘Not one woman in the industry supported me … Neither did Patrick [Macnee, her co-star]… But I was painted as this mercenary creature by the press when all I wanted was equality. It’s so depressing that we are still talking about the gender pay gap.’

In 1969, she became an iconic Bond girl as she played Tracy Bond, James Bond’s wife, opposite George Lazeby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. 

Throughout the 80s and 90s, she appeared in The Marquise, The Assassination Bureau, The Great Muppet Caper and the film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Evil Under The Sun, and won a Bafta for best television actress for her role in Mother Love.

Dame Diana starred as Mrs Danvers in the 1997 adaptation of Rebecca, winning an Emmy, and went on to appear in shows including Extras and Doctor Who – starring in an episode of the latter, The Crimson Horror, alongside Matt Smith and her daughter Rachael Stirling. 

Dame Diana played Olenna Tyrell in Game Of Thrones (Picture: ©2016 Home Box Office, Inc. All)

And in 2013, she appeared in Game Of Thrones as Lady Olenna Tyrell, the grandmother of Margaery, a role for which she won an Emmy nomination.

Lady Olenna was killed off in the seventh season – however, Dame Diana never actually watched Game Of Thrones, before or after she starred on it.

Most recently, she filmed the Edgar Wright thriller Last Night In Soho alongside Matt Smith and Anya Taylor-Joy, with the film due for release next year, and will appear in the BBC mini-series Black Narcissus later this year.

She was made a CBE in 1988 and a Dame in 1994 for services to drama; the same year, she won a Tony Award for Medea.

Dame Diana is survived by her daughter Rachael – who she had with ex-husband Archibald Stirling – her son-in-law Guy Garvey and her three-year-old grandson Jack. 

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