Pop Culture Retrorama fans, I’m sorry to report that Dame Diana Rigg passed away of cancer on September 10, 2020 at the age of 82.
2020 can kick rocks, am I right?
Dame Diana lived a full life with quite the resumé of film and television credits, not to mention her extensive theatre career. Retro fans will know her from her work as Emma Peel on The Avengers series that ran from 1965 – 1968 and from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969, playing the role of Tracy Bond, the only woman ever married to James Bond. Growing up, I knew her from 1981’s The Great Muppet Caper, where she played the beautiful Lady Holiday.
Modern audiences will best know Dame Diana from her appearance on Doctor Who alongside her daughter, Rachael Stirling in the 2013 episode, “The Crimson Horror” and as Lady Olenna Tyrell, The Queen of Thorns, on Game of Thrones. As a fan of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, I was especially pleased with Dame Diana’s casting as The Queen of Thorns. She brought a certain gravitas to the role, perfectly executing the portrayal of the prickly old woman, who really just says what everyone else is thinking out loud. I cannot imagine anyone else playing the role. It is also a commendation to Game of Thrones casting director, Nina Gold, for not only nailing the perfect actress for the role but also casting someone who legitimately looks like she could be Margaery Tyrell’s (Natalie Dormer’s) grandmother. When comparing pictures of a young Diana Rigg and Natalie Dormer, the resemblance is striking.
Rigg also had a robust theatre career, which spanned from 1957 – 2018. She performed Shakespeare, notably as the lead, Viola, in Twelfth Night (a personal favorite of mine), Cordelia in King Lear, Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra, and Lady Macbeth in Macbeth. She also performed in other famous plays, such as, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfe?, The Hollow Crown, Pygmalion, My Fair Lady, and won a Tony award for best actress as the titular role in the Greek play, Medea, in 1994.
Looking at Rigg’s IMDB credits is staggering enough, but when adding that to her theatre resumé, it would seem that Dame Diana seldom took a day off. Always a powerhouse, on and off the stage and screen, she was well-loved and respected by her friends, family, and collegues.
If you would like to check out something unique from Dame Diana, check out her audio performance of Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost on Spotify.
As Vic would say, we dim the lights in the auditorium in Dame Diana’s honor. Her legacy is still, in the words of House Tyrell, “Growing strong.”