Diana Rigg

Active - 1961 - 2022  |   Born - Jul 20, 1938 in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, England  |   Died - Sep 10, 2020   |   Genres - Spy Film, Adventure, Action

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Look up "statuesque" in the dictionary and you just might find a picture of British actress Diana Rigg. Born in a Yorkshire industrial town, Rigg was two years old when her father, a railroad constructionist, moved the family to India. Six years later, she was back in Yorkshire, suffering through the discipline and rigors of private school until one of her teachers introduced her to the world of the theatre. After graduation, Rigg was accepted by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art; she went on to the Royal Shakespeare Company, where her deeply distinctive voice, auburn red hair, and towering height (5'8") assured her such dynamic roles as Viola in Twelfth Night and Cordelia in King Lear. Though never lacking in prestige, the Royal Shakespeare paid starvation wages, compelling Rigg to moonlight in the more lucrative world of movies and TV. In 1965, she was selected to replace Honor Blackman on the popular tongue-in-cheek TV-adventure series "The Avengers," and for the next two years captivated little boys of all ages with her energetic portrayal of coolheaded, leather-clad karate expert Mrs. Emma Peel. Film stardom followed in short order with plum roles in The Assassination Bureau (1968) and the James Bond flick On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969). Though she was always welcome in films and television (she headlined a brief American sitcom, "Diana," in 1973), Rigg preferred to think of herself as a "theatre animal," and continued to star in the classics on stage, still frequently accepting a miniscule salary in order to satisfy her muse. In the last decade, Rigg published the hilarious book No Turn Unstoned, in which she gathered together the worst reviews ever received by the world's best actors (including her own bad notices); in the early 1990s, she replaced Vincent Price as the host of PBS' "Mystery" anthology.

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  • Until she was 8, she lived in India, where she learned how to speak fluent Hindi.
  • Broke into the world of theater at 21 when she signed a contract with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
  • Played Tracy Draco, who was the only Bond Girl to marry James Bond, in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969).
  • Was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in 1994 for her contribution to English film and theater.
  • Ranked No. 1 on TV Guide's Top Ten Hottest Stars of All Time (August 7, 1999) list.
  • Received honorary doctorates from Stirling University and the University of Leeds.