Diana Rigg, Tony and Emmy Winner, Dies at 82

Obituaries   Diana Rigg, Tony and Emmy Winner, Dies at 82
 
Ms. Rigg won the Tony Award for her performance in the title role of the 1994 revival of Medea.
Diana Rigg_Obit Graphic_HR

Dame Diana Rigg, the Tony- and Emmy-winning actor most recently seen on Broadway in the 2018 revival of My Fair Lady, passed away September 10 at her home in England. She was 82.

Enid Diana Rigg was born July 20, 1938, in Doncaster, Yorkshire, England. She trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and made her professional stage debut in 1957 in a production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle. In 1959 she joined the Royal Shakespeare Company and was later a member of the National Theatre Company at the Old Vic.

Follies_London_Production_Photos_1987
Julia McKenzie, Lynda Baron, Diana Rigg, and Dorothy Vernon Michael Le Poer Trench © Cameron Mackintosh, Ltd

Ms. Rigg's lengthy stage career in the U.K. included playing Lady Macbeth in Hamlet (1972) and Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion (1974), as well as starring in the premieres of Tom Stoppard's Jumpers (1972) and Night and Day (1978). She also played Phyllis in a reworked version of Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman's Follies in the West End in 1987 in a company that also included Julia McKenzie, Daniel Massey, and Dolores Gray.

She triumphed in productions of Medea (Evening Standard Award for Best Actress), Mother Courage, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Phedre, and Britannicus in the 1990s, while the first decade of the new century included roles in Suddenly, Last Summer; Honour; All About My Mother; The Cherry Orchard; and Hay Fever. She returned to Shaw's Pygmalion in 2011, this time playing the role of Mrs. Higgins in a cast that also included Rupert Everett.

Diana Rigg
Diana Rigg

Ms. Rigg appeared on Broadway four times, earning a Tony nomination for each appearance. She made her Main Stem debut in 1971 in Ronald Millar's Abelard and Heloise, directed by Robin Phillips. Playing Célimène in the 1975 revival of Molière's The Misanthrope brought her a second Tony nomination, and she won the Best Actress in a Play Tony in 1994 for her performance in the title role of the 1994 revival of Medea, directed by Jonathan Kent. The role of Mrs. Higgins in the 2018 revival of the classic musical comedy My Fair Lady was Rigg's final Broadway outing, and the first to earn her a Tony nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical.

Ms. Rigg's TV résumé was equally impressive, including her career-making role as secret agent Emma Peel on the British television series The Avengers from 1965–1968. The role would earn the actor two Emmy nominations, in 1967 and 1968. Decades later, she received four Emmy nominations—in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2018—for her recurring role as Olenna Tyrell, Queen of Thorns, in HBO's Game of Thrones. In between were Emmy nominations for playing Philippa in In This House of Brede (1975) and Baroness Louise Lehzen in Victoria & Albert (2002). She won the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Special in 1997 playing Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca.

She also starred in the sitcom Diana, which was seen on NBC in 1973, and was host of PBS’ Masterpiece Mystery from 1989–2004. In 1990, she won a BAFTA playing an obsessive mother in BBC's Mother Love. Her most recent TV credits included You, Me and the Apocalypse; Detectorists; Victoria; A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong; and All Creatures Great and Small.

My_Fair_Lady_Broadway_Production_Photo_2018_MFL1145 - Lauren Ambrose and Diana Rigg, credit to Joan Marcus_HR.jpg
Lauren Ambrose and Diana Rigg Joan Marcus

On the silver screen Ms. Rigg famously played the only woman James Bond ever married, Tracy Di Vicenzo, in the 1969 film On Her Majesty's Secret Service. The marriage to 007, played by George Lazenby, was short-lived, when the character was murdered shortly after the wedding. Her numerous other film credits included The Hospital, Evil Under the Sun, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Julius Caesar, Snow White, A Good Man in Africa, Breathe, and The Painted Veil. She also played Charlotte Mittelheim in Harold Prince's 1977 film version of Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's A Little Night Music.

In 1988 Ms. Rigg was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire at the Queen's New Years Honours for her services to drama, and in 1994 she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II, also for her services to drama.

In a statement Ms. Rigg's longtime friend and agent Simon Beresford said, "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.”

Ms. Rigg was married to painter Menachem Gueffen and producer Archibald Stirling; both ended in divorce. She is survived by her daughter, actor Rachael Stirling.

RELATED: