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Dame Diana Rigg, Star of The Avengers & Game of Thrones, Dies at Age 82

Brad Smithfield
Photo by Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO

Dame Diana Rigg has passed away at the age of 82. Known for her roles in Avengers and Game of Thrones, she died on September 10, 2020, after being diagnosed with cancer six months earlier.

Rigg received BAFTA, Emmy, Tony, and Evening Standard Awards during a career that began in 1957. Her most recent work is in the film “Last Night in Soho” which is scheduled to be released next year.

She was born on July 20, 1938, in Doncaster, England. She began her career with the Royal Shakespeare Company after she graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

Photo of Diana Rigg from her short-lived NBC television show, Diana

Photo of Diana Rigg from her short-lived NBC television show, Diana

She once said of her lengthy career that none of it was planned. “My ambitions were simply to work…”  and that work kept her going for the rest of her life.

After leaving the Royal Shakespeare Company, she landed her first television role as Emma Peel in the British show “The Avengers.” The role made her a household name and a sex symbol in the UK but the move cost her her reputation among stage actors who felt television and movies were not equal to acting on the stage.

While working on “The Avengers,” Rigg proved to be just as tough and resourceful as her character when she became one of the few actresses of the time to push for equal pay after learning that she earned less than the cameraman. She called the experience her “first battle with male authority.”

In 1969, Rigg starred in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” as Tracy Bond, the only woman in the series to wed secret agent 007, James Bond.

She split her time over the next few decades between television and the stage. On screen, she appeared in Doctor Who among other shows while she took to the stage for Medea, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and My Fair Lady. Her last appearance on the stage was in 2018.

Diana Rigg in a promotional photo for The Avengers. Photo by Getty Images

Diana Rigg in a promotional photo for The Avengers. Photo by Getty Images

Many television viewers these days are most familiar with Rigg in her role as Olenna Tyrell in “Game of Thrones.” She earned two Emmy nominations for her work as the scheming matron plotting with her granddaughter to gain power by marrying into the Lannister family.

Rigg expressed her appreciation for the Olenna character stating that she was a complex character with brilliant and ruthless political prowess which she wielded to provide for her family. She compared the character with the Borgias and other famous families in history.

Rigg was also nominated for an Emmy for best actress in “The Avengers”. S

Diana Rigg as Diana Smythe and her roommate, Gulliver, from the television program Diana

Diana Rigg as Diana Smythe and her roommate, Gulliver, from the television program Diana

he won the prestigious award for best supporting actress in a miniseries or TV movie for her work in “Rebecca.”

Sir David Hare, Sir Tom Stoppard, Kay Burley, James Dreyfuss, Mark Gatiss, John Bradley, David Oakes were among the many celebrities expressing their appreciation for the life and work of the actress on social media.

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Her agent, Simon Beresford, released a statement that simply stated she had passed away in her sleep early in the morning while home with her family. He went on to request privacy for the family.