Dame Diana Rigg – A Rare Talk at Symphony Space

Posted: January 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

Diana Rigg - Dame

Diana Rigg gave a rare talk about her career with theater critic Peter Fillichia at Symphony Space.
The evening began with the introduction of Dame Diana Rigg.
They opened up with “The Avengers” beginning TV episode, in black and white, and switched to the final episode, which was in color. Her role on that memorable show as Emma Peel was followed with Shakespearean roles on the stage, plus movies like “Evil Under The Sun,” “Dr.Who” and, more recently, “Game  Of Thrones.”

She sat off to the side, watching film clips of her career, with an ever so grateful audience.
The lights brightened as she approached the chair, revealing a black satin lapelled tuxedo jacket over black slacks with matching laced flat shoes.

During the Q&A, Diana was asked how she got the role of Emma Peel on “The Avengers.”
Diana Rigg - knife

“I auditioned a fight scene that involved hitting a man with my hand bag,” she said. “After a while, his head was spinning. I also did some of my own stunt work.

Patrick Macnee (who winningly played John Steed opposite her) had a hand in getting me the role. As time went by, the producers let me and Patrick improvise. It was never planned. Women looked up to Emma Peel. I had power to the generation of women who needed to see someone onscreen who was a role model.”

“The Avengers” series was wonderful, but I got tired of uncovering dead bodies. The leather suit wasDiana Rigg - leather suit uncomfortable,” Diana revealed. “I had to peel it off (no pun intended). Mrs. Peel was originally a man’s role. They didn’t change the script for a woman. It was “man appeal,” which later became Emma Peel,” Ms. Rigg said with a laugh.

Diana was asked about the difference between working in television as opposed to working in theater. “Theater is precious. TV is more manipulative,” she offered.
“I was doing “Twelfth Night” in the theater and I was doing “The Avengers”S at the same time. They were two completely different roles,” she added.

Diana discussed her book “No Stone Unturned.”

“(The book) was created from my writing letters to actors/actresses in London and the U.S. who sent me bad reviews,” she said. “In England, we discuss failure. “In America, it’s disregarded.”

“I researched plays from history, going back to the early Greeks,” said Diana, referring to her preparation for classic roles.”
What was your favorite role to play, she was asked.
“Medea,” she answered, without hesitation. “I made it my own. I pondered over the words. I love words. I won the award for it on Broadway. “Medea” was a sellout.”
Ms. Rigg was also asked how it felt to work with Sir Laurence Olivier in “King Lear.”
“It was a great experience, but he was very il,” she said. “It was too sad for me to watch.”
Then a question came regarding working with Vincent Price in “Theatre Of Blood.”
“I loved working with him. He was fun,” she said of Mr. Price.

With a license to thrill audiences as Tracy in the James Bond film “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” Diana recounted why she was selected to play opposite a new OO7 in the first Bond film without Sean Connery in the role of the British secret agent.

Diana Rigg On Her Majesty II “George Lazenby needed help, so they wanted my experienced input. I had never done a mega movie before that,” said Ms. Rigg, and added “I loved the music score by Louis Armstrong.”

Diana was also involved in another British institution – “Dr. Who.”
“Mark Gatiss, who was the script writer, suggested that I should be in it with my daughter Rachael Sterling. I love playing bad characters.”

In 1971, in the movie “The Hospital,” Diana acted opposite the late film icon George C. Scott.
“George was getting tired of acting and it showed. He was a great actor.
He should have done theatre. I always thought that he did. He thought that he wasn’t good enough of an actor. Richard Burton was the same way. I couldn’t believe it,” she said.

Dame Diana graciously thanked us, and made an elegant exit.

“Mrs.Peel,” you’re (still!) needed!”

Diana Rigg - The Avengers

  1. Diana must have had an uplifting effect on George Lazenby. I thought he was a good replacement for “the other fellow” as James Bond. And Diana , as Tracy, was one of the more intelligent, as well as attractive Bond girls

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