Dame Diana Rigg, star of 'The Avengers' and 'Game of Thrones', dies aged 82

Tom Butler
·Senior Editor
·6-min read

Watch: Diana Rigg dead at 82

Tributes are being paid to "icon" Dame Diana Rigg, who has died at the age of 82.

Best known for her roles in The Avengers, Game Of Thrones and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the veteran star of stage and screen was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year.

She died peacefully at home, her daughter said.

Dame Diana Rigg, pictured in Cannes in 2019, has died at the age of 82. (Photo by Arnold Jerocki/Getty Images)
Dame Diana Rigg has died at the age of 82. (Getty Images)

A statement from her agent Simon Beresford said: “It is with tremendous sadness that we announce that Dame Diana Rigg died peacefully early this morning.

“She was at home with her family who have asked for privacy at this difficult time. Dame Diana was an icon of theatre, film, and television.

Read more: Diana Rigg’s greatest roles

“She was the recipient of Bafta, Emmy, Tony and Evening Standard awards for her work on stage and screen.

He added: “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.”

Diana Rigg as Mrs. Emma Peel on the British spy series, "The Avengers." She is shown at the wheel of a car which is being pushed by co-star Patrick MacNee (John Steed). The television series originated in 1961, but ran in the U.S. from 1966 to 1969 on ABC. Color slide circa 1960s
Diana Rigg as Mrs Emma Peel with co-star Patrick MacNee, who played John Steed, in The Avengers. (Getty)

The Doncaster-born star’s career included roles as the Royal Shakespeare Company, on Broadway where she would win three Tony Awards, on the West End, and in countless television shows and films.

She became a household name as secret agent Emma Peel opposite Patrick Macnee’s John Steed in the British TV series The Avengers, starring in 51 episodes from 1965-1969. She appeared as Countess Tracy di Vicenzo in George Lazenby’s 1969 James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the only woman to ever marry 007.

Read more: George Lazenby pays tribute to Diana Rigg

Her other films included Julius Caesar (1970), Theatre of Blood (1973), and The Great Muppet Caper (1981). In 1990, Rigg won the Best Television Actress Bafta for her role as Helena Vasey in the BBC’s Mother Love. She also received a special Bafta award in 2000 for The Avengers, which was shared with the series’ other female stars Honor Blackman, Joanna Lumley and Linda Thorson.

James Bond, played by George Lazenby, pictured marrying Tracey played by Diana Rigg during the filming of 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' Estoril, Portugal, 30th April 1969. (Photo by Peter Stone/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
James Bond, played by George Lazenby, pictured marrying Tracey played by Diana Rigg during the filming of On Her Majesty's Secret Service. (Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
Lady Holiday, played by Diana Rigg, gives instructions to her secretary, Miss Piggy, in Jim Henson's 1981 'The Great Muppet Caper'. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Lady Holiday, played by Diana Rigg, gives instructions to her secretary, Miss Piggy, in Jim Henson's 1981 The Great Muppet Caper. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

In more recent years she sent herself up in an episode of Ricky Gervais’ Extras, starred opposite Matt Smith in an episode of Doctor Who, and received two Emmy nominations playing the scheming Lady Olenna Tyrell in HBO’s Game of Thrones.

She received nine Emmy nominations in her career, winning for her role as Mrs Danvers in 1997’s Rebecca.

She was made a CBE in 1988 and a Dame in 1994 for services to drama.

Actress Dame Diana Rigg at Buckingham Palace, where she was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire. DIANA RIGG DIANA RIGG   (Photo by David Giles - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Actress Dame Diana Rigg at Buckingham Palace, where she was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire. (PA Images via Getty Images)

She recently completed filming on Edgar Wright’s upcoming horror film Last Night In Soho, her last film role, and Wright called her “blazingly talent, fiery & funny”.

She was last seen on screen in Channel 5’s All Creatures Great and Small reboot.

Dame Diana’s daughter, actress Rachael Stirling, said: “My Beloved Ma died peacefully in her sleep early this morning, at home, surrounded by family.

“She died of cancer diagnosed in March, and spent her last months joyfully reflecting on her extraordinary life, full of love, laughter and a deep pride in her profession. I will miss her beyond words”.

Diana Rigg as Olenna Tyrell in 'Game of Thrones'. (Credit: HBO)
Diana Rigg as Olenna Tyrell in Game of Thrones. (HBO)

Bafta also paid tribute to Dame Diana.

The British charity said on Twitter: “We’re sad to hear of the passing of Dame Diana Rigg, Bafta-winner for her performance in Mother Love in 1990 and joint recipient of the Bafta Television Special Award in 2000 for The Avengers.”

Playwrights Sir David Hare and Sir Tom Stoppard also paid their respects.

Sir David said: “Diana Rigg had a dazzling change of direction in middle age as a great classical actor. When Emma Peel played Euripides’ Medea, Albee’s Martha and Brecht’s Mother Courage she swept all before her”.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 30: Rachel Stirling and Diana Rigg attends the 60th London Evening Standard Theatre Awards at London Palladium on November 30, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Fred Duval/FilmMagic)
Rachel Stirling and Dame Diana Rigg attend the 60th London Evening Standard Theatre Awards in 2014. (FilmMagic)

Sir Tom said: “For half her life Diana was the most beautiful woman in the room, but she was what used to be called a trooper. She went to work with her sleeves rolled up and a smile for everyone. Her talent was luminous”.

Mark Gatiss, who starred with Rigg in Doctor Who called her “flinty, fearless, fabulous”.

Actor Samuel West said she “generally lived the hell out of everyone”.

Theatre director Jonathan Kent said: “Diana Rigg’s combination of force of personality, beauty, courage and sheer emotional power, made her a great classical actress – one of an astonishing generation of British stage performers.

“I was so fortunate to direct her in a series of great classical roles – Medea, Phedre – in Ted Hughes’ version, specially written for her – Mother Courage and Dryden’s Cleopatra. Her dazzling wit and that inimitable voice made her an unforgettable leading figure in British theatre.”

She is survived by her daughter Stirling and grandson Jack.