Diana Rigg, Shakespeare and Leather Boots

With her full suits, her insolent humor and her brilliant detective deductions, the Briton Diana Rigg, Madame “Bowler hat and leather boots”, panicked several generations of viewers, thus embodying one of the first women freed from the small screen. The actress, who was recently illustrated in the saga “Game of Thrones” died Thursday at 82 years old at her home, announced her agent. She had been diagnosed with cancer in March. Thanks to her role as a sexy and intelligent booted judoka in “Bowler Hat and Leather Boots”, Diana Rigg aka Emma Peel, was among the sex symbols of the 60s, to the point of having been the first – and the only – to have been able to put the ring on Agent 007 in “In the secret service of his majesty” (1969). The young woman with auburn hair, upturned nose and outspokenness did not hesitate in 1967, after two brilliant seasons of the cult series, to slam the door for failing to obtain an increase in her salary then equivalent to that of ‘a cameraman. Outside of her country, it is less known that this television icon was first a renowned actress on the British stages. Her interpretations of Medea, Euripides and Mother Courage earned this graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art several prestigious distinctions. “When a play is good, it’s damn easy to play well,” she trumpeted in 1979 in The Times. “I absolutely cannot take any missteps on stage unless I’m drunk or have a fever.” Born on July 20, 1938 in a mining town in Yorkshire, in the north of England, she spent the first eight years of her life in Jodhpur in Rajasthan in India where her father worked as a railway engineer. Back in her country, she wants to become an actress. “Back then in Yorkshire, an actress was hardly better regarded than a prostitute!” She remarked. She made her debut at the age of twenty on the stage of the Royal Shakespeare Company. This collaboration will last until 1964. A little by chance, she appears in the cast of the “Avengers”, which was not at all the use for a classical theater actress. “My little comrades in the troop looked at me with amused eyes,” she told France Soir. “Then everyone was very happy to see that my immense popularity had raised the fever at the theater reservation desk.” She launches into the cinema with James Bond but the film, she says, is a “gigantic wet firecracker”. “I could barely buy myself a mink coat with what they paid me for!” Her other attempts in Hollywood were unsuccessful and she returned to the stage on Broadway and then in London. In 1972, she joined the National Theater which had just opened under the direction of Laurence Olivier. After having played an entirely naked scene in “Abelard and Héloïse” (1970), she is Lady McBeth during the season 72-73 then Célimène in “Misanthrope” and the Phaedra of Racine. “Along with Glenda Jackson, Diana is one of the best declaimers in our theaters. Her voice is not just an instrument, it’s an entire orchestra!” Praised British producer Richard Broke. “The camera never managed to get from me what the audience did,” explained this great lover of fishing and cigars. In 2013, however, his parchment face delighted viewers in “Game of Thrones”. Her interpretation of Olenna Tyrell, a manipulative character who is not afraid to confront the most powerful men of Westeros, brings a Shakespearean dimension to the illustrious saga. His private life has long fueled the tabloids. After living with director Philip Saville, she became the fourth wife of Israeli painter Menachem Gueffen to separate a year later. “We were arguing all the time. It was wonderful,” she joked. She had a daughter with Archie Stirling, a millionaire theater producer whom she divorced in 1990 after eight years of marriage.


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