Game of Thrones And The Avengers Actress Confirmed Dead

Diana Rigg, the British actress who enthralled London and New York theater audiences with her performances in classic roles for more than a half-century  but remained best known as the quintessential new woman of the 1960s — sexy, confident, witty and karate-adept — on the television series “The Avengers,” died on Thursday at her home in London. She was 82.


Her daughter, Rachael Stirling, said in a statement that the cause was cancer.

Ms. Rigg had a late-career success in a recurring role, from 2013 to 2016, as the outspoken and demanding Lady Olenna Tyrell on HBO’s acclaimed series “Game of Thrones.” “I wonder if you’re the worst person I ever met,” Lady Olenna once said to her nemesis Cersei Lannister. “At a certain age, it’s hard to recall.”

But Ms. Rigg’s first and biggest taste of stardom came in 1965, when, as a 26-year-old veteran of the Royal Shakespeare Company, she was cast on the fourth season of ITV’s “The Avengers.” As Emma Peel, she was the stylish new crime-fighting partner of the dapper intelligence agent John Steed (Patrick Macnee), replacing Honor Blackman, who had left to star in the James Bond film “Goldfinger.” (Ms. Blackman died in April.)

Although Mrs. Peel, as Steed frequently addressed her, remained on the show relatively briefly, she quickly became the star attraction and ultimately drew a cult following, especially when “The Avengers” was broadcast in the United States, beginning in 1966. Reviewing the 1969 movie “The Assassination Bureau,” in which she starred, Vincent Canby of The New York Times described Ms. Rigg in her Emma Peel persona as a “tall, lithe Modigliani of a girl with the sweet sophistication of Nora Charles and the biceps of Barbarella.”

She had left the show by then for a high-profile career in feature films. Her other roles included Helena in Peter Hall’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (1968), Portia in an all-star version of “Julius Caesar” (1970), a free spirit who tempted George C. Scott in Arthur Hiller and Paddy Chayefsky’s satire “The Hospital” (1971), and the cheated-on wife in Harold Prince’s interpretation of the Stephen Sondheim musical “A Little Night Music” (1978).

But again it was for something of an action role that she received the greatest attention, when she played a crime boss’s daughter in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969), the only James Bond film to star George Lazenby. Her character had the distinction among Agent 007’s movie love interests of actually marrying Bond, but she was killed off in the final scene, for the sake of future plot lines.

Ms. Rigg returned to television, largely in more serious roles than before, among them Clytemnestra, Hedda Gabler, Regan in “King Lear” and Lady Dedlock in “Bleak House.” And although she said she was not a fan of mysteries herself, she was the host of the PBS series “Mystery!” from 1989 to 2003 and played Gladys Mitchell’s unconventional detective Adela Bradley on the BBC series “The Mrs. Bradley Mysteries” from 1998 to 2000.

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