Diana Rigg
Marie Claire Australia|December 2020
The trailblazing ’60s action heroine broke boundaries in The Avengers, captured James Bond’s heart, and stole every scene in Game of Thrones. Hannah Rose Yee charts the legacy of the late great star of stage and screen

The world’s most famous secret agent is open to anything, as long as there are cards involved. The card table is where we first meet 007 in Dr. No, when Sean Connery’s James Bond, resplendent in a dinner jacket and brimming with machismo, wins big at baccarat.

However, by 1969, the world of Bond was in a state of flux no card game could fix. After five films, Connery had stashed his Aston Martin in the garage. For On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, producers drafted in an Australian model named George Lazenby to play the cunning agent with a license to kill. Lazenby had big shoes to fill. To give him the cinematic equivalent of scaffolding, producers searched for an established female lead to star as Tracy, the only woman in the 007 canon who finishes the film as Mrs. Bond. They decided on Diana Rigg, a 31-year-old theatre doyenne turned global television star.

In Dr. No, it’s Bond, James Bond, whom we meet over baccarat. But in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, it’s Tracy who sidles up to the table and recklessly places a bet she can’t cover, chasing it down with a coupe of ’67 Dom Pérignon. “There are moments in the film where she’s kind of Jane Bond,” explains Dr Lisa Funnell, author of For His Eyes Only: The Women of James Bond. It’s Tracy who drives the fast car – “and drives it well!” she says – and, at the end of the movie, rescues Bond from certain death. “This is the Diana Rigg James Bond film,” says Funnell.

Diana Rigg was born on July 20, 1938. Her father was an engineer in India and Rigg’s childhood there, she says, was a “wonderful adventure”. At eight, she was dispatched to a rigid English boarding school, where she was desperately unhappy. Drama became both her form of rebellion and her means of escape after a teacher told her about auditions for the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Rigg was 17 and already engaged to be married. Her parents told her that she could only audition if she ended the betrothal, so she broke off the relationship and headed to London.

She was in heaven: she was studying, partying, dating (“Cheap plonk and … heavy petting” was how she described it), and had plenty of plays to sneak into.

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