Why Miss Collins From Last Night In Soho Looks So Familiar
Short of reuniting all four Beatles, there’s not much you can do to more strongly evoke the Swinging Sixties than making reference to Dame Diana Rigg.
When director Edgar Wright set out to make “Last Night in Soho,” both a tribute to London in that era and a cautionary tale about over-romanticizing the past, the actress was a natural choice for the role of Eloise’s (Thomasin McKenzie) elderly landlady Miss Collins. She unmistakably lived through the era that Eloise is pining for and finds herself able to travel back to, and understands better than anyone its highs and lows. Unfortunately, “Last Night in Soho,” was the last production Rigg worked on before her death in 2020 from cancer. “She was such a formidable performer that she raised everyone’s game as soon as she stepped on set,” Wright wrote in a tribute.
Rigg left behind a massive acting legacy, as a veteran performer of Shakespeare who amassed three Tony nominations, a style trendsetter who changed the course of British fashion, and an icon of the ’60s who’d go on, even when she herself was in her seventies, to steal the show from one of the most expansive ensemble casts in television. Here are some of the works you might recognize her from.
Diana Rigg joined up with The Avengers (No, the other ones)
Diana Rigg got her start in the theater but became famous for her work on television when she took on the role of Emma Peel in the hit British television series “The Avengers.” (No relation to those other Avengers, though many cite her character as an inspiration for Black Widow’s style.)
The series had already undergone a couple of reinventions by the time Peel arrived for its fourth season, but all of them revolved around the exploits of the bowler-wearing, umbrella-carrying crimefighter John Steed (Patrick Macnee) and his various partners. Before Rigg, Steed’s partner was Dr. Cathy Gale, played by another future Bond girl Honor Blackman, but it was with Rigg’s introduction that the show reached its classic format, with the pair trading witty banter while fighting crime with an assortment of gadgets.
Central to the show’s appeal was the contrast between the leads. Steed was an old-style English gentleman, while Peel was a tough, intelligent modern woman, often battling evil-doers while dressed in the latest ’60s mod fashions — which turned Rigg into a style icon and a sex symbol.
Diana Rigg made Bond an honest man in On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Peel and Bond, two titans of 1960s British cool, would meet each other in 1969, when Diana Rigg was cast as Tracy di Vicenzo in the sixth James Bond film, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”
The movie was the first in the series without Sean Connery, with Australian actor George Lazenby stepping in to replace him. It also aimed for a new level of emotional depth, with Bond eventually falling in love with Tracy as he works with her father, the mobster Marc-Ange Draco, to find his nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofield. He proposes, she accepts, Blofield captures her, but with the help of her father, Bond’s rescue mission is successful. The pair wed in Portugal, but Tracy is killed by Blofield in a drive-by shooting as they’re leaving the chapel. It would be decades before the Bond films would attempt a similar level of emotional connection between 007 and his paramour.
Rigg reportedly wasn’t happy with her co-star by the end of filming, according to Deadline, but Lazenby claims rumors of the extent of their feud were overblown. Regardless of any personal animosity, their creative partnership was undoubtedly a success. The New York Post ranked “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” as the best Bond film earlier this year, while Esquire claims it’s the fifth-best.
Diana Rigg played the mark in The Great Muppet Caper
Her turn as Bond’s wife wasn’t the only time Diana Rigg joined up with a big franchise. In 1981 she signed on to play one of the human leads in “The Great Muppet Caper,” the second feature-length Muppet movie and the first feature film directed by Jim Henson.
Rigg played Lady Holiday, an aristocratic and fabulously wealthy fashion designer whose jewelry holdings are repeatedly pilfered by her brother Nicky (Charles Grodin). When reporters Kermit, Fonzie, and Gonzo arrive to do a story on the thefts, they find themselves wrapped up in a criminal conspiracy to protect Lady Holiday’s valuable Baseball Diamond and clear the name of her assistant, Miss Piggy.
Rigg told the A.V. Club in 2015 that she took the part “for my daughter, who was passionately in love with Miss Piggy.” She said the experience of meeting her idol was so emotional for her child that she burst into tears at the sight of the puppet. “Frank Oz and Jim [Henson], absolutely charming, lovely people. And I’d adored the show on the telly. I was a fan.”
“Much like Sir Michael Caine’s brilliant performance in ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol,’ Rigg’s work in ‘The Great Muppet Caper’ shows tremendous respect for what the Muppets are,” wrote Decider in tribute after her death.
Diana Rigg had the last word in Game of Thrones
Modern audiences were reintroduced to Diana Rigg in 2013 when she stole the show as the calculating, sharp-tongued matriarch Olenna Tyrell in “Game of Thrones.”
Like Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance, with whom Rigg starred in a mini-series adaptation of “Rebecca” in 1997), Olenna is a master schemer, using every means at her disposal to increase her family’s prestige and power. Early on, this involves arranging the marriage of her granddaughter Margaery (Natalie Dormer) to three successive Baratheons, Robert’s brother Renly (Gethin Anthony), the sadistic boy-king Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), and the even younger Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman). Olenna went on to poison Joffrey at his own wedding to protect Margaery from his evil.
In one of the most iconic moments of the series, Olenna willingly drank the poison offered to her by Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) when he captures Highgarden, though not before gloating that she wants Cersei (Lena Headey) to know it was she who killed their son.
“I wasn’t aware I was getting involved in something so huge. I really had no idea,” Rigg told BBC HARDtalk in 2016. She added what she thought was the secret to why the role had proved such a success for her, “I’m good at evil.”
Showrunner D.B. Weiss told Entertainment Weekly that they loved how Rigg managed to capture the character’s dignity and power right up until the very end. “She’s probably the only character to win her own death scene,” Weiss said.