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Diana Rigg

  • She's lovely
  • She's not engaged
  • She's unconventional
  • She's a-

Goddess in Black Leather

by Ad Astra

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Willowy Diana Rigg and "Mrs Emma Peel", the cool but kinky heroine of The Avengers (a character she has developed over the present series and hopes to continue developing), share many things in common. In particular they are both most unconventional.

I am against marriage, Diana told me in an exclusive interview for the New Zealand TV Weekly. [Originally published 6 June, 1966]

Because of your career, or against it as an institution, I asked? As an institution, came the quick reply. I have seen the marriages of too many friends break up. That must never happen to me; I couldn't stand it.

Diana, who is 27, says that marriage is redundant as far as her age group is concerned. What's the point in making the man I love stand up and repeat a load of marriage vows that have time and time again been proved to be very easy to break?

The idea of getting married and having lots of children appal's this auburn-haired actress. If I was going to have a child, I'd like to just go off somewhere and have it.

There is no denying that Diana is most eligible. Some 20 million viewers in Britain alone do not need to be reminded of her physical charms- she is a statuesque 5ft 8 1/2in (vital statistics: fluctuating, but I have been a fashion model you know ), brown-eyed, long-haired beauty.

She likes driving (a mini), and cooking (favourite dish-roast lamb with peaches and garlic) in her mews flat at Bayswater-she also likes films, classical music and modern jazz, and reading books.

She loves fighting-but so far her judo and karate have been confined to the television film studios. Sometimes the tone of some of her fan mail makes her wonder whether she may need this newly acquired knowledge to convince men that she refuses to be cast as leading lady in their fantasies.

Fashion setter

She loves trend-setting fashions, and was responsible for replacing the constant black-leather suits and kinky boots of her predecessor, Cathy Gale (played by Honor Blackman before she left to become Pussy Galore in the Goldfinger picture) with the additional wardrobes of trouser suits, short skirts, op art creations, and "with-it" gear.

She also likes spending the money she earns £150 an episode in the series just finished in Britain, but which may possibly treble if reaction from the United States is good and ABC Television decide to make a further series.

In the meantime, Diana is off to Greece for a month's holiday and then will be rehearsing for the role of Viola in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. She is returning to Stratford for the summer season.

It was with the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-upon-Avon or at its Aldwych Theatre, London, that Diana had many earlier triumphs, before she left the stage for television to avoid being "type-cast". Within a few weeks she had entered the bizarre world of The Avengers with co-star Patrick Macnee (John Steed) and become Mrs Emma Peel, the young goddess in black leather.

After 14 months in film studios, often working from 8 am. to 6 pm, in the work of perfecting each episode, Diana Rigg feels the need to return to the stage so that she can resume the full use of my voice and body-at present my 'instrument' is not used properly.

But she will only be playing Shaketspeare two nights a week which will give her plenty of time to play other film or TV roles as well, and a variety of work is what Diana craves for.

Not a TV fan

She does not watch television very often, although she thinks as an art form as well as entertainment medium it is growing rapidly in importance. She never saw The Avengers before joining the cast and hates looking at herself in it- I find it too painful.

Diana believes very strongly in the new equality of the sexes and it is this philosophy that she shows plainly in her characterisation of Emma Peel -even if at the level of defeating half a dozen men in a good punch-up.

She has seen all the James Bond films and the women in them appal me. They are so dull. The best one was Ursula Andress, but since then they have gone definitely downhill- they just seem to be on hand to look at, like a window display.

That send-up of secret agent films, Our Man Flint, now screening in London was marvellous, however, and did not make this mistake of regarding women solely as pleasure-units (Flint's words).

Diana has seen only one programme of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. , the American TV programme which was screened in Britain by the BBC and vied with The Avengers for viewing ratings. She saw it in America, and her verdict was a straight-forward two-personality type thing. The fight sequences were very good. I can understand the raving about David McCallum-he really is a smashing looking chap.

N.Z. friend

Diana says that there is a preponderance of letters in her fan mail from schoolboys asking her where they can learn to fight, but she does get a lot of letters from all over the world. One of her most special New Zealand correspondents is Malcolm Kendall, 17 ( I met him as a kid in Leeds ), now working on a farm somewhere in the Dominion.

He watches The Avengers out there and tells all his friends that he knows me very well. But he tells me that they don't believe him-'Go on, you'll be telling us you used to have tea at Buckingham Palace next,' is the usual reaction-Perhaps your magazine can tell all Malcolm's friends that it is true; he does know me!

The main effect of Diana's success in establishing the fresh and distinctive TV personality of Emma Peel has been the fan mail, and the constant recognition by people in the street. But she thinks that would wear off quickly, if she stops being seen on television

Working away at Elstree studios making the episodes, you are 15 to 25 miles out of London, and seem quite divorced from the feeling that you are in a powerful medium. There is no audience there at all . . . I try to put as much fun into the show as I can, and I certainly don't worry whether or not we are going to be in the top ten viewers' ratings for that week.

Says Diana: A talented person should do what he or she wants to do all the time. He should never do anything because he feels he ought to. Still less should he do anything just for the money.

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