Watch CBSN Live

Diana Rigg, star of "The Avengers" and "Game of Thrones," dies at 82

British actress Diana Rigg poses after receiving the Icon Award during the opening ceremony of the 2nd edition of the Cannes International Series Festival on April 5, 2019, at the Palais des Festival in Cannes, France.  VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images

Diana Rigg, a British actress who became a 1960s style icon as secret agent Emma Peel in TV series "The Avengers" and later starred in "Game of Thrones," has died. She was 82.

Rigg's agent Simon Beresford said she died Thursday morning at home with her family. Rigg's daughter, Rachael Stirling, said she died of cancer that was diagnosed in March.

Rigg "spent her last months joyfully reflecting on her extraordinary life, full of love, laughter and a deep pride in her profession. I will miss her beyond words," Stirling said.

In "The Avengers," she played Emma Peel, sidekick to suave secret agent John Steed, played by Patrick Macnee.  The pair were an impeccably dressed duo who fought villains and traded quips in a show whose mix of adventure and humor was enduringly influential. 

"Why do you think Mrs. Peel was embraced the way she was?"  CBS News' Anthony Mason asked Rigg in 2018.

"Because she was ahead of her time," Rigg replied. "Because she was highly intelligent, capable, witty, sexy, independent."

The British series made Rigg an international sensation.

"Sexy, resourceful and self-assured - with a deadly knowledge of self-defence - Rigg's character became an icon for the growing feminist movement," the BBC wrote Thursday. "Her action-girl allure, coupled with her husky voice - the result of a 20-a-day cigarette habit - also brought her plenty of male admirers."

Diana Rigg in Emma Peel Outfit
Diana Rigg poses as Emma Peel in The Avengers. In this shot, Rigg is wearing a blue, one piece pants suit with cut out hips and an oversized pocketwatch and chain. Undated color photograph circa 1968. Bettmann via Getty

Rigg also starred in 1967 James Bond thriller "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" as the only woman ever to marry Agent 007.

In later life, she played Olenna Tyrell in "Game of Thrones." 

"I'm thrilled young people identify with this naughty old bag I was playing," she told Mason of her "Game of Thrones" character.  

Rigg also played the Duchess of Buccleuch in "Victoria," and starred alongside her daughter in British sitcom "Detectorists."

Rigg spent several years in the 1960s as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and combined screen work with an acclaimed stage career, in plays including Bertolt Brecht's "Mother Courage" and Tom Stoppard's "Jumpers" at the National Theatre in London.

Stoppard said Rigg was "the most beautiful woman in the room, but she was what used to be called a Trouper."

"She went to work with her sleeves rolled up and a smile for everyone. Her talent was luminous."

Sean Connery and Dame Diana Rigg
Dame Diana Rigg and Sean Connery attend the 1996 Evening Standard Drama Awards at a ceremony held at the Savoy Hotel. Tony Harris / PA Images
View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.