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RIP Diana Rigg (1938-2020)

Blog | By Louise Flind | Sep 10, 2020


The actress, who has sadly died, aged 82, talked to Louise Flind earlier this year


Is there anything you can’t leave home without?

My paper knickers. I first discovered them when I had a baby - they’re soft, they don’t rustle and your luggage gets lighter as you go along.

Do you travel light?

Yes, I do. I’m not Elizabeth Taylor.

Favourite destination?

India – the far South; the far North. I was bought up there [as the daughter of a railway executive] and I just love it.

Do you still speak Hindi?

I was recently in New York and I gave this cab driver a really good tip but he got out of the cab and demanded more money. From the mists of time, I found myself saying, ‘Tum bhouth badmash’, which means ‘You’re a very naughty person.’

Earliest childhood holiday memories?

Cornwall. You didn’t go on holiday in India. You just went up to the hills in the hot season. When we came back to England, we used to go to Bude.

You were born in Yorkshire. What are your favourite parts of the county?

As a county, it’s absolutely ravishing. I’m going back to do some filming around Skipton. Last year, we were filming again in Yorkshire for Victoria [Rigg plays the Duchess of Buccleuch] because it’s got these wonderful stately homes.

Theatrical touring?

If you got a list of good theatrical digs, you were quids in. There used to be a code amongst actors and actresses. If the place was absolutely terrible, they would write in the visitors’ book, ‘Quoth the raven’ – from Edgar Allan Poe’s poem The Raven, where the raven cries, ‘Nevermore.’ And if the landlady was obliging, they would write, ‘Charged for cut flowers’.

Where did you travel as a Bond girl in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)?

We went to Portugal and Switzerland.

Did you travel for The Avengers?

No, absolutely not. Occasionally in the countryside.

Film locations?

I’ve been to China, the Great Wall, Slovenia, South Africa – I am an avid traveller. I’ve been to the Galapagos, Bhutan, all across South-East Asia, apart from Polynesia and Japan.

Hollywood?

Well, no….

Where in Scotland did you live when you were married to Archie Stirling? What is your favourite part of Scotland?

Stirling – I was Chancellor of their university for 10 years. Loch Morar would be my favourite part.

Then you took New York by storm in 1971, 1994 and 2018?

I spent 10 months in New York in 2018, playing Mrs Higgins in My Fair Lady. We did three performances in 24 hours and it was a very long show. So I didn’t get to dig deep into what New York had to offer. I’d just swing my legs out of bed with a groan and totter across to the theatre, deliver and totter back. I had my 80th birthday party there and gave a big party.

Are you a traveller?

I’ve always been one. I was in Chichen Itza, the Mayan ruins, in the early 60s. It’s now been fully explored but, when I was there, it was still half jungle. Islands I particularly love because they’re a sort of mini-cosmos, a distillation of culture.

Do you work on a plane/train – learn your lines?

Well, no, because you look stupid muttering to yourself and gesticulating.

Do you like being/working away from home?

I love it. I discussed this with my brother – we were brought up in India, then we were sent home to school and didn’t see our parents for a while. So you become very independent.

Hotel or apartment?

A hotel – I’m very fond of a cocktail.

Are you brave with different food abroad?

I’m very lucky. I’ve got a pretty iron stomach.

Strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?

Bull’s balls in Greece – they were spongy.

Do you have a go at the local language?

I speak French, a muttering of restaurant Spanish and Hindi in a crisis.

Biggest headache?

When you’re lied to about the length of a journey and they say it’s only 10 minutes by taxi and it turns out to be half a day.

What is the strangest place you’ve ever slept in?

Sleeping upright in a train is not much fun. My father was a railway engineer and built the railway for the Maharajah in India. So I’m a railway child and love railways.

Do you like coming home?

No, I absolutely loathe it. In fact, I’ve got one suitcase which is still not unpacked from coming back from New York over a year ago.

Top travelling tips?

Always have a very comprehensive medical kit. I travel with antibiotics, and I also have pills for three degrees of pain: slight, worse and really bad. For those scratches and bites, there’s a wonderful thing called Mercurochrome, which is a very old-fashioned recipe.

Finally, is there anything you’d like to plug?

Yes, wherever I go, I plug the English language. If you have a guide or a translator, they’re longing to learn the language – so I’ll give them a lesson.