January 1970: Daily Mirror

The Biggest Row In Showbusiness

It began with a devastating open letter from Diana Rigg to George Lazenby, her co-star in the new James Bond film, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service." It continued last night when Lazenby blasted back. Here are the letters in the Great Showbiz Storm.

28, Finchley Road, NW8

Dear George,

The film has opened and is, I hear, making a great deal of money at the box office. This means you have been accepted by the public, which bodes well for your future career. Why, then, do you persist in dwelling on your petty grievances?

I’m tired of reading those paranoid statements to the Press wherein you were solely surrounded by hostile people. I agree that by the end of the film most of the crew were hostile, but only because of your extreme behaviour.

Why else would your dresser threaten to hand in his notice? Why else would three chauffeurs leave you within a week? Why else was one member of the unit restrained from striking you after one inexcusable and crude outburst against one of the girls in the film?

Remember once telling me you valued honesty greatly and that I was “if nothing else, honest”? Perhaps you would prefer not to. But, let’s get some of those highly-coloured incidents between us straightened out truthfully.

NO, GEORGE, I did not eat garlic on purpose. Why would I? To ruin an important scene for both of us? That is not what acting together means. And if you recollect, on discovering what I’d done, I apologised and took every precaution – sprays, pills, etc.

NO, GEORGE, I was not, as you said, guzzling champagne in some warm bar when we had the row. I was attempting to back the Cougar car on a very icy road. You were telling me what to do - and since you know more about cars than I, you had every right.

But the manner of telling me - abusively with threats to “Bash my ---- face in” - was hardly the best way. I felt ill, unable to fight back on that level - and I cried.

Later, some weeks later, you apologised. But the damage was done.

Neither do I think it was entirely truthful of you to suggest I was keeping the crew waiting. This was your particular pleasure and it is to their everlasting credit that they treated you throughout with patience and consideration.

Even the cameramen took it in his stride when, after only a few weeks of filming, you began telling him what to do. He was a gentleman – remember George?

Yes, I did talk to the crew rather than you. Quite simply I preferred their company. And as to Peter Hunt, the director, not once did he lose his temper under the constant provocation of your storming off the set, turning up late and sulking.

As far as money is concerned, George, let’s face it: £22,000 for your first film – with perks thrown in – cannot be a hardship. Few would consider it so.

And concerning your relations with the producers, I know little except that they found it impossible to meet your demands for more money, bigger chauffeur-driven cars, grander apartments, etc.

I do know, too, that the producers are both men capable of generosity, and I was present on one occasion when “Cubby” Broccoli spontaneously gave you - off his wrist - a gold watch you had admired.

It is against all my principles and beliefs in the work we as actors do to fight at all – let alone openly and crudely as you have been doing.

However, your injustices and blatant distortions to the Press have finally forced me to speak.

It is all in the past now, George. The people concerned have been prepared to forget – why can’t you?

I’ll say no more.

Yours faithfully,

Diana Rigg

49, Eaton Square, SW1

Dearest Diana,

I cannot understand what you have written, but I am trying to answer it in the most honest way.

I have dwelt on my “petty” grievances because they may have been petty to you at the time because you have been in the business for 15 years. But I am just a beginner.

My grievances and my “paranoid statements to the Press,” as you put it, are all part of somebody trying desperately to co-operate and become a good actor. I am, as you know, a raw recruit to show business.

We all make mistakes, and I know I’ve made mine, as there are in every film. And that includes my dresser. But at the end of the film we’re all good mates.

The chauffeurs? The one I had in London, Ernie Freeman, I took to Portugal to film. Because he was a stranger there he stayed as my guest more than anything. My second chauffeur was a bullfighter who drove like a lunatic. And, if I die young I’d rather drive myself.

The third chauffeur was not outside a restaurant one night. A girl friend and I left and found no car, but there was a rowdy mob of fishermen sending me up as James Bond.

The only thing I could do was to walk into the centre of them, rather than let them descend on me. What would you do, darling, if you left with your boy friend, Philip Saville, and found a jeering mob and no car?

I was frightened, to be honest, and I shook the ringleader’s hand. Then the car arrived. I took the tension out on the chauffeur and that was wrong, I admit. But he won, because I walked home.

I don’t remember any outburst worth speaking of that would get someone uptight enough to want to have a go. I’m sure we had slight disagreements, but they are past and forgotten.

I never said you had garlic on purpose, although it was unfortunate you did. Darling, I’ve seen you drink champagne for breakfast. I have it, too, but it’s not exactly my scene. Give me apple juice any day.

OK, so I said things about your driving but you don’t think I was right.

The film crew I respected. If I can always get a crew like that I will be very happy. They kept me from going insane.

The cameraman I could go on and on about. A great guy, Michael Reed. He was a gentleman.

You will laugh, Diana about the money scene. But I would have accepted nothing for the part because I wanted to become an actor. It was the greatest screen test of all times.

The watch!! I admired Cubby’s watch at the Variety Club Ball, and Cubby said he would get me one.

Anyway, another actor had bought one and I mentioned that Cubby was going to give me one. And, two hours later Cubby, being the generous man that he is, handed his over.

Obviously the word went down the line. I was very embarrassed and tried to give it back but he insisted that his wife wanted me to have it.

I am sorry you brought that up. But what knocks me out the most is that you said it was against your principles and beliefs to bring other people into a fight.

I am sorry it worked out this way, but there is a statement that a bigger man than I am has made recently. He puts it in a nutshell: “War is over if you want it.”



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