Transcripts

18 June 1966: Diana

Lucky Penny Talks To 'Avenger' Emma Peel

Mrs. Emma Peel, alias Diana Rigg, took me to tea at Fortnum and Mason, quite the smartest and chic-est of stores, which has a tastefully decorated restaurant on the top floor with music playing and trolleys swaying.

Diana Rigg is a very gay, "mod" girl with long, titian-coloured hair, a creamy complexion and tawny eyes. She was wearing the shortest of coats trimmed with a huge fur colour and fur cuffs to match.

Everybody recognised this stage and TV star, and both of us were given V.I.P. treatment. Yes, it was a great thrill putting my questions to the swinging heroine of ABC Television's The Avengers.

Where were you born?

In Yorkshire, but I spent the early part of my life at Jodhpur in Rajputana because my father was in the Indian Government Service. I used to be sent back to England for my schooling, though, until my parents returned and settled here again.

What were some of your favourite subjects at school?

English grammar and literature - I loved George Elliot's Mill on the Floss and all Thomas Hardy's works. I liked history and languages, too.

What are some of your dislikes?

Plastic flowers. Frozen veg. People who hoot at me when I'm held up in the car and it's not my fault. Men in open sandals - I can't stand the sight of big, hairy toes. Rouge on women's cheeks. Fish roe. Stockings wrinkled round the legs.

What are some of your likes?

Intimate dinners with about eight people - all really close friends. Books - I'm very possessive about them. Having lovely smart lunches and then going shopping - I feel so expensive. Going away unexpectedly and no place planned - nothing previously arranged. Being met off the plane by my mother and father. Going to art galleries and concerts. Getting up on Sundays and not having to rush. Wandering around the flat dishevelled and then cleaning up and trying to make myself beautiful.

What are your hobbies? And what places do you like to visit in your spare time?

No hobbies. Anything I pursue becomes part of my life and my life... I can't call it a hobby. Places I particularly like to visit are - art galleries and The Ritz Hotel on a Sunday afternoon - it's like going back to the 1920's, everything is so languid and leisurely.

If you could live in another day and age - what person and what century would you choose?

I'd be Queen Boadicea - how marvellous to have a permanent stand on the Embankment! I can't think of anything smarter than that. She was so warlike and primitive.

How did you get the part of Emma Peel in The Avengers?

I took a test with other ladies in leather and had to do a scene with Patrick Macnee and a short fight with a stand-in man, whom I'm sure will never be able to walk straight again after sixteen ladies bashing him over the head with a handbag. Anyway, after the test, I had a long chat with the producer and told him I didn't think I was quite right for the part - he agreed, and yet, the next day, ABC Television rang and offered me the role.

What are the most difficult things you have to do in this part?

One is coming out with a lot of technical blah about science and medicine. I love the fighting - but the string of highfalutin' words that Emma Peel always has at her fingertips I feel is alien to the character I'm playing, so it's jolly difficult to put it over naturally and easily. Another difficulty is injecting humour at 8.30 in the morning.

Has the role had any influence on your own life and personality?

Basically, none at all.

What is your favourite dish - can you give me a recipe?

I love fish - especially sole, either beautifully grilled with plenty of lemon and grated black pepper, or when it tartared up with a terrific, tasty sauce. I also like apricots, peaches, raspberries... and fresh young lamb - it has a beautiful flavour. This is the recipe for my favourite fish dish. It's fillet of sole with shrimps or asparagus, or aubergines rolled inside like an envelope. Pop the lot into a casserole and into the oven - 350-400 degrees. Next, make a delicate cheese sauce with the usual ingredients of butter, flour, milk and I normally use Wensleydale cheese - it's lighter than cheddar. When the sole is almost done - pour the sauce over the fillets and return to the oven till the cheese is "golden brown" as the experts say. And, lastly, to pretty-it-up, chop parsley on top just before serving.

Any superstitions about good and bad luck?

I tend to be very superstitious. I follow the stars in all the newspapers and magazines. And I couldn't walk under a ladder. I remember, as a child, my brother and I walked under one and we thought it was a big joke, but the same day we heard that my grandfather was terribly sick - I suppose my superstition is based on that. Of course, most theatrical people are terribly conscious of what brings good and bad luck. For instance, you never quote from Macbeth. It's the unluckiest of plays, and every time there's a production, something happens. You shouldn't whistle in your dressing-room either. If you do - you have to go outside - turn round three times - and knock before entering again.

Do you have a piece of advice or a suggestion to give me?

It's very difficult to pass on information - experience is the only thing. That's what I admire about the younger generation - their courage to be themselves. For a long time there were so many taboos, one had to adhere to certain conventions and social strictures - now the kids are spontaneous and have a natural curiosity to find things out for themselves. That's exactly the way I feel about life in general.

If you were going round the world in 80 days - whom would you choose for company - living of dead? No relatives.

I think I'd take Alexander the Great. There was a man, fully developed at an early age and also a marvellous soldier, philosopher and humanist - he was dishy, too. Alternatively, I might like Shakespeare. Perhaps I'd discover who was the "dark lady" of the sonnets. I'd also like to ask him why he wrote and did certain things. I'd definitely go on this voyage to learn.

Fashion-wise - what are your favourite clothes?

I love trouser suits. To my mind, a woman in trousers is dressed. I absolutely adore shifts, too - and petticoat dresses. Basically, I go for very simple clothes, but I also love fur - fur coats of the cat family.

What are your plans for the future? And what would you most like to achieve?

I'm playing Viola in Twelfth Night for the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford this year - everything else rather depends on this series The Avengers. And what I'd most like to achieve - to keep the man whom I love. There are always so many difficulties.

Any lucky numbers? What are your favourite colours and favourite precious stones?

My lucky number is 13. And the colours I like are black, creamy-beige, tans and bright, vivid shades like Van Gogh and Gaugin used in their paintings, and with which I used to splash everything when I was a child. And favourite precious stones - uncut coloured diamonds - in fact, any uncut jewellery, and also great globs of gold.

Who is your favourite pop singer? What do you think of pop music?

Tom Jones is my favourite - his singing is a treat. I love pop music, it's such a great expression of what is happening amongst the kids and of modern life. It has guts, too, and the lyrics are far better than they used to be.

What kind of music do you most enjoy? Where and how do you like to listen to it? Your opinions about dancing as well?

I love classical music. And there's one man I can always listen to - Mozart. This kind of music is for home when I'm relaxed. I like to listen to pop music when I 'm being driven at tremendous speed in a car - that's so exhilarating. As for dancing - I adore all the things they're doing now. I can't sit and watch dancing, though. When I hear the music and see other people "going all out" I have to join them.

What has been your most unforgettable moment?

I've had quite a few - when I've been truly happy with myself, but I can only tell them in a string of adjectives. The moment of moments was when I played the lead in Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors at Windsor Castle last year in front of the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen Mother, Princess Margaret and about fifty other guests. We had the Kaiser's bedroom to change in and there was an enormous fourposter bed, and also suits of armour and cases of gold everywhere - evidently they'd been presented to one of the sovereigns - and marvellous paintings on the wall of various illustrious "gents".


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