Transcripts

22 January 1978: Sunday Express

The Night They Turned Up The Lights On Naked Diana

Diana Rigg swings into the flower hung restaurant looking for all the world a tall, assured young girl in her early twenties.

A green tweed flat cap, hair tucked inside showing off her oval face, troubled brown eyes, and a flawless complexion. Cream silk shirt, green pullover, tartanish skirt with white petticoats flouncing beneath.

Round her neck there are two gold chains, one with a locket and the other a gold knot in a circle.

Heads turn.

Seven months ago, at the age of 39, she gave birth to Rachael, a bouncing 7lb 13½oz baby girl by her lover, Archie Stirling. Now she is back at the National Theatre starring opposite Richard Johnson in Molnar's The Guardsman.

She has a glass of champagne, orders a packet of cigarettes, refuses my offer to pay, lights one.

"Having Rachael was quite marvellous. It was the best performance of my career, according to my doctor. We wanted to have a baby and so I had one.

"She's a beautiful child and very well behaved. We just liked the name Rachael - we got it from a book.

"Now I've got a Scottish nanny to look after her. I wanted to get someone young and pretty. I found Anne, who is 22, and she comes from Brechin, in Angus, and she's super.

"Working in repertory, as I am doing at the National, is the only way that I would work at the moment - you have time off to yourself as well as time working.

It was while Diana was in Vienna, filming the musical A Little Night Music that she decided she wanted a child by Stirling. And it would seem that with him she has at last found a satisfactory relationship for her independent spirit.

In her twenties she lived for eight years with television director Philip Saville. Then in 1973 she suddenly married Israeli artist Menachem Gueffen, whom she had met only a few month previously. After 11 months, they separated.

"That was a monstrous mistake.

"It really was. When you do something like that, it means you don't trust yourself to make any decisions or do anything anymore. You totally lose confidence in yourself. It was really quite shattering..." She trails off.

The stories of luggage being thrown from Tel Aviv hotel windows, were they true?

"I am afraid so. I didn't even change my name when we married. I didn't really have time to."

Two years ago she met Archie Stirling, a tall, handsome, former Guards officer, a couple of years her junior. His family owns some 50,000 acres of Scotland and have interests in North Sea Oil.

There were problems, too, with this affair. For Stirling, a Roman Catholic, was already married with two sons. But last year his marriage was dissolved and he and Diana bought a £100,000 house in Earl's Court.

Although they are both free, there are no immediate plans to marry.

"I'm not planning to get married. It's a mutual decision. We are as good as married in every way except for name. The house is owned by us jointly and that's good enough for me."

Diana was born in Doncaster, but spent her early years in India, where her father was a civil engineer. Sha came back to England as a boarder at Fulneck Girls' School in Pudsey, Yorkshire.

"I'd always wanted to be an actress. Oh, from about the age of 11. And there was a teacher at school who encouraged me - I still keep in touch with her - and so when I was 16 and 5ft 8½ inches tall, I did an audition for RADA and got in.

"My father was quite happy about my being an actress but my mother wasn't; she was convinced that when I came down to London I would be ravaged. In fact, she's still not quite sure about me sometimes and gives me her What-on-earth-have-I-produced? look."

After RADA and a brief spell modelling clothes in northern stores, Diana joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford at the age of 20. And within a couple of years, she had established herself as a rising young star of the company.

At 26, to the disapproval of the theatrical purists, she forsook her classical career and for two years was Emma Peel in The Avengers television series at the height of it's popularity, when it was seen and she was admired in 50 million homes around the world.

After The Avengers, Diana went back to the classical theatre, but threw in such things as her performance as a nun in Abelard and Heloise, in which she and Keith Michell appeared in a controversial nude sequence.

"Actually you couldn't see anything," she says. "The lights were dimmed right down. Well, they were meant to be dimmed right down, but I think someone bribed the lighting man in Newcastle, as that scene started in darkness and suddenly the lights all came on full: Keith and I just looked at each other in horror and tried to cover ourselves as best we could.

"I'm not wealthy or anything like that, but I am financially independent and I've always been capable of making my own way and earning a living. The only asset I have is the house. And my second-hand Mercedes 220. I always used to have Minis. And once I had a Mini Moke - that was great fun. It's the only car in which you can be goosed from the outside while actually driving around the Peripherique in Paris.

"The car can be a nuisance, you know. When the National Theatre was at the Old Vic, which I loved, you rather accepted that part of the deal was that you had to keep nipping out to feed your parking meter. Well, I thought that would be over at the new place.

"Well, when I went back there I was given a very smart sticker saying 'Nation Theatre' for my car. The only problem was that there was nowhere to park. I just go round and round and end up putting the car in the National Car Park place - for The Guardsman I was getting £44 a week for four weeks' rehearsal and it cost me one week's wages to pay for the car parking for the rehearsal times.

"When I complained about it I was just told - 'Oh, well, Ralph Richardson has the same problem since he's given up riding his motorbike and he is 75'."


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