13 January 2000: Belfast Newsletter

Dame Diana gets naughty

When it comes to the devilish combination of sensuality and violence that only the sexiest, most dangerous female characters possess, there's only ever been one queen of high kicks and lipsticks - The Avengers' Emma Peel.

But the actress who played the snow-white temptress in the jet- black catsuit thinks the time is right for her to flip the good girl coin and get a bit dirty.

And the object of Dame Diana Rigg's new-found dastardly aspirations? A certain Mr Bond.

"I'd love to be a Bond baddie," she says, with undisguised relish. "It's about time they had a really, really bad woman - and I could do that easily. Baddies are always the best parts by far and I see myself with one of those ghastly scars across my face."

The 61-year-old has already appeared in the 007 world when she popped up in On Her Majesty's Secret Service playing a goodie.

So if her wish to guest as a white cat-stroking, volcano-destroying despot ever comes off, it will be a shock to the many fans who insist on keeping her Emma Peel image preserved in aspic.

However, it's not a mistake the acclaimed actress, who recently topped a poll of the world's sexiest women, is likely to make.

"I look in the mirror and wonder what they are talking about," she says candidly. "Time passes and one's an old bore. You are the sum of your parts, but you have to move on. It's pointless, wishing to revive something, or not acknowledging that it happens."

The celebrated grand dame of the theatre returns to small screen as a tongue-in-chic amateur sleuth in the 1920s-set BBC series The Mrs. Bradley Mysteries.

With her devoted chauffeur George, played by Neil Dudgeon, she moves in upper crust circles, solving murders and dispensing witty one-liners about everything from sex to child rearing, from Freud to fashion.

"Neil and I have the freedom to play around with our lines and we corpse a lot," she admits with an impish grin. "There should be a long compilation of the out-takes, but it is probably so full of giggles and expletives it probably wouldn't be broadcastable."

The new series comes after a period when Dame Diana made an enormous impact in the theatre, taking the West End and Broadway by storm and adding to her already impressive collection of awards for acting.

"Winning awards means you've probably worked very hard," she says evenly. "But I keep them in my study upstairs, so they are not on public view. As for becoming a Dame, it makes no difference at all. I really don't use it much. I'm just Diana."

Yet fans may be surprised to hear that Dame Diana has been offered few TV roles in recent years.

"When you have been around as long as I have, they think: 'Oh, she's not modern'," she says.

"I just don't get offered a lot of contemporary roles, but I would love to do modern stuff. Until Mrs. Bradley came along, nothing really good, stylish, or fun, had been offered on television. But this is all of those things.

"The trouble is that I had been working really hard on stage in London and New York before making this series and I have given myself a bit of a holiday.

"It's even rather nice being at home, not having to go tearing out of doors at the crack of dawn and come tumbling back in at twilight. We do film long hours. You've got to get your relish back and when that comes back then you're ready for work.

"That's when you put your head above the parapet - and that's when no scripts come in."

Yet the attention is still there from the public and she still gets fan mail from all over the world, thanks to repeats of The Avengers and is inundated with requests for autographs.

It's a problem she tackles in her own inimitable way.

"I get really bored with people who send half a dozen pieces of paper for you to sign," she says. "You know perfectly well that they're trading them and swapping them. I sign one and send the rest back.

"But when The Avengers was at its height my mother used to do my fan mail. So there are a lot of people all over the world who have got a Diana Rigg autograph - and it's actually my mum's."

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