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05 April 1986: TV Times

Diana Gets Stuck Into Her New Role

With a bound, one-time Avenger Emma Peel would have been free. But Diana Rigg, creator of the glamorous Emma way back in the Sixties, found that problems which appear to be easy to solve on the screen are more difficult in real life.

For her Channel Four series about National Trust properties in Scotland, which starts on Saturday and is called Held in Trust, Diana was to have swum off Fair Isle in a rubber wet suit and oxygen mask.

One evening in the privacy of her hotel roo, she recided on a dry run. Nobody had told her that the easy way to take off a wetsuit was to ensure that the inside of it is dusted with talcum powder before you put it on. So she was stuck.

"Oh," says Diana Rigg, who can turn on a sizzling, mean look when she has a mind, "I can laugh now, but at the time I was incensed.

"The more I struggled, the hotter I became and the tighter the rubber stuck to me. I thought that for the rest of my life I would have to walk around in a rubber suit. I struggled for hours. People downstairs were wondering what had become of me. In the end, I had to talk to myself calmly. 'Now, Diana, calm down. Cool down.' I did. Finally, I got the beastly thing off."

We meet for lunch in Glasgow. She orders those tiny lobsters - langoustines - and has them with garlic, which reminds me of the James Bond film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1967), in which she starred with that fleeting 007, George Lazenby. Lazenby accused her of eating the stuff before their love scenes.

She comes on very grand - which perhaps she is - very forthright, lots of laughs and a bit outrageous. She wears black stockings and shiny high-heeled shoes.

After all those statements she used to make - years ago now, of course - about how she would never marry and the need for independence, she is married for the second time and has an eight-year-old daughter, Rachael. Her husband, Archie Stirling, is a former Guards officer, whose family owns several thousand acres of Scotland.

They have a home in West London, another in Stirling. She says of the pronouncements she oncemade: "They haunt you for the rest of your life. Why? Even the greatest philosophers have been known to change their minds."

Apart from the statements is there anything else she would have altered in her life? "Yes," she says. "Just one thing, but I'm not going to tell you and if you keep on asking I'll kick you on the ankles."

Talking instead about her television series, she says that there was a moment during filming in Fife when two old biddies began asking certain questions, too.

"I heard them say," mimicks Diana in her best Jean Brodie accent, "'Diana Rigg? Diana Rigg, what's she got to do with Scotland?' I must say I agree. But because I'm only married to a Scot and I'm not indigenous, I'm probably more enthusiastic about the whole place and I'm learning about it with the viewer."

Her style of presentation is purposely low-key. "You get the David Bellamys and everyone else coming on strong, but I didn't want to do a number as if it's 'look everybody, I'm teaching you something'."

Before she met her husband she hardly knew Scotland. "I remember playing Edinburgh in A Midsummer Night's Dream and nobody came. I had a streaming cold like I have now, and I never saw the place. Now I think Scotland has changed me. I've never experienced such space before and country pursuits. I suppose my delight in those things was always there but had never been brought out. And I like the Scottish character - they don't give a damn, do they? Deeply unimpressed...underwhelmed, I think is the word. I like that.

Of all the places where the series was shot, it was probably Fair Isle that made the strongest impression on Diana.

"We stayed at a hostel there. Lights out at 10:30, no booze except beer and cider, which seemed to be rationed, and everywhere these extremely earnest ornithologists, who were so proper they made you want to behave like a naughty schoolgirl.

"The film crew came over on a boat called The Good Shepherd, all of them thinking they were going to die, all of them verging on the terminally sea-sick. And I remember these dear ladies knitting sweaters. I ordered one. Months later, it arrived with a little note from the lady who had made it. Just charming. I don't knit and I admire people who do."

Fair Isle it was, too, where the now talcum-powdered rubber wet suit came back into her life. She was sitting in it, on a boat, waiting to dive into the water when the thought came to her: "This is totally ridiculous. I've never done this diving in my life and I'm not going to do it. I'm simply not. I'm not going to die for a travelogue about Scotland!

"You know actors and actresses who are the most obliging of people, but I suddenly thought 'no'. Besides which, the ladies who did the make-up were all saying, 'You're mad, mad to do it.' And they were right. I didn't want to end up having to be wrenched off the bottom of the ocean.

"There comes a point in one's life when enough is very much enough."

During the eight-part series, Diana visits 90 National Trust for Scotland properties. Fair Isle, in the Shetlands, the setting for the first programme, is the most isolated inhabited island in the British Isles.


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