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17 August 1977: Women's Weekly

The Astonishing Transformation of Diana Rigg

Free-wheeling. Independent. Untamed. That's how showbiz writers have described Diana Rigg. She was the fiery adventurer who didn't need men, who didn't need anybody. Who lived life on her terms, in her own way. Well, life has brought new terms for the fiery Miss Rigg, (best known as Emma Peel, heroine of TV's "The Avengers" - a role she says she adored).

She's now a mother. On May 29 she gave birth to a 3.4kg (7lb 13oz) daughter at an exclusive London hospital.

But she hasn't yet revealed her choice for the baby's name nor allowed it to be photographed.

A constant and devoted visitor to see her in hospital was Archie Stirling, the 35-year-old former guards officer with whom Diana has been living for the past year. The two of them have bought a $150,000 London house.

Marriage is on the cards - if Ms Rigg (she once campaigned for a woman's right to be known as Ms on her passport) is ready to test the matrimonial waters again after her disastrous first marriage to Israeli artist Menachem Gueffen.

Her divorce came through last September. And only two weeks before the baby's birth, Archie Stirling was divorced from his wife, Charmain, the 33-year-old niece of Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester. Stirling has two sons from that marriage - William, 12, and Ludovic, nine.

Diana, whose father was in the Indian Government Service, is aligning herself with the bluest Scottish blue blood. Archie's father, Colonel William Stirling, owns 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres) of lush Perthshire country. Prince Charles and Angus Ogilvy are regular visitors for shooting weekends at the family seat, Keir House.

The Stirlings seem to be taking the liaison with typical aristocratic aplomb. "I know it sounds funn," said Colonel Stirling earlier this year, "but until my son introduced me to Miss Rigg, I don't think I wouls have recognized her. I do not watch much television and never go to the cinema.

"I have now met her several times - she is a charming and very pretty lady."

Archie is company director of the family oil business, and manager of a stone quarry in South Africa. When Diana was filming Sondheim's "A Little Night Music" with Elizabeth Taylor in Vienna last year, he flew over from England every weekend to be at her side.

It's as thoughDiana Rigg has come out of a long dark tunnel. Through Archie Stirling and now the baby she has found a new security and self-assurance.

"I'm very happy," she said recently when she must have known she was pregnant. "Everything has come together, my own capacity to take, accept, enjoy.

"I've got to the stage now that where I can say 'I need you.' I'm amazed and, for a woman of my age, pathetically grateful at the response that evokes.

"I feel for the first time it's a lasting relationship, but one is defensive about saying that because one has made mistakes."

Thirty-eight is getting on the be a ripe old age to have a first baby. And even with the nanny and the housekeeper Diana can afford, there will inevitably be a period of adjustment.

But she was ready, on doctor's orders, to cancel all work to spend the last two months of her pregnancy having a complete rest.

"I've been told that wanting a child can be like a craving," she once said. "I've never felt that. But I know I'd be deeply excited about what came out. I'd like to watch it develop Yes, I do feel it would be marvellous to create another human being."

Success came early with "The Avengers." It taught her to erect a barrier of self-possession, a cool shell to keep her provate self intact.

She lived with handsome film and television producer Philip Saville for eight years. They parted in 1972. Publicity about the relationship was deliberately kept low key - Saville, 10 years Diana's senior, was married to actress Jane Arden, and has two sons, Sebastian, 24, and Dominic, 19.

"Phillip was the first man I really loved," she said later. "And I shall always know and love him."

A year later, in July 1973, Diana surprised her friends and herself by marrying Israeli artist Menachem Gueffen.

It was a stormy affair from the start and the marriage lasted only 11 months.

"Menachem and I should have never gotten married of course," Diana confessed afterwards. "I'm extremely angry with myself for making such an idiotic mistake. If we had lived together we would have known immediately that it would have never worked."

For the next few years her career blossomed, apart from a disastrous TV series in America. She toured England and the US with the National Theatre, winning rave reviews.

Meanwhile, her name was constantly linked with different men. But her aggressive, self-sufficient lifestyle began to take its toll on her acting. Fortunately she had a dear friend in John Dexter, the director, who had the courage to tell her to put the brakes on.

He took her to lunch in New York. "It was champagne, caviar, the lovliest things to eat, and what he had to say was bitter gall. He told me I was getting hard. He told me it was showing in my performance. i will always be grateful to him for that moment," Diana admitted.

"I realized he was right. I wouldn't allow myself to cry. You don't cry sitting in Sardi's in New York with your director. But I wanted to."

That night she sat in her hotel room and took a long hard look into herself. The result was a sense of tremendous relief.

"You're terribly busy when you're being defensive and hard: you work at it all the time."

She came home to London, and not long afterwards met Archie Stirling. This time she was ready to give as well as take.


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