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We don’t have to tell you that Diana Rigg is a pop culture icon, and became one way before she played Lady Olenna Tyrell in HBO’s Game of Thrones. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine that London would have really swung quite so groovily in the ‘60s without The Avengers’ Emma Peel influencing matters, and it’s easy to see why she was the only woman that James Bond ever married.
Sadly, Rigg died in 2020, but her legendary status has only grown. Fortunately, fans will have one more chance to see her in a new film when Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho hits the big screen this weekend. Riggs plays Ms. Collins, a landlady who rents Thomasin McKenzie’s aspiring fashion designer Eloise a charming flat in her Soho home, replete with mood lighting and a proper portal to Swinging London. It’s within Ms. Collins’ well-versed walls that Eloise dreams mightily of Anya Taylor-Joy’s burgeoning ‘60s singer, Sandie, so much so that it’s hard to tell where the dreaming stops and reality starts.
With Rigg’s final performance taking center stage this weekend, SYFY WIRE spoke with both Wright and McKenzie about working with the screen legend on Last Night in Soho, and why it was such a meaningful experience.
“I’ve loved Diana Rigg since I was a kid watching repeats of The Avengers on TV in the U.K., and also I just admired her as an actress ever since, in terms of her work on the stage, and on TV, and in film. So when the idea of her being in the movie came up, me and my producers all thought, ‘Oh, she’ll be brilliant.’ We were all very excited by the idea of working with her. And luckily, she read the script and she just wanted to do it,” Wright said. “The first time we met, she said, ‘Well I love the script, and I’d love to do it. And then she said, ‘Some people are scared about dark stuff, but I’m not.’ And when she said that, I said, ‘Oh, this is gonna be fun.’”
While “the dark stuff” certainly comes through in Wright’s psychological horror film, McKenzie says that working with Rigg allowed her to also see the light.
“It was amazing working with Diana, I was really honored to work with her, particularly because she was and is such an icon, especially in the ‘60s, in that time period, when she [became] a household name, she really had such an effect and moved so many people around the world,” McKenzie said. “Observing her, and seeing the joy that she was able to bring to the set, even when we’re dealing with darker subject matters… the enjoyment and laughter that she brought with her was really wonderful, and it was a reminder to enjoy myself… even when you’re really tired, and your legs hurt from all the running, and your throat hurts from all the screaming, to be able to have a good time as well.”
Due to the pandemic and resulting delays, Last Night in Soho wasn’t finished in time for Rigg to see a final print of the film.
“I wish she was here with us now to be able to see the final product, but I think she would be very proud of what she achieved,” said McKenzie.
“The fact that she’s no longer here, and the fact that she didn’t live to see the film come out is obviously terribly sad ... but I have to just be happy and grateful that I got to know and work with her at all. So my memories are happy memories. Even the last time I saw her, which was only a couple of weeks before she passed away, was a happy memory because she was so funny and fabulous, and I walked away smiling,” Wright said. “I’m so proud of her in the movie. I’m just very happy that she’s in it.”
Last Night in Soho is in theaters now.