The on-set stature – and mischief – of the late Diana Rigg has been revealed in a new book, Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon, about the making of Game of Thrones, in which the cast and crew detail the level of command she had on the HBO/Sky Atlantic drama.
Dame Diana, who died last week, played House Tyrell matriarch Olenna for seven seasons of the global hit fantasy drama.
Top director Mark Mylod revealed that Dame Diana left him quivering like a five-year-old.
According to EW, which has an advance copy of the book, Mylod said: “My very first scene with her, I asked her to do a very minor thing. Like, ‘Would it make sense if you close the door and walk a few paces before this moment?’ She came back with some rebuttal about why she wanted to do it another way and then said: ‘Thank you! Go away!’… I could feel myself blushing and creeping back to my monitor, stripped of any kind of dignity or authority.”
Jessica Henwick, who played the whip-snapping Nymeria Sand, recalled how she had so much command on set that she could get away with shortening her scenes.
In season six, there was a scene in which Olenna discusses strategy with Ellaria Sand and famously cuts short Sand Snakes Obara, Nymeria, and Tyene by snapping, “Oh do shut up … Let the grown women speak.”
Henwick said: “She walked onto the set, and she went, ‘I’m ready now!’ A cameraman came over and went, ‘Well, OK, but we haven’t finished setting up.’ She interrupted him and said, ‘Roll the cameras!’ And she just started doing her lines. She did two takes, and then the guy came over and was like, ‘Great, now we’re going to do a close-up.’ And she just stood up and she went, ‘I’m done!'”
She continued: “Now, she can’t walk fast. She has to be helped. So basically we just sat there and watched as Diana Rigg effectively did her own version of storming off the set, but it was at 0.1 miles per hour. She cracked me up. I loved her.”
Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss said The Avengers and James Bond star was 74 when she was offered a recurring role in the series in 2012.
“We had tea with her,” Benioff recalled. “Dames don’t audition for you; you audition for them. We loved her, she was funny, she was bawdy, she was everything we wanted for that character.”
Weiss continued: “She said with a big smile, ‘There’s an awful lot of bonking, isn’t there?'”
Dame Diana soon astounded the producers by turning up on set having memorised all her lines for the entire series.
Acting with her was a masterclass according to her co-stars. Natalie Dormer, who played Olenna’s ambitious granddaughter Margaery Tyrell, often shared scenes with her.”When you have someone who has that many accolades, you just shut up and watch,” said Dormer. “She had a very dry sense of humour and was aware of the parody of herself. Sometimes I think she was mischievous to see what she could get away with.”
These and may more stories about the making of Game of Thrones feature in Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon, published on 6th October and available for pre-order now.
If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV guide.