Tribute to Rigg from ‘our’ James Bond

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L-R, Georgina Brennan (niece), Mrs Sheila “Joan” Lazenby, George Lazenby, CAPO president Helen Morrison, Tony Magee, Canberra, 1999.

Music writer TONY MAGEE spotted George Lazenby’s Instagram tribute to Dame Diana Rigg, who has died aged 82, and it brought back memories of Lazenby’s 1999 visit to Canberra.

WITH the passing of British actress Dame Diana Rigg on September 10, one of the most moving tributes has come from one of our own.

Born in Goulburn and raised in Queanbeyan, actor George Lazenby is the only Australian to have been cast as James Bond, albeit just for the one movie, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, released in 1969.

His co-star was Diana Rigg, who played Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo. The two fall in love.

What is unique about this particular Bond film, is that it’s the only one in which James gets married. The Countess duly becomes Mrs Tracy Bond – alas, a marriage that lasts for just two days, as her character is shot and dies in his arms.

Taking to Instagram, the actor, who lives in the US, posted to his 7,857 followers, a heartbreaking tribute, admitting he was in tears following the news of Dame Diana’s death.

“I’m so sad to hear of the death of Diana Rigg. She undoubtedly raised my acting game when we made ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ together in 1968-9.

“I remember the press conference at the Dorchester in London, knowing she was going to play my wife.

“We had fun together on the set of the movie in Switzerland and Portugal.

“Her depth of experience really helped me. We were good friends on set.

“Much was made of our supposed differences but that was the press looking for a news story.

“I was sorry to have lost my wife in the film at the end. The death of Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo Draco created a memorable cinema moment over 50 years ago.

“As my new bride, Tracy Bond, I wept for her loss. Now, upon hearing of Dame Diana’s death, I weep again. My deepest condolences for her family. Love George xx.”

George Lazenby and Diana Rigg in ”On Her Majestry’s Secret Service.’ Photo: Moviestore collection Rex.

George Lazenby has travelled back to Canberra and Queanbeyan on many occasions since that movie was completed, mostly to visit his mother, Sheila “Joan” Lazenby, a long-time resident of Queanbeyan, as well as to play golf or have a tennis hit with his great friend, John Newcombe.

The Capital Arts Patrons Organisation (CAPO), for which I was event producer at the time, and later president, flew him out here in 1999 as special guest of honour for our fundraising auction-ball at the National Gallery of Australia. It was a James Bond themed event. Mrs Lazenby also attended, as did his niece, Georgina Brennan.

The Canberra British Car Club lent us a silver Aston Martin DB5 for display, the same model Lazenby drove as Bond in the movie. Rolfe Motors of Canberra also came to the party and loaned a brand new Holden Statesman with 007 plates for George to cruise around in whilst he was in town.

When Richard Rolfe and I picked him up from Canberra airport, greeting him warmly, we ushered him to the carpark, and I said, “Mr Lazenby, here is a car for you to use, courtesy of the Rolfe family”. When he saw the 007 plates he gasped and said, “You guys are too much! This is very cool indeed! Thank you!”

Canberra audiences will remember with fondness Diana Rigg’s superb performance in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s international touring production of “The Hollow Crown”, which came to Canberra in 2002. Along with fellow British acting luminaries Donald Sinden, Ian Richardson and Derek Jacobi, the four portrayed various monarchs over time, to critical acclaim.

Rising to fame in the early 1960s as secret agent Emma Peel in “The Avengers”, alongside actor Patrick Macnee, who played John Steed, Dame Diana’s final screen roles included her highly acclaimed performances as matriarch Olenna Tyrell in “Game of Thrones”.

Dame Diana Rigg was diagnosed with cancer in March earlier this year. Her death was announced by her daughter, Rachel, saying: “My beloved Ma died peacefully in her sleep early this morning, at home, surrounded by family. I will miss her beyond words”.

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