CANNES, France: British acting legend Dame Diana Rigg said Friday that women must be “finally paid their due” after decades of screen sexism and lower pay.
The 80-year-old, who played the hard-nosed Lady Olenna Tyrell in “Game of Thrones”, revealed that she protested when she found out that she was earning less than the cameraman on “The Avengers”, the cult 1960s British television series that made her famous.
“I had nothing against the cameraman but I complained and made a fuss of it,” she told AFP at the Canneseries TV festival in the French Riviera resort, where she is receiving an icon award.
“I was called all sorts of things, and nobody supported me,” she added, in what she called her first big battle with “male authority”.
Her co-star Patrick Macnee looked the other way, she said.
“Patrick was a dear and sweet but wanted a quiet life. And I was trouble,” Rigg said.
In keeping with Emma Peel, the fearless spy she played in the series, the actress did not take it lying down.
“I made a bit of a song and dance and demanded more… but there was no sisterhood” to help. “In those days, you were on your own,” she added.
“I think it is outrageous that actresses are still underpaid. If they are of the same stature as the man they are playing opposite, then they should be paid the same,” she said.
Rigg said women were at last being portrayed on screen as they really were, saying the hit BBC series “Fleabag” “was a major step forward”.
“It is absolutely brilliant. It is a major step forward in TV, particularly for women. The lead character is portrayed as a real woman.”
“Phoebe Waller-Bridge who wrote (and stars in) it is not only beautiful she is brilliant,” Rigg said of the actress, who is also the brains behind the hit spy series “Killing Eve”.
“I am not denigrating men but women have not been paid their dues in terms of the complexity of their characters.”
The veteran British actress, who won a Tony award for her “Medea” on Broadway, said she enjoys playing feisty characters like the avenging wife in the Greek tragedy.
‘I’m not having it’
“The Greeks believed that their lives were preordained by the gods. She said, ‘Fuck that! I am not having it. I am going to live my life the way I want,’” Rigg declared.
“Which was an extraordinary thing for Euripides to portray. That is why I like women who stride out, they are the interesting ones.”
Rigg, who in the past questioned feminism, said she was never “anti-feminist, but I dislike feminists when they become aggressive and anti-men, it makes no sense to me.
“What’s the point of turning your back on them. We need more dialogue,” she said.
Last week “Game of Thrones” star Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa, said she accepted less pay than her co-star Kit Harington because he had to do more night shoots.
Rigg, whose character has been killed off, said she would not come back from the dead for the final season, which starts on April 14. “I can’t tell you anything about it. I have never watched it,” she admitted.
“God no, I could not bear to watch myself. It is agony,” Rigg cried, even in “The Avengers”.
“You see through yourself. I know myself terribly well, it is painful and I don’t do it.”
The stage legend said the proudest moment in her career was taking “Medea”, Euripides’ “2,500-year-old play to Broadway” from a small London theatre.
“I begged the producers to put Euripides’ name up in lights and offered to pay for it myself, but they refused because they said it would turn the audience away.”
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