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Why Diana Rigg Once Stormed Off The Game Of Thrones Set

The woman behind Game of Thrones' most formidable character, Olenna Tyrell, wasn't so different from the fictional aristocrat.

According to an excerpt in Entertainment Weekly from James Hibberd's upcoming oral history Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon: Game of Thrones and the Official Untold Story of the Epic Series, Dame Diana Rigg, the former Bond temptress and OBE who played the fan favorite role of Olenna — the clever, conniving leader of Westeros' House Tyrell — was quite the presence, even behind the scenes.

Rigg, a veteran of the Royal Shakespeare Company who passed away on September 10, 2020 at the age of 82, inspired every actor that she worked with during her time on Game of Thrones — for which she earned four Emmy nods – but that didn't mean the venerated actress was always quiet and peaceful during her performances, either. Rigg could be a bit of a diva at times, a quality which made her the perfect choice to play the imperious Olenna Tyrell. In fact, there was one time she stormed right off the set.

Diana Rigg had no patience for this one Game of Thrones scene

According to Jessica Henwick, who played Nymeria Sand, one of the Dornish Sand Snakes on Game of Thrones, one scene between Rigg and the powerful women of Dorne was pretty difficult to film, mostly because Rigg had no interest in waiting around.

As Henwick recalled, "She walked onto the set, and she went, 'I'm ready now!' A cameraman came over and went, 'Well, okay, 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!'"

However, as Henwick clarified, Rigg, at her advanced age, wasn't exactly a speed demon, which made her storming off even more dramatic. "Now, she can't walk fast," Henwick continued. "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."

Diana Rigg inspired — and terrified — her colleagues

Rigg may have been an inspiring presence on set, but she was also intimidating. Early on in the casting process, after sitting down for tea with showrunners David Benioff & D.B. Weiss to discuss the role — as Benioff put it, "Dames don't audition for you; you audition for them" — she signed on, and subsequently blew everybody away when she arrived at her first table read having memorized her lines for the entire season. Benioff and Weiss even ended up expanding the role of Olenna beyond the character's development in George R.R. Martin's book series, ultimately giving her a bombshell of an ending. As Weiss succinctly said, "Olenna was probably the only character to win her own death scene."

Meanwhile, director Mark Mylod recalled, "I was terrified of Diana Rigg. 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 became a five-year-old boy. I could feel myself blushing and creeping back to my monitor, stripped of any kind of dignity or authority."

Rigg certainly left an impact on her co-stars, including Natalie Dormer, who shared many scenes with the actress as her granddaughter, Margaery Tyrell: "When you have someone who has that many accolades, you just shut up and watch. She had a very dry sense of humor and was aware of the parody of herself. Sometimes I think she was mischievous to see what she could get away with."

The entirety of Game of Thrones, including Rigg's best moments, can be streamed on HBOMax.