Top Cat
(From City Life Magazine| May 2004 | thanks Vicky)

Eddie Izzard is a man at the height of his powers.
No stilettos required. Sarah-Jane grabs an hour with 'the busiest man in show business'

Eddie Izzard is the king of the castle right now. Heís just finished filming a big budget musical with Susan Sarandon and Christopher Walken and a couple of weeks ago he was invited to be a juror at Tribeca Film Festival. His agent has been flooded with TV and radio requests and earlier this year he wowed critics and theatre lovers with his Broadway debut in A Day In The Death Of Joe Egg. His website attracts thousands of visitors each week, his DVD sales are going through the roof and MAC cosmetics recently commissioned him to design a limited-edition, blood-red lipstick. To top it off, in less than a fortnight the Sexie show man will be rubbing shoulders with Hollywood heart-throbs George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon on the set of the eagerly awaited Oceans Twelve.

ďI havenít done any of my scenes yet, but Iíve already decided my role is absolutely pivotal to the film,Ē he deadpans. ďWithout my character the whole plot would just fall apart. Obviously I canít tell you what happens, but I can tell you I play a highly intelligent bomb expert.

Listening to Izzard enthuse about his character, itís not hard to see what prompted director Steven Soderbergh to cast him over more experienced actors. Aside from his commitment to individual projects, he oozes passion, presence, energy and ambition.

ďI know most people think of me as a comedian, but Iíve wanted to be an actor since I was ten,Ē he protests. ďIíve just taken a long, curly route instead of a short one. Some of the films Iíve been involved with have been well received and some of them have been panned, but I can honestly say I donít regret doing any of them. Just seeing myself on the big screen is a dream come true.

Over the next few months, Izzard fans should have plenty of opportunity to catch their hero strutting his stuff on celluloid. Besides Romance and Cigarettes, he has cameos in Five Children And It and Blueberry. The former is a kidsí film with Ďa daft but compelling storylineí whilst the latter is a spaghetti western co-starring Michael Madsen and Juliette Lewis. Both sound worth watching, but itís The Catís Meow thatís rumoured to nail his best screen performance to date.

Directed by film historian Peter Bogdanovich, itís a classic tale of murder, mystery and suspense set against the backdrop of the jazz era. The story revolves around publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, actor Charlie Chaplin, actress Marion Davies, gossip columnist Louella Parsons and several other high-flyers who join them for a weekend of hedonism on Hearstís luxury yacht. Itís a simple enough plot, but the twist is that itís based on a true story from the Ď20s and ends with a dead body and echoes of scandal.

ďOf course we donít know the full story, but thereís enough clues to suggest somebody got murdered, a body was cremated and lots of dodgy things happened,Ē emphasizes Izzard.

ďLouella Parsons claims in her diary that she found Chaplin and Davies making love, and Hearstís biography implies he probably knew they were having an affair and felt jealous of how loaded and famous Chaplin was. I know Orson Welles planned to refer to the whole scandal in the original draft of Citizen Kane, but I first read about it in Kenneth Angerís Hollywood Babylon.

Endearingly, Izzard suggests he had a blast shooting the film and found preparing for the role of Chaplin an easy task.

ďI researched him quite thoroughly in the late Ď80s, so I already knew a lot about him when I accepted the part,Ē he continues. ďHe was a total failure with women and he came from such poverty and desperation, he was absolutely determined to become a star... I used to pass his house every day when I lived in Streatham Hill and Iíve definitely been inspired by his ambition and achievements. He took a lot of time and care to do his films and controlled everything from the editing to the production. The thing I probably admire most about him, though, was his desire to go and conquer America. It didnít matter it wasnít an empire - he saw it as a land of opportunity and decided to take the leap.

Tellingly, Izzard lets out a sigh of happiness when informed I passed several 40-foot posters of his good self in New York recently.

ďI love America,Ē he beams. ďI played to 90,000 people there on my last tour and every single night sold out in advance. The first time I booked a few shows there, I did wonder if theyíd get what I was about, but I quickly realised most Americans are actually really smart and switched on. Iím not sure why theyíve embraced me so wholeheartedly, but I think itís because they know Iím not manufactured. I wear what I want, say what I want and have no interest in trying to get my own sitcom.

Before he dashes off to his next interview, Izzard confesses he used to go to Leicester Square Odeon after his street performances and catch all the big blockbusters.

ďI always left the cinema thinking ĎIíve got to do a film like that one day, Iíve just got toí,Ē he recalls. ďAnd here I am, 15 years later, finally on the big screen!Ē