UK, Two-Part Drama, Network: Five

Written by: Simon Ashdown
Executive Producer: Douglas Rae, Matt Arlidge and Robert Bernstein
Production: Ecosse Films
Director : Kieron J Walsh.


Kitchen is set in a top Glasgow eatery run by a once brilliant and charismatic chef, Nick (Eddie Izzard), who now has a drink problem and is fighting to stay at the top of his game. With a failed marriage behind him he is swiftly heading towards burnout. Danny (James Young) is a young chancer on probation, placed in the kitchen as a condition of his release, with an innate talent and passion for cooking. If Danny can last the distance in the kitchen, under the wrath of Nick’s rule, it will lead to an entrée into a world of money, lust, and power. However, Danny’s probation officer George (Frank Gallagher) is determined to make his life hell and tough choices threaten to steer him off course, including attempted murder, the theft of £750,000, dangerous liaisons with his probation officer’s wife (Natalie Robb) and an unexpected love affair with a fellow chef. Ultimately, which path will he take?

Airing: 9pm, 28th Feb and 1st March on Channel 5 (UK)

Eddie Izzard - Nick
James Young - Danny
Natalie Robb
Frank Gallagher - George

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Photo gallery (updated 06.29.07)


Eddie finally cooking

Caitlin Moran delights in the new - and serious - face of Eddie Izzard, and there isn't an "Aaaaah" in sight

Eddie Izzard holds a unique position in Britain's heart. Part is out of technical necessity - after all, he's the only bilingual, dyslexic transvestite surrealist we've got. But the rest is down to Izzard himself. Having been gifted a talent that many would have settled for with incredulous and thankful delight - this is a man I saw, in his prime (Glasgow 1993), do 40 minutes of material, improvised on the spot, to an audience literally weeping with laughter - Izzard willingly set fire to that career for a pop at his childhood dream: to be a serius leading man. And set fire to it he did - anyone who saw Izzard's most recent stand- up DVD, Sexie, will have seen a man past his prime, still using the old lodestones (bees, jam, cats, Mrs Badcrumble, James Mason, God. the word f"*, going "Aaaaah") with increasingly diminishing returns.

Compared. with, say, Chris Rock's last DVD, its clear that Izzard dropped out of the stand-up premier league- which, at one point, he surely topped years ago. Of course, it's little wonder that high lQ. stand-up feels neglected. After all, the freewheeling energy that made his routines so awe-inspiring has led him into a thousand diversions - doing stand-up in French and German, campaigning in favour of the European Union, leading delega- tions to Downing Street, running his own production company and, most notably, constant jonesing for Holly- wood.

Despite an Emmy nomination, for A Day in the Death of Joe Egg on Broadway, his celluloid acting career has been, self-confessedly, 14 years of so-so bit parts - Ocean's Twelve, Cat's Meow, Mystery Men.

Yet, no matter what he turns out, and however much it made his stand- up career dwindle, he has remained one of those uniquely English treasures - like Stephen Fry, trifle, and rain-sodden camping holidays where everyone gets smashed on cherry - brandy bought in a sub-post office - -that we love, come hell or high water.

But finally, in 2007, Izzard's determination has paid off the pilot of his - new US comedy/drama series, The Riches, in which he co-stars with Minnie Driver, has just received rave reviews. Izzard himself was so sure of the series' success that he pulled out of a lead role in 24, one that would have given audiences something of a mind-melt, as Izzard currently looks the spit of Kiefer Sutherland but with somehow filthier eyes. It looks as if his longest-standing, most random appearing hunch of all - that he is, underneath it all, not the heir apparent to the Pythons but the next Daniel Craig- was correct.

Anyway, all of this is as preamble to explaining why Kitchen, Five's first home-grown drama, is such a big deal. In It, Izzard doesn't have the lead but holds the nonetheless pivotal role of Nick Malone, a celebrity chef

Can’t stand the heat

I have to say that the idea of a drama set in a commercial kitchen didn’t fill with joyous anticipation, even if it was one with Eddie Izzard. That’s partially because it’s getting increasingly difficult to turn on the box these days without getting television’s version of the real thing. Masterchef Goes Large is now on nightly for goodness sake. Another reason was that the clips promoting the thing put me mind of the BBC’s modern retelling of Macbeth with James McAvoy.

I like my steak bloody, but I’d like to think it was the cow’s blood and not that of whoever cooked it.

What actually drew me to Kitchen was the fact that it came from the mind of Simon Ashdown, who was in part responsible for Funland which one of the freshest, cleverest bits of telly for a long time.

Gritty and uncompromising is probably the best way to describe this tale of a convict who faces the prospect of making a success of his job in what seems to be hostile environment or face going back to the nick. You don’t get people using the pasta to snort drugs on Jamie’s School Dinners do you? Some of the language in this would pull even potty-mouthed Ramsay up short.

Scotland’s a great place full of welcoming people with a lovely dry sense of humour. You’d never know that from the majority of telly output that gets shown nationally. Any taking their impression of the nation from shows such as Rebus, Low Winter Sun and now this may well think it’s unremittingly bleak.

Kitchen was easily the best of the crop of new drama this week but even that was actually hard work to wade through. Hardy old warhorse ER may be showing signs of age and can’t be too far away from being cancelled but it’s still easily more watchable than any of our own stuff this week.



Kitchen, Five, Wednesday
Paul English

THERE's blood on the dinner plates, birds being stuffed in the toilets, and a transvestite in the kitchen.

And they say Five's new drama is supposed to be set in a high-class Glasgow restaurant? Call the environmental health, someone...

Actually, there's not really a tranny in the canny, but instead Eddie Izzard, the sometime cross-dressing stand-up who has swapped lipstick for breadsticks and high heels for haute meals.

Last night - even at two hours long, with minimal screen presence -he was the star-name ingredient in asurprisingly filling TV meal.

Izzy played a perma-pickled head chef, flakier than pastry, heading for divorce, mid-life crisis and the bottom of another bottle of vodka.

More Keith Floyd than Gordy Ramsay.

With eyes like maraschino cherries, the big-name in Five's kitchen flavoured the drama without crowding out the other ingredients.

And just as well - as with any satisfying meal, it's the trimmings that make food more than mere fuel.

The main action revolved around Danny Swift (James Young), a raw cut, fresh out the clink, running down his probation with a steely glint in his peepers, an unrealised culinary talent and an eye for prime rump - especially the wife of his probation officer (River City's Frank 'Lenny' Gallagher - being typecast as athug, but brutally good with it).

Young played all manner of comedy characters in BBC Scotland's Karen Dunbar Show - his starter, if you like.

Now, with his first main course, he's shown he's capable of managing beefier parts.

Take half a cup of swagger, a generous dash of ability, a pinch of arrogance and, sod it, a hefty daud of charisma. Boil vigorously with a lead role in a zesty two-part drama, and - Jeezo! - he's established as one of the country's best young actors.

Of course, young Young's only as good as the material he's given. Despite being two hours long, last night's capers zipped by with zeal, cleverly binding sex, drugs (cocaine snorted through a pasta quill), kitchen machismo and brutal violence.

It's like Trainspotting meets James McAvoy's culinary take on Macbeth in last year's BBC Shakespeare Retold series, with High Road's Natalie Robb excelling as a seductress.

The odd ropey accent occasionally soured the affair, and it would be nice to see the peripheral characters - William Ruane in particular - given meat on their parts.

The proof of that will be in tonight's pudding. Two hours or not, I've plenty room for seconds...


Chef Izzard’s kitchen nightmares
Ian Johns


Eddie Izzard has used his off-kilter alertness and presence — he always walks as if he’s wearing his once favoured high heels — brilliantly as a comedian but it hasn’t always served him well in straight acting roles. But his “I’m not quite of this world” air suited his role as Nick Malone, the moody star chef of a Glasgow restaurant, in Kitchen (Five). Stewing over a local food critic and his divorce papers, Malone was more on the sauce than making one as Izzard conveyed a booze-fuelled, bleary-eyed meltdown.

Unfortunately Malone, like all the characters in Simon Ashdown’s drama, seemed more like a set of designated problems than personalities. Danny (James Young, who could star in The Steven Gerrard Story ) was three days shy of completing his probation and avoiding prison by keeping his job as a trainee in Malone’s kitchen.

Yet by the end of this two-hour opener, his reluctant, time-consuming affair with the wife of his crooked probation officer had led to an offer of murdering the husband to share his ill-gotten gains. Danny’s cash-strapped ex-girlfriend, challenging him for his kitchen job, had stolen from the till. And the sous chef Donald’s resentment of him seemed more to do with his repressed homosexuality than jealousy about his natural culinary flair. Oh, and an insulted Donald ignored Malone’s pleas to call an ambulance as he had a heart attack in a storeroom.

All this occurred in the final minutes, so it was as if we had been served endless entrées before the main course. Ashdown, a writer on EastEnders and BBC Three’s blackly comic Funland , did bring an energetic sour quality to his row-filled script. And the kitchen scenes had the claustrophobic tension of a submarine movie — all strict hierarchy, cramped bodies, clanking steel and the ever-present threat of buckling under pressure. Yet we live in an age of foodie overload when books and Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver have already shown us the bad behaviour and pressure-cooker grind behind a rated restaurant.

An early moment, when staff snorted lines of cocaine using macaroni tubes, offered the kind of surprising detail that made us feel we were eavesdropping on a world we normally don’t get to see. Otherwise this was a stir-fry of Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential and Taggart drizzled in Jimmy McGovern. The result was half-baked characters in an overcooked plot. Still, I hope Izzard is given more to do in tonight’s conclusion. He’s the garnish that, er, well, that’s quite enough of the culinary imagery.

If overheated kitchens now seem part of television’s regular menu, so do Westminster romps such as Confessions of a Diary Secretary (ITV1). This dramatisation of the two-year tryst between John Prescott and his assistant Tracey Temple came from the producers of the Blunkett comedy A Very Social Secretary and The Trial of Tony Blair . Since Temple’s dairy entries came across like a cross between Bridget Jones and Adrian Mole, such momentous events as 9/11 prompted the blandest of perspectives: “I’ll always remember where I was on that tragic day, crying my eyes out while the Deputy Prime Minister stroked my arm.”

The programme’s title and nudge-nudge, wink-wink music suggested that Robin Askwith might suddenly turn up at a window with his chamois leather covering his privates. But Tony Basgallop’s script, inspired by Temple’s diary extracts sold to a tabloid for a reported £250,000, never became a full-on sex farce, despite having trousers round ankles and more concentrated innuendo than Ainsley Harriott preparing a starter. Temple, seeing herself as “like a British Monica Lewinsky, only thinner”, was portrayed by a terrific Maxine Peake as someone who liked a laugh while basking in the power of others. John Henshaw’s Prescott was a laughably boorish figure and a bit of a randy old goat yet essentially a decent bloke.

There was an underlying sadness, too, as Temple went from flirtatious gopher to bit on the side to almost housemaid as she served shepherd’s pie to Prescott and a petulant Blair and Brown in his London apartment. But despite spirited lead performances and the odd neat Prescott gag (parking between two Jags, some cowboy clothes glimpsed in a wardrobe), I couldn’t see the point of it beyond giving yet another actor — this time Damian Lewis — the chance to play Tony Blair. Although Mae West once remarked: “Keep a diary, and one day it will keep you,” this left me thinking more of Tallulah Bankhead’s observation: “It’s the good girls who keep diaries — the bad girls never have the time.”


A double helping of Eddie Izzard

TV Preview: by Damien Love

TALES FROM two cities. Well, three. Or maybe one and two quarters. To explain: although Kitchen and Reichenbach Falls are set in Glasgow and Edinburgh respectively, only the latter was filmed on location, and only it bothers to sink foundations into the bedrock of the place. Kitchen, meanwhile, despite the montage of Glasgow streets under the titles, was shot in Dublin (filming a TV series is apparently one of the few things that's cheaper to do over there than here), and doesn't seem to be set anywhere - unless it's within the pages of a sun-lotion-splashed paperback you found discarded on holiday once.

As the title suggests, Kitchen is set mainly in a kitchen, in a ritzy restaurant, ruled over by a seldom-seen celebrity superchef, Nick Malone (Eddie Izzard), whose star is on the wane while his depression and alcoholism are on the wax. It's the kind of sweary, hyperactive, high-pressure environment rammed into the popular imagination by the likes of Anthony Bourdain and all those Gordon Ramsay shows.

Without having gotten much closer to them than books and TV, I imagine these kitchens, whether in New York, Marseille or Glasgow, can be much alike, and if it had stuck to this abstract, private-world aspect - the idea that, once you step through the kitchen doors, you enter another, self-contained universe, with its own laws - this might have been a better programme. But Kitchen isn't really about a kitchen at all. It's about trying to be a flash TV drama, and the celebrity-chef thing is simply the hook on which to hang it.

While Nick wrestles with a messy divorce, the focus falls on Danny (James Young), a young offender working in the kitchen as a condition of his parole, who, while being menaced by a malevolent sous chef, has fallen into a lusty, no-strings affair with Grace (Natalie Robb), the wife of his violent parole officer, as you do.

Work and food fall away, while Kitchen becomes a succession of scams and shagging and shouting people doing not very believable things for not very believable reasons. Never mind Kitchen Confidential; Fawlty Towers seemed more credible. It's like Hollyoaks in River City, neither realistic enough to care about, nor trashy enough to enjoy. As Danny rushes off to sleep with Grace again, you wonder - who writes this? And then you see the answer is Simon Ashdown, who used to write EastEnders, and it begins to make sinister sense.

It would seem Five is feeling let down by it, too. Kitchen appears designed to be shown in four, one-hour episodes, but they're serving it up in two big two-hour chunks this week, as if rushing to get it over. Demanding that kind of viewer commitment can't fail to hurt.

It does get a little better as it goes, thanks to strong performances from Young and Izzard, but four hours of soap is a lot to swallow at once.

Named for the fearful spot where Holmes wrestled with Moriarty, the detective story Reichenbach Falls is both better and worse than it first seems, and it seems pretty OK to begin with. The protagonist is Edinburgh cop Jim Buchan (Alec Newman), a cynical, hard-drinking loner with good taste in music, the bad mood and bruised heart of a jilted romantic, and serious guilt over the death of his partner, killed in a stakeout gone wrong. Returning to work, he's frustrated to find himself with a new sidekick (the luminous Nina Sosanya, who also turns up in Kitchen, but has nothing to do) and put on a meaningless case: investigating the discovery of the body of a man killed a century before, down in the dread, resonating tunnels beneath the city.

And so the game is afoot; playing with layers of Edinburgh and literary history, the opening section has a dark, pleasing density, like the kind of thriller Peter Ackroyd might write about London. But to say more would be to give the game away.

The writer, James Mavor, has adapted his script from an idea by Ian Rankin, who got it either from Luigi Pirandello, or the Chuck Jones who put Daffy Duck through the surreal delirium of Duck Amuck in 1953. Whether the dénouement is worth all the effort in this case is debatable, but it's hard not admire a drama whose downfall is its ambition.


From The

The Eddie Izzard-starring Kitchen is set a few miles west in Glasgow, more specifically within the confines of a Merchant City restaurant. Izzard's head chef is a rheumy-eyed alcoholic (another one) who would rather quaff neat vodka than rule his culinary empire. He looks suitably awful, like a tumescent slab of beef stinking out a dustbin. Jamie Oliver may tell us that working in a kitchen is an aspirational career path, but according to this overcooked, soapy melodrama it's more like slaving away in an unhygienic sweat shop populated by dippy sexist thugs.

Full of deeply dislikable characters, Kitchen tries too hard to be sexy and edgy, and no matter how many action shots they show of coriander being chopped, it fails to convince that a kitchen is an exciting setting for a drama. Izzard is a good actor, but his character is sidelined from most of the action. He is essentially a supporting player in what is presumably an attempt to establish him as a charismatic character performer à la Hugh Laurie in House. But he still needs to find the right vehicle to prove his chops. Absolutely no pun intended.

The last laugh

After 20 years on the comedy circuit, Eddie Izzard has come out ... as a serious actor. His latest role, as an alcoholic chef for the TV drama Kitchen, touches on a long-held obsession with food. On set in California for his new American series, he tells Craig McLean why he's playing it straight

Sunday February 18, 2007 | The Observer

Here's a story. It's an Eddie Izzard story, about Eddie Izzard, so it veers round the houses and back and forth. He's packed a lot into his 45 years; yes, even into the two-thirds of his life that happened before he got famous. Stick with it. Like many an Izzard story recounted from the stages of comedy clubs, theatres and arenas around the world, it's worth it. If you imagine it recounted in his slurry speaking style, it's even better.

ddie Izzard has hitchhiked from Sheffield to Birmingham. He's been living in the student area of the Steel City, sleeping on mates' floors, despite having abandoned his degree (accounting, financial management, maths) after only one year. He'd never really wanted to take a place at Sheffield University anyway, or study bean-counting. His big plan had been to go to Cambridge, 'do the Footlights, then go to Edinburgh [Festival] and then boom, you get a career - they give it to you on a plate'.

But at boarding school Izzard had decided to give up on his A-levels. 'I thought I wasn't cool enough. So I thought: I'll stop studying! That'll make me cool! It's like cigarettes. Why are you smoking? Because they're cool. And then maybe I will get to talk to girls.'

The result of his poor results? Cambridge was out, but Sheffield would have him. Izzard took a proper degree course to please his dad, a financial officer with BP.

But, after one year, he's ballsed that up as well. And now Izzard is that sad figure: the drop-out who hangs about the university union. He's putting on student productions with his own group, the Official Touring Company of Alpha Centauri. He's trying to persuade his contemporaries in Sheffield University Fringe theatre company - among them Stephen Daldry, future director of Billy Elliot - to take shows up to Edinburgh. But Sheffield's undergraduate thesps don't share his enthusiasm. They lost money the last time they took a show to the Festival. Sorry, Eddie.

So Izzard resolves to make his own luck. Hence him thumbing a lift to Birmingham. It is the early Eighties.

'I got dropped off at Spaghetti Junction, right in the middle of one of the humps,' he recalls. Izzard caught a bus into the city centre, to find a payphone. 'They'd just changed from the pips to the thing where you put all the money in first. People wouldn't know you were in a phone box. You could be in an office.'

Izzard's big plan, based on a scam that Peter Sellers once pulled, was calling the local television studios where they made OTT, Chris Tarrant's late-night, grown-up version of his kids' show Tiswas. 'I was a big Tiswas fan. And Alexei Sayle had been on OTT.' Izzard thought he could get on the show, too.

His idea was to ask for Tarrant's agent, so he could hear what his voice sounded like. Then he'd hang up, call back, ask for Tarrant and, impersonating Tarrant's own agent, recommend a hot talent named Eddie Izzard for OTT. In fact, Izzard was in reception right now... maybe Tarrant could pop down and see him...

Did this plan work?

'Nnnnoooo,' says Izzard, rolling the word round his mouth. 'No. Because the agent was in London all day. About 5.30pm I was phoning up the office pretending to be him - his name was Harold - never having heard him. "Hello Shirley, it's Harold." "Oh, hello Harold."' Pause. '"Which Harold is this?" "Oh fuck."' And Izzard mimes hanging up, abruptly, in frustration.

And then, after a long day's nothing, Izzard hitchhikes back to Sheffield. 'Those are the things I used to do,' he sighs. 'My dad said this thing recently: "You always had stupid ideas - but now some of them have worked." That's the difference. And I did - when I was 14 I decided to cycle from Sussex, where I was living, to Wales, where we used to live, with no money, in order to lose weight, because I kept eating chocolate.'

And did he?

'I did. My dad gave me a bit of money and a Little Chef map, so I just cycled from Little Chef to Little Chef. Four or five days camping in farmers' fields.'

You were single-minded/mental.

'Yessss ... mental,' he says absent-mindedly. 'I have big crazy plans. AND!' Izzard's bendy and expressive voice, as it is wont to do, suddenly stands straight up to attention, in capital letters, before sliding into italics. 'I've still got some of them!'

I have travelled by taxi many miles north of Sunset Strip, Los Angeles, to a place called Santa Clarita. It's not very nice. A low-level industrial estate flung either side of a raging torrent of a freeway. 'Santa Concreta I call it,' says Eddie Izzard when I meet him inside Studio 10 at Santa Clarita Studios.

For someone ubiquitous in the British comedy ether for much of the Nineties and early Noughties, we haven't seen much of Izzard recently. And this is why. He's been holed up in LA, most recently in this vaguely dispiriting backwater, working on the next phase in his plan for world domination: a lead role in an American TV drama series called The Riches

He had his first meeting about the show in November 2004. The TV people hired him straightaway. He thinks his performance in Peter Bogdanovich's film The Cat's Meow, and 'getting the Tony nomination and all those other awards' for his 2003 Broadway appearance in A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, put him 'in a decent place' with the TV executives. In early 2006, they shot the pilot. Late last summer The Riches was greenlit. It's a big deal. Enough to make Izzard forgo what sounds like a plum gig in the latest series of 24 - he would have played an unscrupulous arms dealer, one of whose nuclear weapons goes off 'in the wrong place'.

Today, on a set kitted out like a spacious kitchen, they're filming show five of the 13-episode series. Within seconds of us saying hello between takes, Izzard is telling me how he's been based on the West Coast on and off for three years because 'tactically and practically' it gives him a better vantage point from which to 'flood out' into the US entertainment business. He remembers, years ago, making an American TV show in the UK - an episode of Tales From the Crypt with Ciaran Hinds - and how the actors were paid 'scale'. That is, minimum fees. The Americans were members of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), while the Brits belonged to Equity. SAG's scale was much better than Equity's scale. That's another reason to be working in the US, and to be a member of SAG. So long thwarted - first by being a slack-arse at school, later by the miserly crowds who didn't take to his surrealist act during his years as a street-performer - Izzard will not now be denied.

'My first year [performing] in Edinburgh I saw Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie and Emma Thompson win the Perrier Award [for Best Comedy act]. That was '81. My last year in Edinburgh was '93. That,' Izzard says with a slight shrug, 'was my 12 years of climbing the mountain.'

Today, he's looking slim, trim and manicured. The blow-dried, blond hair. The sharp goatee. The midnight-blue power suit. It all speaks of a successful professional, and of someone who's doing very well for themselves, ta very much, in Hollywood. Finally. He will say that, 'I always wanted to do drama and films,' and that he only moved into comedy because, as a spotty teenager with greasy hair, he felt he couldn't play a romantic lead. He certainly wasn't pulling any girls. But he could make people laugh. He pursued that instead. So comedy was a 20-year detour on the way to an acting career? 'It kinda was,' he says with a frown and a grin.

He happily admits that, having started late, he's been playing catch-up ever since. With Robbie Coltrane, Jim Carrey, Robin Williams - with anyone who has managed to defy their comedy roots and be taken seriously as an actor. With Hugh Laurie, who, a couple of weeks before our meeting, won his second Golden Globe award for his role in hit US medical drama House. 'And I'm pleased that Hugh is doing...' He tails off, as he often does, but I presume he was going to say 'well'. 'Because I'm trying to do exactly what Hugh is doing.'

The Riches is being made by the American channel FX. It's 'a Channel 4-y thing', explains Izzard, albeit one that's carried in 90m US homes. He's acting alongside fellow expat Minnie Driver. They play husband and wife Wayne and Dahlia Malloy, grifter members of a gypsy travellers community. After one scam too far, Wayne and Dahlia decide to take their three children and 'go legit', by adopting the identities of suburbanites, Doug and Cherien Rich.

But Dahlia is not long out of prison and wrestling with a crystal meth habit. And Wayne has to assume the life of Doug Rich, a high-powered lawyer. They're dispatching their chavvy-cum-savvy children to the poshest school in the neighbourhood. The midnight-blue power suit, then, is Rich's, not Izzard's. But it fits the Brit multi-tasker just fine. Izzard is also an executive producer on The Riches, and is helping with the writing. But there are eight other producers, and a network keen to make this high-profile drama work in the competitive American TV market. How does Izzard, an avowed control freak, cope with jumping to others' tunes?

'Completely fine, because I didn't write the whole thing,' he says. 'I've been studying structure in order to write dramatic stories, as opposed to my stand-up, which is very free-form.' He's been spending time in the show's 'writers' room, learning at the table... And I seem to be quite good at pitching ideas in.'

His 45th birthday was earlier this month, but he looks younger. With the help of a personal trainer and what sounds like a scary kind of dieting, he appears far healthier than he did in his lumpy, floppy thirties, after success at last came knocking. 'When you start earning money you can eat, snort or drink your wages. I started buying food and I got a bit too heavy. I didn't know how to control it. Then I started pulling back and back and back... and now I don't need hardly anything. I thought, they've given me this lead role and I should try and be as lean as I can.'

I watch Izzard and Driver film a scene in their new kitchen. Driver is dressed in a mini-skirt and knee-high boots. Izzard, famously the only transvestite in the mass-media village, admits to enviously eyeing up Driver's four-inch heels. Both Driver and Izzard say their lines in convincing American accents. He's been working hard on his, and on his acting - his coach is on set and on hand at all times, helping him improve his craft.

'FX said to me, "Can you put a little bit more light into the darkness?"' Izzard says of his contributions to the script. 'So more of my comedy has been allowed to come into it. But with a complete bracket round it that I've worked out with my acting coach. I said, "Let's analyse it, let's distil what the hell I can take over from comedy." And it is: whatever pertains to Wayne's universe that I can use. But it cannot have cats and dogs talking to each other. It cannot have James Masons and surreal people.'

He gives me a tour of the set. I ask Izzard if we must give The Riches, like Desperate Housewives, the voguish classification of 'dramedy'? He almost winces at the term. 'I prefer to call it drama with a funny underbelly. I've been trying to get out of comedy for so long, I don't want to get stuck halfway.'

As we sit down in his trailer parked out the back of the studios to talk properly, I wonder: how did Eddie Izzard - rambling comic raconteur with a thing about James Mason and conversations between pets - get here, from the British comedy circuit to Hollywood? By applying the same single-minded focus that took him and his 'A-level bullshit skills' from Sheffield to Birmingham, and him and his bike from Sussex to Wales. By shaping his career like he's shaping his body. By being utterly, utterly dedicated to getting on and getting ahead.

Over the past decade he's conquered stand-up comedy with a series of acclaimed one-man shows, international tours, including gigs delivered in French. He talks about 'taking New York' and 'getting Paris' and about how, once he gets back to stand-up, Germany, Russia and Spain - and jokes in their native languages - are next on his hit list.

'I was just smashing and grinding these shows out,' is the way he describes his early days gigging. It's odd language for someone who, on stage, comes over as a big softy who says 'cool' and 'groovy' a lot. But this funny stuff was a serious business, and in business you need to be aggressive. 'I played all over, kept going everywhere, until I could pay for the cameras to film one of my shows.'

He became a member of the Association of Independent Producers when he was unemployed in his twenties, and learned the lucrative importance of retaining his copyright on his filmed performances. All his top-selling videos and DVDs, made by his production company Ella (named after his mother, who died of cancer when he was six), repaid his investment many times over. 'I think I earned my accountancy degree.' His last stand-up show, 2003's Sexie, played to sell-out crowds across the world for five months.

But he'd also had an acting agent since 1993, the year of his breakthrough comedy show in London, at the Ambassadors theatre. Parts in movies - not lead roles, but nor were they bit parts - have come his way: The Cat's Meow, The Avengers, Velvet Goldmine, Ocean's Twelve and, this summer, Ocean's Thirteen. He was most recently on the big screen in My Super Ex-Girlfriend. He played an evil criminal mastermind out to nobble Uma Thurman, the vengeful - and super-powered - ex-girlfriend of Luke Wilson. Coincidentally, I saw it on a plane on the way back from my LA meeting with Izzard. It's harmless enough (I laughed a few times; jetlag, I think), a C-list comedy starring an A-list comedian. When we speak later, on the phone, I ask him why he took the role.

'I know how to do comedy in stand-up gigs. But comedy in a silent format, where you haven't got an audience's laughter to work from, is harder to do. You have to learn to judge it.' With filming on The Riches coming up, it seems he thought that even for a show with only a 'funny underbelly', the practice would be handy.

But before The Riches hits our screens - it premieres in the US next month - Izzard can be seen flexing his acting chops in a British TV drama. Channel 5's Kitchen isn't quite the weighty role that he craves. But, being a hefty two-parter running to four hours, it's a pretty good start. And it's better than 40, the 2003 Channel 4 production in which he was miscast as a testosterone-fuelled advertising executive.

Izzard plays Nick Malone, an alcoholic chef in a top Glasgow restaurant. His staff is a rum mix of cheeky young scammers and boiling-mad older hands. One protege gets caught up with the glamorous wife of a brutish patron, who's also his probation officer. Malone is engaged in a messy divorce and a war of words with a food critic. Imagine Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential peopled by some Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver clones. It's not the most inventive of scenarios in these days of foodie overload, but Kitchen is energetic and full of narrative brio. And Izzard is great.

Before nipping over from America to Ireland for the shoot (it's cheaper to shoot in Dublin than Glasgow), he brushed up on his kitchen skills in a Los Angeles eatery, Grill on the Alley. He used to cook a lot when he was younger, 'until something happened and I stopped'.

What happened?

'A family fight - something emotional. I can't actually talk about it.'

I admit that I can't tell if he's being serious.

'I am being serious. I used to cook with my mother. After she died I kept cooking. And at boarding school I was in cooking club. Then at 13 something went wrong and in a childish way I spun it into, "I'm not gonna cook any more." And I haven't till now.'

He's proud of Kitchen, even if he didn't have sufficient time beforehand to prepare a Glasgow accent, and even if, really, 'the co-leads are the younger ones. My role is smaller. But it's one of those roles like Judi Dench in Shakespeare in Love - they're on screen less but are talked about all the time and have a lot of presence.' Dench, you may remember, won an Oscar for the eight-minute performance to which Izzard is comparing his role in Kitchen

If he was a pop star or a 'straight' actor, we'd call Izzard a careerist, or a name-dropper, or an egomaniac. Here he is, for example, talking about his reappearance as 'technicians' technician' Roman Nagel in Steven Soderbergh's upcoming Ocean's Thirteen: 'It's interesting filming with George and Brad because the camera stays on them - I mean, they're good-looking guys. But the camera's waving around following them and you've got to try and get your face in.'

So why do we forgive Izzard his craven ambition? Because he's honest and direct: about his goals, his weaknesses, his drive. He only wants to entertain, and he only wants to get better. 'I think my ambition was always there, and it was held back for a long time because nothing ever happened. And if you think you can do something and it doesn't happen, and everyone tells you it won't happen, you have to hold on to what I call the Madness. I will just hang on and keep going and keep going until ... the thing gives in.'

We forgive him because he's still openly bereft at losing his mother at such a young age, and ascribes his lust to entertain to that loss. 'I've analysed it,' he admitted in an interview with his friend Bono last year (they both supplied voices for the upcoming animated film Across the Universe). 'I think the desire to perform has something to do with my mum dying, because I don't remember wanting to perform before that. She died when I was six, and at seven I saw a kid on stage in a play and I thought, I want to do that, and that feeling stayed.'

We forgive him because he's clever and ethically engaged: he doesn't just want to tell jokes in French, Russian and German to show off (although that is part of it). He's a passionate believer in the European Union, in the notion of the ethnic melting pot as a force for good. He even accompanied Tony Blair to Brussels last summer to report on a European Council meeting; you can still find his podcast on the Number 10 website.

Because he's intriguing, a purist who, for all his ubiquity, remains a bit of a mystery. I suspect he may have a girlfriend right now but he has always, always managed to keep his relationships private. I ask him if he's in a relationship, and he replies: 'I always keep that kind of closed. Certain people in my family and certain people I have relationships with don't wish to be judged through my whatever ... So I tend not to talk about it.' He wears dresses and make-up, but even after the acres of newsprint discussing his transvestism, it's still strangely unfathomable; and I mean that in a good way.

And because, frankly, he's a genius; if you've got any gift tokens left from Christmas, buy the Eddie Izzard MMVI box-set DVD - 573 minutes of six live performances that'll have you laughing until Easter.

And we forgive and indulge Eddie Izzard because, unlike plenty of other fat-cat celeb entertainers, he refuses to rest on his laurels. With his acting, he's still getting there, as I'm sure he'd be the first to admit - although in Kitchen he gives a brilliant performance, all gimlet-eyed intensity and hungover tripwire temperament. Just like a real chef, you think. It's not funny in the slightest.

Back on The Riches set, we talk in his trailer and have dinner in the canteen. Chicken and green veg for Izzard. While we are eating, one of the show's producers reads out a review of the pilot episode, by the TV critic of the Denver Post. It is their first review, and it is a corker. Izzard's performance is described as 'phenomenal', Driver's 'wonderful', and the show as one of the most 'promising new heavyweights' on TV.

'We don't always do this,' Izzard whispers out of the side of his mouth as cast and crew all clap and cheer and holler like Americans. 'Actually, we've just put it on for your benefit.'

Then he leaps out of his seat and bounds into the middle of the canteen floor. He thanks everyone for their hard work, gees them on for the rest of the four-month shoot, and promises that he'll know everyone's name very soon.

'So obsessive,' mutters Driver good-naturedly.

Of course he is. Izzard isn't going to take any risks with The Riches. He remembers the missed chances, the unappreciated routines in Covent Garden, the bad days in Birmingham, as if they were yesterday.

'If you get too established in comedy, people get addicted to the druggy nature of comedy,' he thinks. 'You're releasing endorphins ... No, you're releasing ser-o-to-nin,' he says, savouring every syllable, 'in the brain. And people become serotonin junkies because it's great. You just get these hits [he clicks his fingers three times] and it is like coke, bam bam bam. And I feel that drama is like carbohydrates with minerals, vitamins. It's a main meal of a thing. With lots of different tastes and variances. And it works in a different way on the palate.

'After my big scenes in Ocean's Twelve and Thirteen, it feels like I've got to the Himalayas. I'm at base camp. It's slightly frustrating at the same time. I'm here, I've had a couple of scenes - now can someone just give me a big frigging slice of a film role and I'll tear through it! But I've got to keep hacking my way up the mountain.'

· Kitchen is on Channel 5 at 9pm on Wednesday 28 February and Thursday 1 March

Eddie... steady... cook


FIERY Gordon Ramsay has put the f*** into food, Jamie Oliver is saving the world one school dinner at a time and Nigella Lawson is seducing tastebuds. Celebrity chefs have made cooking the new rock'n'roll. You can't turn on the TV without someone making a drama out of cooking dinner. So, it was only a matter of time before someone made a drama about the life of a celebrity chef.

Eddie Izzard stars as former culinary king Nick Malone, a celebrity chef whose star is now more D-list than Michelin. With a mission to drink his way through his own wine cellar, a wife screaming abuse on his answer machine, and his staff fighting amongst themselves, food is the last thing on the menu at his Glasgow restaurant, Kitchen.

But in case Ramsay, Oliver and their ilk will be watching on freeze-frame, with their lawyer on speed-dial, Izzard insists the show is not meant to take a dig at anyone.

"It's not supposed to be any one chef's life - I think it is influenced by all celebrity chefs or a certain bunch of them," he says. "But people are fascinated by celebrity chefs and their egos. The chef's the star, a bit like a star football player. What happens in a kitchen, it's creative, it's tactile, it's tastebuds, it's very up front, it's visceral. Cooking has to be flamboyant, there must be some chefs out there who are shy, but you don't see them."

Izzard got a real taste of what life is like as a chef when he went behind the scenes in a busy kitchen. Though Kitchen is set in Glasgow, and filmed in Dublin for financial reasons, it was a fashionable Beverly Hills eatery that gave him his work experience to prepare for the role. The Grill On The Alley is the favourite lunching hole of Hollywood agents, and so exclusive that its phone number isn't listed. So, Izzard says, his first instinct was to hide, in case agents thought he'd fallen on hard times.

"I just wanted to hide behind a pillar and watch. I'd eaten there with my agent," he says. "But the chef, Christine Torren, grabbed me and got me cooking. I used to cook when I was a kid to help my mum, but, after she passed away, I stopped. Now, of course, I have a kitchen, but I eat out all the time. Christine gave me this humongous pirate's knife, the biggest knife you've ever seen, and told me to chop vegetables while looking at her. I was worried for my fingers, but I did what I was told. I learnt to sauté vegetables and make them jump in the pan. But she didn't like me tasting things with my fingers. She said she'd kill me if I did it again and I think she was serious."

Izzard says that, while he needed a dummies' guide to cooking, he didn't need any help understanding the kind of ego that goes into making a celebrity chef. It's the same kind of ego that gets an actor or a comic out on a stage to perform, but, he insists, it's not the size of the ego, it's what you do with it that matters.

"All us actors have to have a huge ego. There was a point at college when I thought I could do anything; I didn't give a damn what people thought. But it's how you control your ego in real life. Nick Malone can't control it, it bleeds into the way he behaves. He's on a downward spiral."

The story picks up after Nick has had the best-selling book, the TV series and the top London restaurant. As his career started to falter, he swapped his trendy London restaurant for a kitchen back home in Glasgow. His No 2 has his own style of military discipline for his cooks, while his newest recruit is coping with his ex-girlfriend trying to steal his job and his probation officer blackmailing him with the threat of jail.

"It's really the drama that goes on between people in any pressurised situation - it just has a kitchen as a backdrop," says Izzard.

It's the drama of the situation that he says he's really relishing. After years of being best known for his surreal comedy, rambling monologues and his cross-dressing, people are finally beginning to take him seriously. To him, the comedy had always been a second prize. Since the age of seven he wanted to act, and he has been heading single-mindedly towards his ultimate goal. Finally, it seems to have worked. While UK audiences are watching Kitchen, Eddie will be in LA putting the final touches to The Riches, a US TV series about a pair of grifters in which he shares top billing with Minnie Driver. If it takes off, it could give him the career prospects he has always wanted, and he's not shy of pointing out it's about time, too.

"It's been a f*** of a long time coming," he says. "I got into comedy because I didn't get the dramatic roles at school. I will be doing comedy until the day I die, but I'm finally in the place I've wanted to get to since I first knew films existed."

His determination has been such that he admits he started downplaying his comedy career almost from the moment it took off. He was nominated for a Perrier Award in 1991 and he got a dramatic agent in 1993, at the same time as he won his Olivier award for his one-man West End show. Since then, as the awards for his comedy have rolled in, he has been quietly notching up the acting gigs from stage to movies.

"I didn't want to get into a Jim Carrey position where people are reluctant to take him in a dramatic role because they want him to do that 'crazy' stuff. There was no Eddie Izzard TV show and I don't do big tours. There is comedy baggage and I've been trying to train audiences to see me in different ways."

Bizarrely, Izzard says telling the world he was a transvestite helped him to decide to remain true to his acting dream. It doesn't seem the most logical connection, but he insists it has saved him a fortune in counselling, and helped him come up with a solid career plan from which he hasn't deviated.

"I had to analyse my own sexuality before I came out and told everybody I was a transvestite. I didn't go to a psychiatrist, I analysed it myself and I realised I was taking apart and seeing what works and what doesn't, so I may as well apply to my career. I became military and tactical about it. I thought I had to be in LA because there was going to be more work there, I had to be in a place where someone would give me dramatic roles, and I had to stay away from comedy and keep that rare, and not too much in people's faces, not be 'Mr Comedy'."

But, although confessing to cross-dressing has helped his thought processes, he admits it may have cost him roles, especially in ultra-conservative America. But he says it's a price he's happy to have paid for the peace of mind of being himself.

"I look kind of blokey and I'm wearing a dress, so it's not going to be easy for me, but coming out was a gift to myself, because it's a gift to myself to be truthful and honest," he says. "Being transgender is like being gay or lesbian in the 1950s. Hopefully, in 100 years' time, everyone will think it's kind of boring, but, in America, I had to explain this is just my sexuality, it's nothing to do with the comedy. I don't think they have got the hang of me yet."

They will need to start getting the hang of him soon, with The Riches about to burst on to their screens. He has mastered an American accent and he has got an LA base for filming.

"I was born in Yemen, I travelled round a lot as a kid, but my heart is still European. In the 1800s I would have been a pioneer, travelling to America in search of that part of the psyche that's about going for your dream."

• Kitchen starts at 9pm, Wednesday 28 February, on Five



By Rick Fulton | The Daily Record

SHOUTING and regularly swearing at staff? Surely Eddie Izzard's new role as a chef in Glasgow cannot be a million miles from Scotland's own Gordon Ramsay?

Later this month Eddie - who admits that, like the fiery Hell's Kitchen chef, he shouts at almost anything - stars as Nick Malone in a new two-part drama for Five called Kitchen.

But Eddie, who turned 45 last week, insists that his new character isn't a copy of the celebrity chef.

He said: "While Nick isn't based on Gordon, his name was floating about. Nick definitely swears his head off and is aggressive towards people - like you see Gordon doing on television. And I can be volatile as well.

"I shout at plugs, I shout at things. I do actually get angry with people who do things that are overtly stupid, or people on the phone who do things that are overtly stupid.

"I will try to be almost like a lawyer, in saying: 'Look, this was the deal. Don't you get in my face. This is what you said you'd do and you did not do this.' And I will tear strips off people, but hopefully in the right place. But usually it's with plugs or things - I buy something and get it home and it doesn't work and I get very angry.

"Gadgets - I shout at gadgets a lot. They don't shout back."

While Kitchen is set in a restaurant called Cosimo in Gordon's home town of Glasgow, Eddie's character Nick is actually a far cry from the former Rangers footballer.

While Gordon, star of The F-Word, did have a go at running a Glasgow restaurant - Amaryllis at One Devonshire Gardens - he is better known as one of only three chefs in the UK to maintain three Michelin Guide stars.

And while Eddie's character is an alcoholic whose marriage has collapsed, Gordon is happily married with four kids.

It's true Eddie has an English accent, as does Gordon, but the comic only kept with this because he didn't have enough time to speak with a Glaswegian accent.

Eddie, who once met Gordon at tailors William Hunt in London, said: "Gordon has a very healthy ego about himself, and so does Nick Malone.

"If you are asking, am I basing Nick on Gordon or some other British chef on television, I don't think I am necessarily.

"I just think it's all of that. Ten years ago, 15 years ago, celebrity chefs didn't exist - suddenly there are 26 of them.

"But why all these celebrity chefs? I don't know. Their books sell like crazy and good food is better than bad food but there's something quite macho about it all.

"When all these celebrity people come in to Gordon Ramsay's programme and they are trying to cook, it's creative, it's tactile, it's taste buds, it's very up-front, it's visceral."

Kitchen isn't just about Nick. There is also Danny, played by Glasgow actor James Young, a probationer placed in the kitchen as a condition of his probation who finds he's actually quite good at his job.

Nick and Danny are at loggerheads and producer Douglas Rae, who made Monarch of the Glen and movie Mrs Brown, claims the show is like "Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver operating in the same kitchen ...this is Trainspotting in the kitchen".

The pressure gets to Nick so much that he has a heart attack. Again, this is something Eddie can relate to.

He explained: "As an actor, you have to imagine someone having a heart attack. You obviously don't want to experience a heart attack but you can sense what's happening. The blood is getting cut off. Myocardial infraction is what he has - that's when one of the ventricles gets blocked up and blood can't go round,.

"I've seen someone have it and I felt I could imagine what it was like, with everything blocked. Also at times in my life things have got very pressurised and I've felt myself in a position where I really should calm things down. It just feels like everything is bottled up, so I've taken something out of my own experience, times when I've felt close to not a good place, where blood pressure is building.

"I was doing something on Broadway and it had got a Tony and these other awards and then it got even more serious.

"It was like, you have to get through the press night. Then these awards came up and it was: "Who's going to win?" And there was even more pressure.

"My blood pressure was high for the first time and it did feel like holding your breath the whole time."

BUT Eddie admits that he's a control freak and he was determined to experience life in the cauldron of a busy kitchen.

While the show is based in Glasgow and there are scenes shot in the city, the drama was mainly shot in Dublin for tax reasons and Eddie learned to cook in Hollywood.

The comic, who attributes his need to perform to the death of his mother from cancer when he was six, admits he was into cooking as a kid because it was something he did with his mum.

He said: "I was really into it. I had to reclaim that quite quickly coming into this. I used to cook with my mum, but she died when I was a kid and then I was in one of these schools where you could do cooking as an option. It was mainly cakes and pastry stuff, and that's fun for kids.

"So I went into a Hollywood kitchen. All these agents were out there and I thought they might see me and think my career's gone down the toilet - in fact, they don't see you. You might as well be from Mars.

"I hid behind a pillar and videoed what was going on with my phone. But then the main chef on the day, a woman, asked me if I wanted to cook something,.

"She grabbed me and she got me cooking. I cooked a full meal that day - chicken and pasta."

Eddie was born in Aden and raised in Bexhill-on-Sea in East Sussex.

He became a household name as the UK's most high-profile straight transvestite, winning a British Comedy Award in 1993 for his show Live at the Ambassadors.

A later stand-up show, Dress to Kill, made him a star in America and won him two Emmys in 2000.

He explained: "I always wanted to be an actor when I was a kid and so I love the comedy - but it was something I started doing because I couldn't quite get the roles I wanted.

"I think there's comedy baggage when people will not take on certain well-known 'comedians'.

"I've never had a telly show, there's no Eddie Izzard Show. I didn't want to get into a Jim Carrey position - people are reluctant to take him in a dramatic role because they want him to do that 'crazy' stuff.' "

Since the mid-Nineties Eddie has appeared in bigger and bigger films, from Velvet Goldmine, The Avengers and The Cat's Meow (as Charlie Chaplin) to Hollywood blockbusters such as My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Ocean's Twelve and now Ocean's Thirteen.

Eddie, who is currently filming The Riches, an American drama series he has co-written and which co-stars Minnie Driver, is looking to find the same crossover success as Robbie Coltrane or Hugh Laurie.

He explained: "I want to get to that Robbie Coltrane place, where he did comedy then he did Cracker.

"That is pretty much the objective. "Hugh Laurie is now doing House in America and that's what I'm doing with this drama over there.

"It's a tricky thing and I've taken a million years to get to this position but I'm happy to be here at this point."

In a strong relationship, Eddie says he wants children by the time he's 50.

He added: "I've been contented since 1987. I don't get that happy. . . but I never get as depressed as Nick Malone".

Kitchen can be seen at 9pm on Five on Wednesday, February 28, and Thursday, March 1.


The R-Word: foul-mouthed chef inspires Izzard drama


HIS real-life foul-mouthed outbursts have horrified and entertained in equal measure.

But now Gordon Ramsay has inspired a TV drama that promises to lift the lid on the sex, violence and power struggles in a top restaurant.

Producer Douglas Rae plans to follow up his international successes Monarch Of The Glen and blockbuster movie Mrs Brown with Eddie Izzard playing a fictionalised version of Scotland's most notorious celebrity chef.

The comedian - whose cross-dressing, softly spoken personality could not be more different to Ramsay's - takes the role of a volatile Glasgow chef called Nick Malone in Kitchen, a two-part Channel Five production.

"This is a drama about a chef who has been at the top of his profession, like a Gordon Ramsay," said Rae, of Ecosse Films.

Eddie Izzard admits he is fascinated by Ramsay, who became a household name after appearing on documentary and reality TV shows, including Hell's Kitchen and The F-Word.

Speaking from Los Angeles, where he has been shooting the blockbuster Ocean's Thirteen with George Clooney and Brad Pitt, Izzard said: "Gordon has got a very healthy ego about himself, and so does Nick Malone."

And Nick Malone's language promises to be just as fruity as Ramsay's. "He definitely can swear his head off when he wants to, and does tear people's heads off in a way that Gordon seems to have done on the television - although how much of that is him in his own kitchen and how much of it is television, I don't quite know."

The comedian drew on his background in the tough world of stand-up comedy and compared the atmosphere in the kitchen to that of a pirate ship. "I was trying not to be overt on Gordon Ramsay, but his name was floating around," he said.

It might seem Kitchen faces a struggle to attract audiences with the story of a fictional chef, when the real thing has proved to be so colourful and dramatic on TV in the past.

But Rae revealed that his drama is offering not one but two chefs. "There's a young guy who joins the kitchen, like a Jamie Oliver, who becomes a threat to his kingdom," he said. "Imagine Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver operating in the same kitchen... This is Trainspotting in the kitchen."

Kitchen is set in Ramsay's home town of Glasgow, where he had a brief spell as a professional footballer with Rangers before training as a chef. He ran the Amaryllis restaurant at One Devonshire Gardens, but his perfectionism proved too expensive for city diners and he pulled out a few years ago.

The 39-year-old runs nine other top restaurants in the UK, including Claridge's and the Savoy Grill in London. He is expanding abroad and is reputedly worth £67m.

But in his autobiography, which is entitled Humble Pie and is published tomorrow, Ramsay writes candidly about his tough childhood and difficult relationships with a violent father and a brother, Ronnie, who was a heroin addict. Ramsay bought him heroin to ensure he attended their father's funeral.

Ramsay suffered further heartache a few years ago when David Dempsey, a close friend and head chef at Ramsay's Claridge's restaurant, died in a fall after apparently taking a mix of drugs and alcohol.

But although the character of Nick Malone has been inspired by Ramsay, the plot of Kitchen is largely fiction. Malone's character is alcoholic and his marriage has collapsed, whereas Ramsay is happily married with four children. Izzard sees no sign of Ramsay's world being under threat. "He seems to be just powering on and adding more and more restaurants and titles and Michelin stars to his name," he said.

Similarities between Jamie Oliver and Kitchen's young pretender Danny are much more limited. Danny, who is played by Glasgow actor James Young, goes to work in Malone's restaurant as a condition of probation.

Kitchen was rushed into production after Five gave the go-ahead. It was shot largely in studios in Dublin for tax reasons, though exteriors were shot in Glasgow.

Izzard said he had only two weeks' notice, which he felt was not enough to perfect a Glasgow brogue. He will play the character with an English accent. Ramsay himself grew up largely in England and does not have a Scottish accent.

"It's really annoying if you have an accent twanging around and it's not right," Izzard said.

Izzard has made a deliberate decision to pursue more dramatic parts and said this was a role he could "get my teeth into".

He hasn't eaten in any of Ramsay's restaurants, but revealed he had a brief encounter with him in a London shop about a year ago. "He was buying a suit in a shop in Savile Row that I go into, William Hunt. He gets the same shirts that I get."

The two recognised each other and spoke briefly. Izzard said Ramsay seemed just like he does on television.

Kitchen will be broadcast early next year.

• DOUGLAS Rae's Ecosse Films has established itself as one of Britain's top movie companies since making a huge impact with the Scottish period drama Mrs Brown nine years ago.

Although Ecosse is based in London, the name reflects Rae's Scottish roots and the company has pursued a disproportionately large number of projects with Scottish elements, including The Water Horse, a big-budget fantasy about the Loch Ness Monster.

The film, which Rae nurtured on and off for a decade, finally shot this summer in partnership with Columbia Pictures and Peter Jackson's Weta. It filmed mainly in New Zealand, where Weta, which did special effects for The Lord Of The Rings and King Kong, is based. There was also some filming in the Loch Ness area.

Rae was born in Edinburgh in 1947 and first came to public attention as a presenter on the children's programme Magpie in the 1970s, before moving behind the cameras as a producer.


Comedian and actor Eddie Izzard has signed on to star in Kitchen, a new two-part drama from Five, which will also feature a familiar face to soap fans. Natalie Robb, who cut her teeth in shows such as Doctors and The Bill, plays a probation officer's wife, while Izzard dons catering whites for a role as a brilliant and charismatic chef. The latter takes young probationer Danny (James Young), under his wing, but when the former jailbird catches the eye of Robb's character, he finds himself in hot water. The drama is said to celebrate the new phenomenon of the culinary underworld, and bosses at the production company responsible for it couldn't be more pleased about the project. "This is going to be Trainspotting in the kitchen," said a spokesperson for producer Ecosse Films. Five's commissioning editor for drama, Abigail Webber enthused: "I'm delighted that it has attracted such a diverse and talented cast and production team." Robb has worked extensively in soapland, from roles in Scottish offering Take the High Road, to more recent appearances in EastEnders. However, the soap connection doesn't end with the actress. Scriptwriter Simon Ashdown is responsible for this drama, but he also worked on the Walford-set serial. Kitchen is currently being filmed and will hit our screens early next year.

Izzard to star in Five's Kitchen drama

Eddie Izzard is to play a drunk, fiery chef in a new miniseries commissioned by Five. The new drama, set in an exclusive Glasgow restaurant, has been inspired by Anthony Bourdain's book Kitchen Confidential. Izzard plays the once brilliant and charismatic chef, Nick, now heading towards burnout. Into his charge comes young chancer Danny, played by up-and-coming actor James Young, who has been placed in the kitchen as a condition of his probation. Production has begun in Dublin on two, two-hour episodes, according to trade magazine Broadcast, and the show is due to air early next year. It has been written by former EastEnders scribe Simon Ashdown. Executive producer Douglas Rae said: ‘We want to dramatise the power struggles that are found in most kitchens.’




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