Metro newspaper Interviews Eddie Izzard
by Kieran Meeke, December 18th, 2001
THE SURREAL EDDIE Izzard is one of Britain's favourite comedians. Born in Aden, Yemen, in 1962, he is noted for his cross-dressing and his schoolboy French gigs in France (Germany is next on his list). He has appeared in several films, from The Avengers to Circus, and is currently on stage in Peter Nichols' play, A Day In The Death Of Joe Egg.
Do I have to ask questions, or will you just ramble for 15 minutes if I start you off?
You'd better give me a question to answer.
OK. How's the play going?
Fine. The first reviews are in and they seem fairly good. You're not supposed to read any because it can make you very self-conscious about anything they mention but I had a peek at one.
Do you get the urge to ad-lib?
There are parts of the play when I have to be very disciplined not to go off on a tangent. But if that tension gets too much, I can always go off and do some stand-up.
How tricky is it to learn all those lines? I struggled to learn a few lines of poetry at school.
I always wanted to be an actor and, if you can't learn your lines, you might as well give up. You just keep repeating them until they come. You can think about it too much. People get stage-fright about it but it's a mind game; you've got to block out the fear of forgetting. It's like driving: somebody steps out in front of you and you just do the emergency stop.
What part do you have your eye on next?
I don't really look at things that way but I do feel I should do some Shakespeare. I hated it at school and hated it for a long time afterwards but Roman Polanski's Macbeth got me into it. There are some really good stories there. I should play Iago.
And you get to wear tights, too.
I can already wear the tights so that's no reason for me to do Shakespeare. But I do wonder what was going on in those days with all those butch men in stockings.
Why were you born in Aden?
My father was in the oil business, he worked for BP. I was a year old when I left but the family do have film footage of me there. I've got to learn Arabic and go back. I'm not sure how Islam and trans-gender would mix, but we shall find out.
Speaking of foreign language tours, sprechen Sie Deutsches?
Zwei Biere, bitte. Wo ist der Flughafen? Autobahn. I can say all that stuff. Survival German. But the tour is at the beginning of 2003 so I'll do a total immersion course before then.
What's your favourite German word?
And your favourite English one?
Cat. I don't have favourite words. I don't have a favourite anything. Not even films, they keep changing; I'd have to give you a list of ten.
You're quite into your pets, though. Did you ever have one?
Yeah. A dog that thought it was a cat.
Is that where the cross-dressing comes from?
I don't think so. That's pure flip projection on your part.
How did you give yourself permission to cross dress?
It just seemed the most obvious and right thing to do to push the fear back. I said that out loud once when I was 21. Once you've said things, it sticks there as an idea and it's out in the open.
It must have been incredibly liberating in all areas of your life.
Yes. The fear is intense. I was hoping for big waves of transgenders to come out but that hasn't happened yet. But it's the best thing I've done. I had to self-analyse myself and all my success followed on from there.
Are you happy?
What is the secret of happiness?
Pushing the fear back. I try to do things that scare me, such as the gigs in French, or German, or in Arabic. The fear is all in your head. When you push back the fear, you can't help but like yourself. You lose that self-loathing. I'm pleased I've done these things: it's not a walk in the park. I haven't broken through in France, I lose money and it scares me shitless but I'm going to keep doing it until France goes: 'Hey! This is good!'
Do you ever feel the urge to confront physical, rather than mental fear? Bungie jumping, for example?
That doesn't gain anything for me. I'd do a bungie jump if I had to save something, like a ..., a ...
Yes, a cat that was stuck on the ground and wanted to be in the air. Parachute jumping would be interesting but I'd want to link it to something slightly more positive than just doing it for the hell of it. Snowboarding, for example: you get on a really steep slope and there's that beautiful thing of being on mountains, recharging your batteries and stuff. But just pure excitement, I don't need it. I get all that on stage, whether it's stand-up or being in a play.
How do you switch off?
That is a good question because I'm not very good at that. I'm always trying to get things going. I go to places and have to do things. I can't lie on beaches.
Maybe it is bungie jumping?
But you can't lie there and relax afterwards. It's all: Get off the bloody piece of rubber! I want a go!' 'No, I'm staying here for the whole day.'