File Photo/The South End
British stand-up comedian Eddie Izzard
By Lyle K. Henretty
Michigan Daily (U. Michigan)
(U-WIRE) ANN ARBOR, Mich. - British stand-up comedian Eddie Izzard has been slowly infiltrating his way into American society by way of his double Emmy-award winning HBO special "Dress to Kill" and his growing number of memorable supporting film roles. The comedian/actor spoke with The Michigan Daily about his new film "Shadow of the Vampire" as well as his comedy and his status as the world's most popular transvestite since Divine.
In "Shadow of the Vampire," Izzard plays Gustav von Wagenheim, an actor in the silent vampire classic "Nosferatu." There is very little historical information on the von Wagenheim, so Izzard went with his own instincts. "I sort of made up his life. I came to the conclusion that he was an arrogant, bad actor ... He was of the opinion that he was a very good actor. Except for the scenes with [Max Shreck, who played the vampire] up in the castle, he was quite good in those."
When I suggested that Mr. Izzard's stage shows were notoriously over-the-top, he bristled at the comparison. "If you're saying that I'm hammy like [von Wagenheim] is, I'd have to shoot myself." The stand-up shows are not hammy, certainly, but have a tremendous energy.
"You can't really do stand-up and hide on stage. I mean you have to come out, I mean 11,000 people you won't succeed if you're just piddling around on stage."
His high energy, however, did not clash with his notorious, scene-stealing costars in "Shadow," the formidable Willem Dafoe and John Malkovich. "I don't think they needed to steal scenes because it was their movie ... John Malkovich is very much John Malkovich.
Whether he's on screen shooting a scene or when he's off screen, he's quite similar. And Willem would get right into the vampire and then he'd be back to Willem." Izzard's upcoming role in "All the Queen's Men" with "Friends" star Matt LeBlanc has the stand-up playing a British soldier who must dress up like a woman in order to steal an Enigma machine from the Germans during World War II. Izzard describes it as "sort of 'Some Like It Hot' meets 'Raiders of the Lost Ark.'" It is a role close to Izzard's heart because he considers the character, like himself, as a "action transvestite." When asked to expound, the comedian was right in his element.
"The term is a little flip term I came up with. I have to look for language to explain and promote transgender, or my sort of branch of transgender ... in male areas there's straight t.v.'s [transvestites], bisexual transvestites, and gay transvestites. So, I'm a straight t.v., or male lesbian ... It's like the inverse of a tomboy, a male tomboy. So I'm still into running, jumping, climbing trees, being an action transvestite, Emma Peel from "The Avengers," Laura Croft. That type of thing."
Izzard tries to take as many diverse roles as possible, such as playing Charlie Chaplin in Peter Bogdanavich's new film, "The Cat's Meow," a fictionalized noir take on early Hollywood. And despite his history of playing in intelligent films, Izzard does wish to branch out even further. "I really like action film ... I don't want to do intellectual, high literate films."