Eddie Izzard's spending the summer with Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Julia Roberts -
and he can't believe his luck!
(thanks Danielle | 2004)

Eddie Izzard can't contain his excitement. Late last night, he was woken up by a phone call. Usually that would be a hassle, but it's not so tiresome when the caller is George Clooney and he's telling you that you've landed a part in his latest blockbuster.

Eddie has been invited to play an explosives expert in Ocean's Twelve- the eagerly-awaited follow-up to Clooney's heist caper, Oceans Eleven - and now the 42 year old has the rather pleasant prospect of spending the summer in Rome hanging out with George, Brad Pitt. Julia Roberts, Catherine Zeta Junes, Matt Damon and Andy Garcia.

Rubbing shoulders quite comfortably with that sort of company, the comedian and actor is well on his way to being crowned Hollywood's Izzard King. As we sip our drinks, in a central London bar, he whistles in amazement at his good fortune. "This kind of thing didn't used to happen to me," he smiles. "But there I was, last night, with George Clooney telling me 'you're gonna have a great time on this movie'.

"I'm delighted to have a role in such a huge film," the actor beams. "Seeing your name up there beside those names certainly boosts your profile. It can't he anything but positive - unless I totally screw it up!"

There is little chance of that happening. After all, in addition to being one of our best-loved stand-up comedians, in Tinsel Town he's currently the hottest thing this side of the Mojave Desert. Over the next few months, we can look forward to seeing him in Blueberry a mystical Western co-starring Michael Madsen, The Wild an animated Family film with Kiefer Sutherland; Five Children And It, a Kenneth Branagh vehicle in which Eddie provides the voice of the Sand Fairy; and Romance & Cigarettes, John Turturro's new directorial outing.

Before all that, this week sees the release of The Cat's Meow, which showcases perhaps Eddie's finest acting performance yet. In Peter Bogdanovich's gripping drama based on a real story, he plays Charlie Chaplin. Invited to spend a weekend on the luxurious yacht of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst (Edward Herrmann), Chaplin makes a play for Hearsts seductive girlfriend, Marion Davies (Kirsten Dunst). Before you know it, he is embroiled in a scandalous murder mystery and one of Hollywood's most notorious cover-ups.

It's an impressive performance. "I just came in and tried to get the beat of Chaplin," the actor says, modestly. "In this film, he's not performing, he's just trying to get laid, so I played a guy trying to get laid.."

Eddie is in the midst of a punishing schedule. Yesterday, he returned from New York, where he spent the last week watching 96 films as a judge at Robert De Niro's Tribeca Film Festival. Today, he's putting the finishing touches to Five Children And It and, by the time this interview comes out, he'll have pressed the flesh with Hollywood's movers and shakers at the Cannes Film Festival.

But despite this eye-watering timetable, Eddie is in ebullient form. Wearing a striking leather jacket. a dark striped shirt, black trousers and shoes, and blond goatee, Eddie - who is Britain's most famous transvestite - is very much in "boy" mode today.

Born in the Yemen, where his father, Harold, was an accountant with BP Eddie was deeply affected by the death of his mother Dorothy from cancer when he was just six years old.

He read maths and financial accounting at Sheffield University for a year, before leaving to become a street performer and a stand-up comedian. In 199I , when he was just breaking through into the big time, he made the decision to come out as a transvestite.

Eddie takes up the story. "I told my dad on the Saturday and was talking about it on stage on the Monday. It was a huge gamble, but there was no adverse reaction at all."

It has certainly never been a problem when he has strolled on stage - as he did during his last tour, Sexie in a tight leather skirt, boots and a fitted red top over a pair of fake 36DD breasts. Eddie laughs, "I definitely have breast envy. When teenage girls were saying 'I wish I had breasts', I was thinking the same thing."

But the women's clothing never gets in the way. Audiences at his stand-up shows are entranced by his sheer charisma. He remembers that a couple of years ago "there was a big, stocky guy putting up the set for my show in Cardiff. He thought I was going to do a drag show, all torch songs, Barbra Streisand and gay humour.

"In any event, he was thrown because he liked it. People think its going to be weird, then they see its just me talking nonsense." So how would Eddie, who once called himself "a lesbian trapped in a man's body" describe his own sexuality? "I'm at the male lesbian end," he reflects. "I'm a bloke, but I'd he happy to be a woman and I fancy women. If I changed my sex, I'd still fancy women. I'm up for fancying men, but I cannot get it to work in my head. I've tried fantasising."

Eddie is open and candid. The only time he clams up is when the subject of relationships crops up. "I never talk about it." he says. "It's better to leave it all alone." And what next? Currently, Eddie is preparing for his next stand-up world tour. Besides this, he is making a documentary film about his life, due for release next year. Diva 51 will feature footage of his shows, interviews with family and friends and his efforts to crack America, culminating in him receiving two Emmy awards. But most of all, he just wants to keep us guessing.

He is determined not to be known merely as, in his words. "that transvestite comedy guy. If you're going to be open about being a transvestite - and as far as I know, no other famous people have come out - it is going to get you pigeonholed," Eddie concludes. "But it keeps you on edge. Being a professional transvestite is not a job. You want notoriety for what you're doing rather than for wearing women's clothes. So I'll just keep changing. If you ever think that you've got it, then you're dead."