The Sun Talks to Eddie Izzard
By SIMON ROTHSTEINEDDIE Izzard is not just one of Britain's greatest comic talents, he has also won rave reviews in a number of dramatic roles.
The star has taken his hit West End show, A Day In The Death Of Joe Egg, to Broadway and is starring in upcoming films alongside the likes of Matt Le Blanc and Kirsten Dunst.
So we were surprised when he told us the best thing about being famous is that he no longer has to come out to people as a transvestite, as they already know!
The funnyman also revealed how he has wanted to be a film star since he was 10-years-old and sees his career in Hollywood rather than stand-up.
Read on to find out more about all of that and also how Eddie coped with doing gigs entirely in French, whether he would go on Celebrity Big Brother and what he misses most about the UK.
I loved the
gig that you did in French, how did you go about learning the language?
I am not fluent in French, it was just something I learnt at school and I gave it up after my O Level. We've put one of the shows on my new DVD and if you watch it you'll see that my French is not actually that good. I keep asking the audience how to say things.
The hardest thing was the colloquialisms and slang that you just don't know and the fact that you can't learn it verbatim. I tried to do that once, get the whole thing translated, but it didn't work as in stand up we talk conversationally not like a scripted actor. So I had to use my loose conversational French, however good it was, while checking out some key words about the subject I was talking about. It was hard to be relaxed doing it in a different language.
I actually got heckled in English more than in French by people saying, "do it in English." And I'd say back: "No, I am doing it in French. I am playing a gig in London next week so come to that if you want to see me do it in English, but here I'll do it in French."
The set is pretty much the same as my English stand up. Certain things change but I am too lazy to really want to change the whole set. If you are playing rock and roll then you tour around playing the same old set and you talk to everyone in English, it is really easy. I had to learn an entire bloody language!
What have been
the high and low points of your career so far?
A big high for me was doing those gigs in French, which is not really a specific thing but more of a general high point. Doing gigs in French is the hardest thing I have ever done and the thing I am probably most proud of.
The low point was the first gig in French! I couldn't even remember basic words, I was so nervous. I was sweating like a pig. They've got it on tape and it was pretty horrendous. That is on the documentary Je Suis Un Stand Up.
What's the best
thing about being famous and do you get to hang out at celebrity parties?
Your ego does get massaged when you are famous and that is a nice thing.
The best thing for me is that I don't have to tell anyone I am a transvestite! I can just assume that they know. Because it was a real pain in the a*** when I first came out having to keep going round to explain to the next person, and the next person, over and over again.
I think I could go to a lot more celebrity parties than I do but I don't try and push it otherwise I think you get lost in the world of turning up to the opening of an envelope.
You are spending
a lot of time out in America, do you prefer it to the UK?
Barry, West London
No, I still live in England. I prefer it here and in Europe, but I still like going to the US. I like the American attitude of 'let's go and make it, let's go and build it,' and I think now in Britain and Europe we are getting round to that way of thinking as well.
It is a new millennium and there are loads of possibilities and as long as we have that attitude here let's make it here, let's build it here we can lead the way. Look at our European mobile phones, they are the best in the world. America is still trying to catch up with us.
When you are
travelling around the world, what do you miss most about home?
I don't miss the rain that's for sure! Out in LA you can get some really good weather.
I can't quite explain what I miss. Out in America you get British TV programmes and I can sit there and just watch them for hours. I grew up in Sussex so I miss bits of that, like the green rolling hills. I end up missing things that when I'm in Britain I take for granted.
I hear you
are going to tread the boards on our very own Broadway, are you nervous?
George, New York
That's right we are taking A Day In The Death Of Joe Egg to Broadway, that previews from about March 14.
Victoria Hamilton who was Olivier nominated for her role in the play and I are both going out there. We have done it for quite a while in the West End, she's done it for even longer than I have, so it is a good way to go in.
We have experience of doing the play and the reviewer from the New York Times has already come over to Britain and given it a rave review.
We are guaranteed a three month run so we just have to put the work in and try not to be nervous. I work much better without nerves!
What are the
differences between acting on the stage and doing a stand-up routine?
Well maybe I can point out the similarities. They are that you have to have this confidence in yourself to carry through whatever you have to portray.
The difference is that plays are scripted and you have other actors to work off. There is a fourth wall in Joe Egg so that you are not actually talking to the audience, although we do talk directly to the audience at some points.
Half of it is the same, it is live and you have to be there and live it. The other 50% is different as you have to play a character, and you have to live that character with the other actors. You have to stick to the script, you can play around with it emotionally but you can't veer off it and make up your own words.
There are sketches in Joe Egg which give you a certain latitude to move around in certain areas, but there is a published script and I am supposed to stick to it.
I hear you are
playing Charlie Chaplin in The Cat's Meow and lusting after Kirsten Dunst! Sounds
like a dream role, what's it all about?
The film is based on a true story/myth about William Randolph Hearst, a big newspaper media baron in the 1920's, his mistress Marion Davies, Chaplin and Louella Parsons, who was a big gossip columnist.
They were all on this boat one weekend in 1924 and a guy got shot. The film is the story of why he got shot and the subsequent cover up. The story was hushed up for years and what we've shot is probably the true story. You'll have to see it to find out.
The interesting thing about playing Chaplin was that it wasn't Chaplin at work, so it wasn't anything to do with the character that everyone saw on screen. He was lusting after Marion Davies and it is about two days in his life where he is trying to get her into bed.
In a way it was easier to play that side of Chaplin as you have license to invent where you think he was at that point in his life, because no-one has proof otherwise. I was just trying to get the essence of Chaplin, as I don't really look like Chaplin and I'm not physically as agile as he was. But I think the key was getting the essence right.
When Anthony Hopkins played Nixon, you might have looked at him and thought he looks nothing like Nixon. But after a while you realise it doesn't matter and what's important is that he got the spirit of Nixon, and I think he did.
Have you really
done a film with Joey from Friends, and what's he like in real life?
That's right, I have made a film called All The Queens Men with Matt Le Blanc. He was great fun to work with and he was doing Friends at the time so he was always flying backwards and forwards, as we were filming in Europe. He had amazing stamina to do that.
He also had an amazing sense of comedy. It was a comedy drama and it was quite weird working with someone where I could just trust his sense of comedy.
comedians are you into?
I am a fan of quite a lot of stuff. I like Steve Coogan, The Fast Show, Harry Enfield and Bill Bailey. I just saw Peter Kay on the Parkinson show and he seemed very funny.
I think there is a lot of talent out there and I would encourage them to go over to America - The League Of Gentlemen and Bill Bailey have recently been over because The States is really ready for stuff from Britain and Ireland.
like Ricky Gervais and Steve Coogan have gone on to write and star in their
own excellent TV comedies. Is this something you would like to do?
Well I did initially, that was all I wanted to do in the '80s and I couldn't get my career off the ground. So when my career did start taking off I decided not to do any comedy shows and to try and do dramatic roles instead.
I am trying to keep my comedy just for stand up and do dramatic roles in theatre and film.
What do you
think of programmes like Big Brother and Pop Idol and would you like to go into
the Celebrity Big Brother house?
It is not really my gig but it does seem quite curious watching celebrities in that environment. I didn't see the initial one but I saw a bit of Celebrity Survivor.
I think the whole reality TV culture is fascinating, it gives all these people a chance to get their 15 minutes of fame or maybe longer. We've entered the Andy Warhol realm it seems. Obviously broadcasters love it as they can make all this television for nothing.
In the end whether they stay famous depends on if they have talent. Someone can be on the front page of the papers for being on Big Brother, and that is understandable and can happen to someone who has double parked in front of Buckingham Palace.
If they are still there five years later then it is because they have heaps of talent. And if they don't then hopefully they had a fun time and have moved on.
What is the
best joke you have ever heard?
That is really difficult to answer as I don't do jokes. I am really bad at remembering them. I remember at school people would tell jokes and I would always think, "I don't know any jokes." And my stand-up is based on not telling any jokes, but waffling around subjects. I can't actually answer this question - I don't know any jokes!
I am working
out what I want for Christmas, why should I put your new DVD on my list?
Oh you shouldn't. You should only buy it if you are crazy with nothing else to do!
It has got subtitles in eight languages which I find quite fascinating, it has got the French show on it and some documentary stuff. It also has a whole trivia track, so all this crap that I talk about is accompanied by the actual facts which you can switch on or off. So if you've watched it a couple of times and are a mad fool then you might want to switch on the trivia track and get the real facts.
When are you
touring, I can't wait to see you live again?
When Joe Egg's run finishes I am going to go on tour again around the world. There is going be a warm up tour in about July in Britain where I will play very small venues and try out new material.
After that I'm off to Australia and New Zealand for a month, then I've got three months in America and Canada and then an arena tour back in Britain.
It will all be brand spanking new material, otherwise I'll get my head kicked in.
What is your
Is your future
in film or comedy?
Films are my big love and I just want to do more and more movies. So I'll tour maybe once every five years and do films the rest of the time as I love them to bits and it is what I have wanted to do since I was ten. I want to do more dramatic and serious roles, although they can have comedy in them.
I want to be based through LA and have a presence there but I still like living in Britain.
Eddie's great new video and DVD, Circle, is released on November 18.