Sunny Side Up
Theatregoer Magazine | thanks Teri
Eddie Izzard - the funny man who defies categorisation - tells Nicole Carmichael why this role in A Day in the Death of Joe Egg is the perfect addition to an already varied career
Eddie Izzard could never be called predictable. His stand-up routines catapult from one surreal subject to the next - from squirrels wondering if they've left the cooker on to James Mason driving a night bus. His career is equally capricious, with stints of stand-up, filmacting and even the odd brush with politics.
Now he's taking the lead in the critically acclaimed A Day in the Death of Joe Egg. 'The play is a big challenge for me but also a good one to tackle,' says Eddie. 'It combines black comedy and drama, which is creatively where I have come from and where I am also trying to get to.'
Joe Egg follows a couple's struggle to deal with their marriage, career, and mentally and physically handicapped child. 'Trying to get into the mind of a man who has been raising a handicapped child for ten years is a difficult task,' says Eddie. 'When I perform stand-up on stage, I never have to deal with structure or analyse the particular actions that a character must follow. As this only my fifth play, I'm getting used to the technique of rehearsing a dramatic piece until it is finely tuned.'
Eddie last appeared in a 'straight' theatrical role in 1999, in the critically acclaimed Lenny, which the Daily Mail called 'the most phenomenal performance on the London stage'. He's also racked up credits in Edward II, 900 Oneonta and The Cryptogram but says, 'As an actor I'm still struggling to make the C-list. I have to prove myself in a dramatic role before I am offered many things.'
This year, Eddie adds two new films to his list of credits. 'I've always been a movie nut, so almost everything I've done has been to try to get into films,' he says. 'I don't think I've done really good work up to now. But that's OK - I have to learn the technique, I didn't really know what I was doing.'
His performances in films such as The Avengers, Velvet Goldmine and Circus didn't exactly receive rave reviews, with many critics suggesting Eddie should stick to stand-up, but he is eagerly anticipating the reception of his new movies. In The Cat's Meow, he plays Charlie Chaplin in a story about William Randolph Hearst and his mistress, Marion Davies. 'The vibe on it is good and it will be interesting to see what people think.' Meanwhile, All the Queen's Men sees Eddie in a World War II story about four soldiers on a mission to track down an Enigma machine - the twist being that they're all dressed as women. 'It's a bit like Some Like it Hot meets The Great Escape,' says Eddie. 'It's all about sex and sexuality, women working in men's jobs and men dressing up as women, and it has a comedy element.'
Donning high heels and skirts is hardly a big deal for Eddie. As UK's most famous transvestite, we've become accustomed to seeing him in full make-up and painted nails, even if he doesn't always go the whole hog and slip into a pencil skirt and slingbacks. It's a subject that Eddie is used to defending. 'This is a badge you have to deal with. I'm a trans-gender - it doesn't go away. But if I don't wear make-up for 5 years, then it's my life and I have the freedom to do what I want. I can go blokey for 5 days and then one day I'll wear more make-up than anyone's ever warn in the history of make-up. That's my choice.'
As well as a dual career as a comedian and actor, he also fancies a stint in politics. But whether or not he could be accepted as a transvestite MP is another matter. 'I've always been political, it's nothing new,' says Eddie. 'I'm into the idea of a melting pot of Europe and I think Britian should be part of it. I think if we just talk to each other, get a bit more trust going, we will get somewhere.' In the past, comedians have been accused of cashing in on politics to score points with audiences, but Eddie has worked closely with Keith Vaz and has seriously considered going into politics full time. 'I'd be more interested in representing Britain in Europe than in domestic politics, but I'd have to give up this [showbiz] first.'
For the moment, his career(s) on stage come first. 'Over the last few years, I have been trying to develop my abilities as a dramatic actor, because this is what I've wanted to do from the age of seven. But I do love stand-up comedy, so I intend to try to do both in the future. I am planning a world stand-up tour throughout 2003, then I'll return to dramatic roles.'
Meanwhile, he knows he's got his work cut out taking over from Clive Owen in Joe Egg. 'He's a difficult act to follow - as are the other actors in this play as they've already received rave reviews and I have to fight to keep up to their standard. But I'm not afraid of failure. I've been to failureland. Your face goes red and no one wants to talk to you. But once you've done that and come out of it, you learn to just keep on looking forwards.'
A Day in the Death of Joe Egg was at the Comedy, 0870 899 3339