I Believe That Eddie Izzard Is Our Future


Biopics are normally saved for the icons that are old and wrinkled octogenarians reflecting back on their life of accomplishments. But what if through sheer grit, determination, talent and an unyielding belief in yourself, you’ve managed to cram all that life and success into half a lifetime?

Sarah Townsend began working with Eddie Izzard back at the Edinburgh Fringe Festivals in the 80s when he could barely get a time slot, if a laugh. Her career as a budding theater director and filmmaker followed a similar trajectory as the two learned by trying and failing and trying again. Sarah began filming Eddie’s journey and what culminated over the past ten plus years is the documentary Believe. The film is an Emmy nominated, uplifting look of how a transvestite street performer can become one of the most iconic and lauded performers of his time.

ALI MACLEAN: Let’s talk about your early days at the Edinburgh Festivals — starting with the Salieri/Mozart rivalry you had with those evil Fry & Laurie characters who thwarted you.

EDDIE IZZARD: They weren’t evil, they were just better. I think I’ve gotten better since then. Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie and Emma Thompson were in the Cambridge Footlights where Monty Python had come out of. I was trying to get into Cambridge, just to get into the Footlights. So these were the guys who succeeded in getting into Cambridge, and being in the Footlights. And they were better, so it was two kicks in the head, really.

A: Was it hard for you to believe back then? Did it take time for you to build your confidence?

E: I decided at seven to become an actor and at sixteen I made a private pact in my own head that I was going to do this and I wasn’t backing out of it. At the same time I was going to career advisors with my Dad and Step-mom and saying I might be an architect, but I just was coming up with things. I knew I wasn’t going to do those things. I wanted to do this. It just seemed a million miles off.

A: Your one hundred percent belief in yourself has worked out for you. I, for one, am glad that you didn’t give up, but are there any people out there that you wish had given up on their dream?

E: I don’t know if I should start that list. If you think about determination, if people have a heart and are determined, they can get to that place. But there are a lot of negative people who were enormously determined. All the Nazis were determined. They wanted to murder everyone. Everyone with a bad heart, who doesn’t care about people, I wish they hadn’t started. People with a bad heart can all fuck off.

A: What do you think about mass marketed guru stuff about believing like ‘The Secret’ and best selling books that teach people how to manifest their dreams? You know, all the books on tape and workshops and week long retreats.

E: I have done my own version of that for myself. I do realize that the word ‘believe’ is part of the word ‘faith’. And I don’t believe in God. So I’m a non-believer in the non-visible. I’m a believer in us; in humans. I think people either see the glass half full or half empty and suffer from depression or are prone to depression. I’m like my Dad and I don’t seem to have that. I’m consistently able to regroup fairly quickly. It’s much harder if you suffer from depression. You know, comedy improv has a lot of positive thinking in it. It’s all about ‘Yes, and…” If someone says “I am the King of Prussia.” You have to say “Yes, and I have your new shoes.” It’s a glass half full method. So positive thinking is great, as long as you’ve got a positive message. If you’re a positive thinker and you’re a dickhead, well, these are the complicated things of human existence.

A: Sarah really showed in the film how controlled and structured you are with putting together a show. A lot of comedians and actors spend their lives complaining on TMZ or their act is completely neurotic, like a Rorschach test. Do you attribute your success to your military background and that discipline?

E: It definitely helps. I kept pulling back and regrouping. You get knocked down and you get up and go back into the fray. Though, I don’t feel that disciplined because I’m incredibly lazy. I’m like a large ship. Once you get the ship going you can’t stop it. But once you stop it you can’t get it going again. I tend to like to watch black and white movies on Turner Classic or AMC. Apart from talking to you today I’m not doing anything and I like that.

A: I have a feeling our ideas of lazy are different. I think I could challenge you to a sloth-off and I could probably win.

E: Oh, I don’t know. Get me going…but I do start hating myself. People are offering me things now. So I’m trying to catch up on the years when I had nothing going. As you know the media is full of people taking off at seventeen. At sixteen years old they come in at number one.

A: Yeah, but they go to rehab when they’re twenty-three.

E: Yes. If I had to do it all again I’d do it the same way, but at the time, you want it to happen immediately. Learning that you have stamina is an excellent thing to know. If a project fails, I know I can pick myself up. Just like Clint Eastwood in a Fistful Of Dollars.

A: You’ve talked about future plans for politics and that your model would be more Franken than Schwarzenegger. I’m wondering if you think if Schwarzenegger would be a better politician if he were funny? Or maybe not a Terminator?

E: I’m more linked to Al Franken because of the comedy and because he’s a democrat. There’s no particular advice I can give Schwarzenegger…I’m pleased Prop 8 was overturned in California.

A: Do you think there is something about comedy and Al Franken’s satirical mind that lends itself to critical thinking and political policy?

E: Comedy is good at tearing down. If the right wing government is in power, comedy is good at tearing away at that. If the left wing government is in power, they will tear away at that too. So, I think comedy may be a hindrance in a way. I don’t subscribe to the theory that all politicians are crap. I think the ‘cool people’ often take that position.

A: So, are you prepared, when you take office in 2020, for Larry the Cable Guy to make fun of you for giving people clean drinking water?

E: Oh yeah, it’s gonna happen. If you’re a performer, people tend to be quite positive about you or they have no opinion. If you go into politics, it will be polarized. I’m ready for people to take swings at me. But then again I am a transvestite, so how much harder can it be to deal with political pressure?

A: You’ve talked in your shows and on The Riches about The American Dream. And you’ve mentioned the European Dream. Do you think you’ve achieved either?

E: I’ve started saying that I’m living the European Dream. Now I want Europeans to have the dream too.

A: Congrats on the Emmy nomination for Believe.

E: Well, I’m not nominated, Sarah is. She made my life worthy of being nominated. But hopefully there’s some lesbian girl in Pakistan or some transgender kid in Chile that sees the documentary and says, ‘Shit, I can do that!”

A: Or maybe some kid who’s trying to put together a tight ten-minute set to go up at The Comedy Store.

E: As long as they have something interesting to say and a good heart.

A: Yeah, we’re not trying to encourage any more Hitlers.

E: No. They can fuck off.


As Eddie said, Sarah Townsend made his life worthy of being Emmy nominated. How does one follow a man that runs 43 marathons in 51 days, performs his shows to sold out crowds at Wembley Stadium, and films blockbuster like Oceans 12. How do you capture a hummingbird on film?

ALI MACLEAN: This is your first feature length film and you are nominated for an Emmy. You run the risk of being called an overnight success — even though the film took, what, seven years to make?

SARAH TOWNSEND: Well over seven years. It’s one of those magical overnight successes that wasn’t really overnight. That’s really the storyline of the film. People really do work for ages. We wanted to make something that reflected what Eddie has put into his career because he gets the same comment. And of course it wasn’t. It was years and years before he finally got attention.

A: Eddie seems like a private person and the film shows that he is in control of things, certainly his emotions. Did you feels, as a filmmaker that it was hard to get behind that? Were you surprised that he wanted to do a documentary and let you behind the scenes?

S: I don’t think he thought that’s what we would be doing. I thought “Oh, because I know him, this will be so much easier.’ Far from it. I don’t think it was easy for anyone. It took four years to get an interview that was genuinely in the moment that was absolutely honest. He has like a sixth sense of when that little red light on the camera was on. It was unbelievable. If something interesting was going on and we started shooting he would instantly change his demeanor. Just at the point where we thought, “What are we doing? This is a special, but not a full movie”, then it happened. We got that scene with him. I think it was a real moment for him – he really shocked himself.

A: With his military background and the marathon running, he is so disciplined.

S: With the military stuff I was trying to show that he is a very early 20th century character. They don’t really make them like that anymore. Very stiff upper lip, “Carry on chaps”. You don’t encounter that much. He doesn’t complain. He doesn’t say: “That’s not fair.” He’ll just say: “Right, I’ll do some extra work, then.” In Britain we have a very powerful tabloid culture with celebrities on the front page crying with their make-up smeared and tears, and it’s kind of what you’d expect from someone who likes to dress up that way. It’s a very contradictory bunch of things going on with him, and that’s what makes him so fascinating.

A: Would you ever consider doing a documentary about Eddie’s future political run?

S: No. At this point it will be a while before I do another documentary. Doing it was an enormous film school experience and I don’t regret it for a moment. It was very humbling and exhausting and an incredible experience. I’m grateful for every moment of it now.

A: The theme of the film is believing in yourself. Eddie talks in his shows about believing in the American Dream and the European Dream. Do you believe in those?

S: In the UK a lot of people don’t like to try. There’s a different cultural thing. Here if you try and fail, you get up again and start again and keep going. People respect you for it. Even if you keep failing, they respect the tenacity.

A: We are a country of failures.

S: I love the fact that trying is respected. The American Dream: if you try, if you build it, they will come. I love that. It’s honorable. That’s part of what got this film finished in the end. It’s not really how it is in the UK.

A: It’s funny that you bring up ‘If you build it they will come’ the Kevin Costner movie quote, because he just built that oil spill machine and sold it for millions.

S: What? Not the Hadron Collider? In Geneva?

A: No, Kevin Costner, the actor, invented some centrifuge type device that supposedly separates oil from water and he sold it to the US government to help clean up the oil spill.

S:…You’re kidding.

A: No. He went before Congress. I guess anything is possible. I mean after The Postman and Waterworld, he staged this comeback. It’s The American Dream.

S: That’s the maverick spirit.

Believe has been nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Non Fiction Special at the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards 2010. It is available on DVD.

Eddie Izzard is currently performing on Broadway in David Mamet’s Race through August 21.

Written by Momo in: Interview |

One-On-One With Eddie Izzard

[from | thanks Jean!]

One of the funniest stand up comedians is now on Broadway. British born Eddie Izzard first conquered American audiences with his Emmy winning comedy specials. Eddie talked to Pat Collins backstage about why he is open and honest about a personal topic.

Written by Momo in: Interview,video |

The Amazing ‘Race’


Eddie Izzard is best known as a transvestite standup comic. He is also a film, television, and Tony-nominated dramatic actor. He’s a political activist for Britain’s Labour Party; within 10 years he expects to run for mayor of London. Also an endurance athlete, he recently completed 43 marathons in 51 days to benefit Sport Relief, a charity that benefits the poorest and most vulnerable populations in the U.K. and across the globe.

Currently he is performing on Broadway, replacing James Spader in David’s Mamet’s “Race,” and as Izzard sees it, all the pieces of his life inform one another, incongruous as they may seem. “In politics you have to pay attention to detail and be precise, and that’s especially useful for Mamet’s language,” Izzard says in his dressing room before a performance. “My own diction had gotten sloppy, which works for me in my standup act. But in politics you have to articulate, even overarticulate, and that’s also helpful for Mamet. The challenge in doing Mamet’s language is to get its rhythm and then the sense of what’s being said across to an audience.” The actor speaks a perfect American English in the role.

Izzard’s years as a standup comic have served him well too. “It teaches you to be in the moment, and that’s the key to all acting,” he says, adding that it gives you looseness and flexibility. Still, the comic may go for the easy laugh, and that’s a danger in a straight play. “Comedy has to serve the story and come out of the character, and if that’s not happening—even if it’s interesting—we can’t do it,” he says. As the conniving, amoral attorney in “Race,” he plays “a man who has lost his soul,” Izzard reflects. “He was an idealist who ended up poor and he didn’t like it. He’s run out of everything that gives a fuck. Yet he still wants to win and he’s always a showman.” “Race” explores the emotionally charged dynamics of three lawyers (two black, one white) defending a white man accused of raping an African-American woman.

One of the many elements that drew Izzard to “Race” was the chance to perform for a racially mixed crowd, which is rare on both sides of the Atlantic and, he says, virtually nonexistent at his standup performances. He was last on Broadway in the 2003 Roundabout production of “A Day in the Death of Joe Egg,” and the audience was overwhelmingly white and subscription-based, or what he dubs “conscription”-based.

Audience demographics aside, for Izzard the story and director take precedence over all considerations, including financial. “Money is secondary,” he says. “If cash comes first, you make stupid decisions.” Nevertheless, he has a fondness for film work in general and television work in particular. He loved doing the FX series “The Riches,” playing a con artist, because of the intensity of the process—specifically, shooting each 45-minute drama in seven days.

He is every bit the risk taker and consistently tries to overcome challenges and fears—the more daunting the better. He was terrified of flying and therefore learned to fly. He doesn’t like to read fiction, he is dyslexic, and he finds memorizing lines a stumbling block. Thus his goal is to perform in Shakespeare and do more Marlowe (he has already tackled Marlowe’s “Edward II”). His ideal roles are Iago and Richard III. “I think of myself as an actor-comedian,” Izzard says. “But I’m more experienced as a comedian.”

An Androgynous Transvestite

Born in Yemen—where his father was an accountant and his mother a nurse—Izzard grew up in Northern Ireland, Wales, and the south of England. His mother died when he was 6, and he and his elder brother were sent to boarding school, where he mastered the art of the stiff upper lip. He also fell in love with the world of Monty Python, its anarchy and wit. Izzard toyed with the idea of performing. Still, at Sheffield University he studied accounting and financial management. He excelled in these courses but dropped out of school after one year, determined to launch a career in comedy. Making ends meet wasn’t easy, though he refused to take a regular job. “I was a waiter for three weeks,” he says. “When one waiter asked me what my plans were and I said to act, he said, ‘Oh, no one gets to be an actor.’ I didn’t want to be around people like that. I felt I was going to do it or die. I burned my bridges.”

Izzard honed his comedy skills at the competitive Edinburgh Festival, where he appeared 12 times. “I did three years of sketch comedy, four years of street performing, and five years of standup,” he recalls. Performing solo on the streets was where he learned how to improvise, ad-lib, and make decisions on the hoof. Izzard’s free-associative standup comedy is not scripted. “I have an innate suspicion of the written word,” he says. “I write it all down in my head and then I workshop it endlessly.”

He did not incorporate his transvestitism into the performances until he started doing standup. He knew it was a risky move, but as a comic—unlike an actor playing a part—he was determined to be himself “turned full on,” he asserts. Still, his transvestitism has an almost androgynous flavor. His nails are painted and he sports makeup and jewelry, yet his voice, gait, and persona are masculine. He has defined himself as a “male lesbian, “male tomboy,” and “action transvestite.” It’s a “confusing sexuality,” he acknowledges, adding that his transvestitism might have gotten in the way of his landing certain dramatic roles. “But when I ran 43 marathons in 51 days, that’s more in the ‘boy’ area, and that’s got to figure somewhat in the producer’s mind. I’m obviously not just spending my time being camp. I’m not camp at all. I’ve pushed through barriers.”

He is hoping to do that in the political arena too, though he would not be the first elected official who has an “alternative sexuality,” he says. But his larger ambition is to help forge a truly cooperative universe where nationalistic boundaries have become blurred: “I want the world to be a giant melting pot like Manhattan.” It’s no accident that he has mastered French, German, and Russian and has, indeed, performed his shtick in all of those languages. Nonetheless, he is not prepared to say what the hallmark of his administration would be if elected. “If I knew that, I’d be running now,” he asserts.

Should his political career take off, he concedes, his acting would have to be put on a back burner. Many would disagree, suggesting politics takes performance art to a whole new level.

“Race” runs through Aug. 21 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, 243 W. 47th St., NYC. Tickets: (212) 239-6200 or


-Made his West End debut as the lead in David Mamet’s “Cryptogram,” and played Lenny Bruce in Peter Hall’s West End production of “Lenny”

-Appeared in “Secret Agent,” “The Avengers,” “Ocean’s Twelve,” “Ocean’s Thirteen,” and “Valkyrie”

-Has performed to sold-out crowds at Madison Square Garden in New York and the Wembley Stadium in London

-Is the subject of the Emmy-nominated documentary “Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story”

Written by Momo in: Interview,Race |

New York4 Interviews Eddie

[thanks Jean!]

View more news videos at:

Written by Momo in: Interview,Race,video |

On Ellis Island, a Kinship With the Huddled Masses


ON a breezy, clear summer morning, Eddie Izzard — the British actor, comedian, transvestite and aspiring politician — took a trip to Ellis Island. He’d wanted to go ever since he first set a stiletto-heeled foot in this country in the 1990s, but never got around to it.

“I would have absolutely been one of those people who got on the boat to the New World,” said the goateed Mr. Izzard, 48, who is starring on Broadway in David Mamet’s “Race,” and whose documentary about his life, “Believe,” was just nominated for an Emmy. “And if they didn’t let me in, I would have jumped overboard.”

This time, Mr. Izzard, who is spending the summer in New York during his Broadway stint, was determined to see the centerpiece of American immigration, which is why he was on a late-morning ferry, slathering sunblock on his neck and savoring the skyline. He had traded his girlie wear for black jeans, boots, blue blazer and sunglasses, and wore only a hint of foundation on his face. Not that he looked like he’d just stepped out of the Nebraska cornfields; still, for the moment anyway, he might have been just another tourist taking iPhone shots of the Statue of Liberty.

“Funny that France gave that to the United States,” he said, admiring the statue. “What did the U.S. give them in return?”

It was a good question. But then, most of Mr. Izzard’s observations are dead-on. That is a large part of his acclaim; he’s known for his political and historical humor, for his accents and mimicry, for leapfrogging from topic A to topic Q, for being, as John Cleese once anointed him, the “Lost Python.”

He is also known for his social conscience (he has raised more than $400,000 for a British charity) and his athleticism. He is a marathon runner and is contemplating triathlons (“Animals in the wild are lean, and I think we should be, too”).

He speaks and performs stand-up routines in German and French (he uses the A.T.M. in French “to keep my brain working) and is planning to learn Russian.

And his politics are passionate; earlier this year, Mr. Izzard, who is a Social Democrat, voraciously campaigned for the Labour Party across England, Scotland and Wales. He plans on running — “standing,” in British parlance — for mayor of London or a seat in Parliament “sometime around 2020, if not bang-on.”

Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a more engaged visitor on the 27.5-acre island; he wanted to see and do everything. “We’re here, we might as well,” he said, slipping a headset over his ears. “Look at that,” he said, reading a display. “Those in first class were allowed to walk right off the ship. Those in steerage were stopped. I never knew that.”

He wandered up the stairs and into the Great Hall, the soccer-field-size room where new immigrants waited for admittance into the country. Mr. Izzard, who was born in Yemen and raised in Northern Ireland and England, moved from exhibit to exhibit, taking in everything: a gurney (“in England we call that a trailer”), a buttonhook used to inspect eyes for infections like trachoma.

He glanced at a manifest of impossible-to-pronounce last names. “This would be a funny bit,” he said. He pantomimed an immigration officer holding a clipboard. “Here we are at Ellis Island. ‘What’s your name?’ ‘Smith.’ ‘What?’ ‘Smith.’ ‘Again?’ ‘Smith.’ ‘O.K.— Yacjgdaw.’ ‘You?’ ‘Jones.’ ‘What?’ ‘Jones.’ ‘Wazinskawnsky.’ It’s the reversal.”

Every so often a fan approached. “Aren’t you that bloke who did all those marathons?” “I love you in ‘The Riches’!” “ ‘Dress to Kill’ is my favorite!”

Mr. Izzard was polite, asking their names, where they were from, posing for pictures. Still, he seemed slightly hesitant, as if he were embarrassed by the attention — odd for a guy whose iPhone screen saver is a shot of himself in heavy makeup, a sparkly shirt and elbow-length black gloves.

When a reporter suggested his fans see him on Broadway, he demurred. “They only have a few days — go see a big musical like ‘Billy Elliot,’ ” he said. “If you have more time, see my show.”

After a while, he abandoned the audio tour — it was difficult to follow, the walkways weren’t well marked — and latched on to a group tour with Jesse Ponz, a park ranger. Mr. Ponz explained the history, pointing to the medical facilities where those who were refused admittance were kept, as he led his charges through the bowels of one building and into another. Mr. Izzard was rapt.

“Did people escape?” he asked, nodding toward New York Harbor.

“We’ve heard of that,” Mr. Ponz said. “But the current was pretty strong.”

“It’s like Alcatraz,” Mr. Izzard said. “People said you couldn’t swim, but now they have an Alcatraz triathlon.”

A woman piped up. Actually, she said, prisoners in Alcatraz were allowed to shower with hot water so they wouldn’t acclimate to the cold water.

“Did you hear that?” Mr. Izzard said later. He was almost glowing. “You never know what you’re going to learn. That group was exactly like the people who came over here. A mix of everybody.”

At the end of the tour, Mr. Izzard thanked Mr. Ponz, who, as it happened, is a great fan. He offered to take Mr. Izzard around privately, and Mr. Izzard happily accepted. As they wandered around the museum, the two men debated the merits of disco versus punk, the War of 1812, Winston Churchill (Mr. Izzard, who is dyslexic, is listening to a Max Hastings Churchill biography), capitalism and immigration.

“I don’t know what it’s like in the U.S., but immigrants in the U.K. do the jobs the citizens won’t do,” Mr. Izzard said.

Five hours later, Mr. Izzard was heading back to Manhattan, with a little less than 120 minutes to spare before he had to be on stage.

“I do find history fascinating, I find people fascinating, and I’m quite good at standing somewhere and taking out all the new stuff and imagining people coming in,” he said, looking at the city unfold before him. “And I would have been with them.”

Written by Momo in: Interview,Race |

Old Interview…New Footage

[thanks Jean]

This interview was done in the Netherlands during Stripped featuring some nice behind the scenes footage.

Written by Momo in: Interview,Tour,video |

Comic Relief: Eddie Izzard on Broadway


Eddie Izzard takes a break from stand-up (and high heels) and gets serious in Race.

The last time many of us saw Eddie Izzard, he was dressed to kill: in a cheongsam, or perhaps a bustier and leather mini, smudged eyeliner and deep berry lipstick, teetering about in spike-heeled dominatrix boots and riffing on such subjects as frumpy English queens and Christopher Walken (Izzard doing Walken doing Shakespeare is absurdly funny — and available on YouTube). Currently, however, he’s in legal-eagle mode, suited up as “warhorse” lawyer Jack Lawson, banging on about sex and lies in David Mamet’s hot-button Broadway play Race.

At first, it may look strange — seeing the self-described “British European,” cross-dressing comic on stage at the Barrymore Theatre pontificating about a red sequined dress which may or may not have been ripped off by his alleged rapist client (Richard Thomas) — as opposed to, you know, wearing a red sequined dress. But Izzard has always been drawn to weighty stage roles — the dad of a brain-damaged daughter in Broadway’s A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (2003), troubled ’60s comic Lenny Bruce in the West End revival of Lenny (1999)…dating all the way back to 1994, when he played a creepy gay enigma in the world premiere of Mamet’s The Cryptogram. (On picking Mamet for his first professional stage production: “Well, I’m a transvestite who runs marathons, so I haven’t been known to be a shrinking violet.”)

“I’m looking for drama that’s going to stretch me. It can have comedy in it, but it has to be dry or weird or twisted,” he explains. “And I’m not all about theatre.” Indeed: His respectable list of screen credits includes Ocean’s Twelve and “Thirteen,” “Across the Universe” and “Valkyrie;” and in 2007–08, he starred in the FX original series “The Riches.” “Drama and film and television,” he ticks off, then adding — lest we forget — “and then I do stand-up around the world as well.” Right, and in 2009 he ran 43 marathons in 51 days across the U.K. to raise funds for Sport Relief.

“I seem to have the ability to apply myself to wherever I feel I want to go,” he says. “I seem to have gotten quite good at stand-up.” Selling out Madison Square Garden in January would seem to prove that. “And I couldn’t do stand-up to save my life when I started. It was a year and a half between the first two gigs. My drama ability started off and it wasn’t terribly good; I’ve developed that.” See: a 2003 Tony nomination.

His next challenge? Politics. “I’m standing for election in ten years’ time in the U.K.,” reveals Izzard, who recently finished a 25-city campaign on behalf of the Labour Party. “Socially progressive people make the world move forward.”

And of his ten-year plan, well, “I’m going to have to shoot the career in the head — or put it into deep hibernation,” he reasons.

“I have a fine wine approach — I get better over years,” says the 48-year-old actor. So by the time he’s, say, 80… “I should be on top of my game!”

Written by Momo in: Race |

Eddie Izzard on Broadway play about racism

[from the BBC]

Eddie Izzard explains what attracted to him to starring in a Broadway play about racism.

David Mamet decided to write the play, Race, after spending time in Iraq.

Izzard is appearing alongside Dennis Haysbert, who is making his Broadway debut after starring in the hit telvision show, 24.

They discussed the main themes of the new production.


Written by Momo in: Interview,Race |

Haysbert Izzard tackle ‘Race’ on and off stage

[from yahoo news]

NEW YORK – Eddie Izzard finds it bizarre that no one has ever gone to war over eye color.

“It’s probably because you can’t actually see the eyes until you’re about here,” he says while gesturing with his hand next to his face. “So that would make it impractical.”

Izzard laughs, but is serious about what prompted the comment: the delicate topic of race. Now he gets to explore it eight times a week on Broadway in the appropriately titled David Mamet play, “Race.”

Dennis Haysbert, who played the President of the United States on “24,” makes his Broadway debut, replacing the Tony-nominated David Alan Grier as Henry Brown.

Izzard, no stranger to Mamet (he originated the role of Del in the 1994 London production of “The Cryptogram”), takes over the James Spader role of Jack Lawson. And Izzard admits to being a little intimidated following Spader.

“Race” concerns black and white law firm partners and their associate (played by Afton C. Williams, who replaced Kerry Washington) debate the merits of representing a wealthy white client accused of raping a young black woman. The play tackles the subject from various perspectives, including each attorney’s view on ethnicity, public perception and the media’s influence.

“I think David put his finger on the pulse of what race is in this country,” Haysbert said.

As a result, the audience response changes nightly. And that comes as no surprise to Haysbert. Perspective in the matter depends on where you come from, and that extends to the other side of the Atlantic where Izzard hails.

According to Haysbert, tension between blacks and whites in America comes mostly from slavery but takes on a different hue in England.

“It’s about nationality,” he says. “They have a lot of Pakistani; they have Indian and people from different countries.”

But Izzard doesn’t completely agree with the distinction.

“That is more where the hot button issue of racism comes from. But I still think it ends up in the same place,” Izzard said. “We got rid of slavery only 50 years before America did.”

Regardless of the cause and the sprawl of race-related issues around the world, Izzard thinks the problem may be narrowing. He cites the election of Barack Obama as America’s first African-American president as a step in the right direction.

But that’s not enough, says Izzard, who dreams of a world reminiscent to how the astronauts viewed Earth from space.

“They saw no frontiers or borders,” he says.

“If people come from another planet, they’ll say, ‘You’re all humans.’ And are we going to say, ‘Oh no. He’s a black man. He’s a white man. This man’s an Asian.’

“No,” he says. “It’s just all human.”

Written by Momo in: Interview,Race |

76 Minutes With Eddie Izzard

[from NY Magazine]

While he tries to embody Jack Lawson—a macho, rather soulless lawyer endeavoring to defend a rich white man who almost certainly raped a black woman, in David Mamet’s Race on Broadway—Eddie Izzard needs to maintain, as he calls it, “boy mode.” Which means the dresses and heels are on hiatus. Boy mode was not necessary during his stand-up tour in Canada, which he concluded the day before the start of Race rehearsals. “I spent the first half of the tour in boy mode, and then I swapped to girl mode.” Izzard’s “girl off, girl on” existence, he clarifies, is “the inverse of drag.” (Izzard, who’s straight, is big on semantics.) “Drag is about costumers. I’m just trying to wear a dress. I’m a straight action-executive transvestite. Action is, ‘I’ll beat the crap out of you if you give me a hard time.’ Executive is, ‘I travel first class.’ That’s just the genetic gift I was given. When you’re born they go, ‘Okay, that one’s gay, that one’s straight, straight transvestite, bi, good at swimming, crap at swimming, good with hedgehogs, likes pictures, eats fish fingers.’?” He doubts that the dress-wearing mixes with playing Lawson. “You try to hug that character to you.”

At Angus McIndoe, Izzard munches on a chicken salad, which, he says, he shouldn’t be eating anyway. “I don’t need food. I think I’m not designed for it. I really have come to that conclusion. I’ve heard of people in the mountains who live on berries and stuff, and I think that’s what I’m supposed to do.” He is very girl off in a Savile Row suit. Izzard comes to Race as a replacement for James Spader, who does nothing if not play skeezy lawyers well. “People don’t necessarily see me that way,” Izzard concedes, “but my brain does work in a very logical, military way. I could have been that lawyer; I would have been happy to study that at university. I did accounting and financial management, in fact.” Reviews for Race came out July 1, and the critics weren’t as convinced. There are mentions of tentativeness and botched lines, almost certainly owed to Izzard’s having just three weeks of rehearsals and one week of previews. “What do they expect? I came in very fast. Do they think that no one ever gets a line wrong on Broadway, ever? They should come and try and do it for a weekend.”

But he’s sure he’ll get it. “I’m a determined bugger,” he says. “I’m a transvestite with a career, and I ran 43 marathons in 51 days.” He’s referring to a challenge he gave himself last September to run around the U.K. with only five weeks of training (still a bit more than he had for Race). “There’s no learning how to run, I don’t think,” he says. “There’s just deciding that you want to run. This”—he points to his head—“controls it all.” He ran to raise money for the charity Sport Relief. But the run was also a journey to places from childhood, including the home in Wales where his mother died of cancer when he was 6. That early loss is what Izzard thinks drove him to seek the love of an audience. Also on the itinerary was a facility where his father worked for British Petroleum.

“We grew up with BP,” Izzard says, rather wistfully. “They are an oil company and they are what they are, but I’ve had this relationship with them that’s a sort of rich uncle, because that’s sort of what they were to our family situation. BP transferred us from refinery to refinery.” Izzard finds it hard to suppress his affection for the company, even now. “It’s a calamitous thing,” he says, “but there’s a part of me that just wants BP to do good. I need to follow more closely, but my understanding is it’s a deep well. The top casing, which was subcontracted out, has blown up, and this is all due to relaxing in the laws that came from a Bush-Cheney administration, right? And they’ve never had a breach like this before … I want the problem to go away, and I want BP to get to a better place. And in the end, if blame has to be apportioned, it should go to the right people. All you hear is BP, BP, BP. In the end, the subcontractor, they’re going to go away scot-free and BP will be blamed for everything.” I mention that BP’s had 760 OSHA violations to Exxon’s 1. “Wow,” says Izzard, reconsidering. “Then they deserve the blame.”

If he sounds like a politician—sure with the narrative if not always the facts—it’s because he plans on being one. Earlier this year, Izzard campaigned for the Labour Party in 25 cities and towns. The timing is incidental, but he sees campaigning as good practice for playing a Mamet lawyer, and vice-versa. “I think people in law get into politics because of the precision of language and precision of thought,” he says. “If people are shoving cameras in your face and saying, ‘Why do you feel Gordon Brown said this?’ or ‘What does this mean for the economy?’ you try to get some ideas out that can grab some of their imaginations or make them think at least.” He’s thinking maybe mayor of London or representative to the European Union. “I’ve already told everyone I’m a transvestite, so that should immediately stop me from going into politics, but I don’t think so.”

Written by Momo in: Interview |


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