Fast Eddie gets the last laugh


eddieizzardFor a funny man, Eddie Izzard takes himself incredibly seriously.

Case in point: when I suggest that being a self-confessed “straight transvestite” is no way to get ahead with the gay mafia that is said – by the bitter, and once very powerful Hollywood agent and manager, Michael Ovitz, for one — to rule Hollywood, Izzard takes the question, well, seriously.

“No, I don’t think it’s about that,” he answers, flatly. “I’ve chosen not to chase the starring roles, as such, but concentrate instead on finding good work. And that’s been working out pretty well for me — I’ve won Tony awards, Emmy awards, and many others, by taking that particular route. And I am a straight transvestite — I can’t change that. So, that’s the end of that one.

“I actually don’t think the gay mafia would really approach me any differently, because what they’re really trying to do with everything is sell it to middle America. I’m not going to be the person to plug into that big mainstream audience. I’ve got to carve out a niche where people will go: ‘Well, that was an interesting thing. I was affected by what happened there.’ I’ve been analysing this for years — Where’s the place I can go? What’s the place I can push into? — I’ve had to take whatever work I’ve been offered and drive it into that place. And I can’t be Tom Cruise — I just can’t be him. It’s not for me. I do enough of the action hero stuff, fighting the fights that I fight in my real life.”

There was a time when Eddie Izzard was the funniest man on the planet. Back in the late 1990s, he was as good as Richard Pryor in his prime. Or Eddie Murphy in his. Monty Python elected this surrealist, stream-of-consciousness Billy Connolly as their natural successor, and honorary member. And then, as Izzard set about conquering America, and the rest of the world, through not only his stand-up but with his increasing forays into his childhood passion, acting, that edge just seemed to get buried amid all that rampant ambition.

The sort of ambition that has led Izzard into politics (he’s staunchly pro-Europe, and is considering becoming an MP), a Hollywood career (starring in the Ocean’s movies and Valkyrie, and headlining the recent TV comedy The Riches), to doing entire gigs in a foreign language (French and German so far, with Russian on the horizon), a “manifest destiny to wear a dress on all seven continents”, and, earlier this year, running a 1,100-mile marathon in seven weeks for Sport Relief.

“The first three weeks were the toughest,” he says of his charity run. “The pain was really rough, but it was an adventure. And adventures can’t always be plain sailing — that’s really boring. I was never going to give up. I was worried about injuries, especially when it came to kerbs or steps. Just the idea of twisting my ankle like that, something so small and pathetic, that really concerned me — that something stupid like that would happen. But that didn’t happen, and my body held up pretty well.”


Izzard has a documentary about his life, Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story, heading our way, which is directed by his ex-girlfriend, Sarah Townsend, and produced by his own Ella Communications. It’s not a puff piece, is it?

“Not at all. Initially, I asked Sarah to film the show, but she said she’d rather do a documentary, because she comes from the world of directing, and I thought that might be interesting because I don’t think my life has been plain sailing. And Sarah went through different edits to try and find the right story, because no one’s life reads like a drama. I look a mess in a lot of the shots, and I think it’s pretty honest. The LA Times gave it a really good review.”

Having met Izzard many times down through the years, he always struck me as a man with a plan, and a huge amount of self-belief. Has he ever had doubts?

“When I was seven, I wanted to act, and when I was 30, I started getting a career going. I was really pushing at school, trying to get into acting — I didn’t really think that child acting was on the cards — and I met someone last night who said they were in my first production. A play I wrote when I was 16, that I don’t think we ever produced. She was coming to rehearsals. I’m a relentless idiot — I will just keep pushing away. And Believe sort of reflects that.

“The journey has to be the point. I actually achieved my goal as soon as I went solo and started earning money in some form. I’ve really been quite content since then. My end goal, I would think that, stand-up wise, I’m already there. I just need to keep making that better. I have to keep twisting it. As long as it’s a challenge, the audience respond to that.”

Eddie Izzard Stripped is at the O2 on December 14

Written by Momo in: Interview |

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