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Eddie Izzard Interview

This exclusive interview with Actor / Comedian Eddie Izzard was conducted by Mark O'Connell at the premiere of 'The Cats Meow'. The Interview took place at the UGC Cinema, London on Wednesday 26th May 2004.

M (Mark): Hi Eddie. I’m Mark O’Connell from

E (Eddie): Ahh yes, Mark! Nice to meet you.

M: Good to meet you too. What initially attracted you to the project ‘The Cats Meow’?

E: Well, this is a tricky question cos a lot of people say (in deep voice) “What initially attracted you to this project?” and until you get to a certain stage, which I’m maybe just getting to - the fact is that someone offered you the part. This was actually a good part, but quite often they say, “We want you to play a dead person who gets vomited on for hours and we pay you a lot of cash” or you know, whatever. (Laughs) So you’d go “OK”. And actually having said that, I am kind of choosy on it, but you don’t, until your George Clooney, you’re not really going “Well I’ll have this project where I play a guy who does things, and there’s a guy who does things, and this one”. And I’m not super inundated with stuff. I’m getting more. Inundated is not the right word… having better choices these days.

M: Oceans 12 is quite a good one.

E: Oceans 12 is not bad. So I heard this… Peter Bogdanovich came and saw me in a show. Someone told him to go see me. He liked the idea. Chaplin was an English comic who did well, very well. I was an English comic who was doing pretty good, in America say. So from that basis, even though I was talking a lot of surreal rubbish and wearing a lot of makeup, he said, “Hey, you can play Chaplin”. And I thought I can’t really see how you can see that, but I’ll go with that… and ok. Because I wanted to do it.

M: Yeah.

E: But then I didn’t hear about it much, and I thought well this is not happening. Suddenly two weeks before it happened, they said “It’s happening! You’re on! You’re In! Go!” and that was it. It was very, very quick.

M: Did you have a lot of time to prepare for the role?

E: Well you see I’d already prepared. I’d already read all about Chaplin. I’d already studied him in a street form in ’89, and this was 2001.

M: Was it miming things that you did?

E: No no. Cos they celebrated one hundred years since his birth at the MOMI, the ‘Museum Of Moving Image’ on the South Bank, which has gone apparently.

M: Yeah, I think it went a few years ago.

E: Which I think is tragic, cos I loved it.

M: They had the Superman blue screen effect, and those little Gremlins.

E: Yeah. I was really pissed off about that. I loved that. But um… oh well. I start getting pissed off every time I think about that.

M: It was the only thing of its type in London though, wasn’t it?

E: I know, and it was film, and I love film. I used to like going in there. Obviously I should have gone in there every week, but you don’t really do that.

M: I went there once.

E: I went there about three or four times, and I saw and I brought a Chaplin biography. Because so many people laughed at his stuff and I thought this is weird that I’m not laughing at it now. So I saw all of his stuff in a cinema, and I thought, “Ahh, it’s really good in a cinema”. So you’ve got to watch it in a cinema.

M: Right.

E: And then I, you know, having read about him and his struggle, and his early life in poverty in Kennington, I thought well this is an interesting story, and I’d like to play him. But then the film ‘Chaplin’ came out, and I thought, “I’ll play him! Oh, it’s already been done, has it?” Which is a really terrible thing, where you want to play someone and the entire film has already been shot. So that’s a pain in the arse. And um, and so this film came up and I thought, “Yeah, I’ll do that”, and I wanted to. It was just Chaplin, two days on a boat, trying to get laid, was my analysis of it. It was nothing to do with a film. You know, nothing to do with a moustache and the thing and the… It was just him as a real person, and how he felt.

M: Off camera…

E: Yeah. Low sexual self-esteem, I felt he had.

M: Some say he was like a sexual predator.

E: No, you see I don’t think so. They say that, but I think this is the confusing thing. I think he was… he had a low sexual self-esteem. He wasn’t sure of himself with women. He didn’t know how to flirt, and maybe it was somewhat clunky, and some of the girls, you know, were younger or in films. A lot of them were in films where he was working, cos it was the only way he could really, I feel, get to know them. Cos he also thought “I don’t know, well I’m not great with girls, and films I’m really good at, so I’ll just concentrate on the film thing. But if the girls are in the film, like this one was in the film, then great.” Some of them were younger, just because he didn’t know how to do the “Hey baby. Hey, your eyes! They’re so big! Er, blue! Green! Whatever. Let’s shag shall we?” I don’t think he could do that thing. So that’s what I tried to do. I felt with Marion Davies, he actually got off the ground with that, because she had a sense of fun. I think they played around a lot, and then it fell apart.

M: You worked, albeit briefly with Sean Connery in ‘The Avengers’.

E: Yes.

M: Did he ever hear your impression of him?

E: No, not in the thing, but afterwards with Juliet Armand at the opening of Art in the US. I believe I tried to do an impression of him to him. But, and so was Juliet Armand at the same time, but he said (In his Sean Connery voice) “So when are you going to do these impressions?”

M: And you were already doing them…

E: And we were already doing them. And so we thought “Ahh well, that’s…I’ll just shut up”.

M: He may not know what he sounds like though. You know, you record yourself and it doesn’t sound like you, does it?

E: Yeah I know, so it could have been that. Or it’s a very good put down if not.

M: If you could play any character, what would be your dream role?

E: Um… bum, bum, bum, bum, bum. I don’t know. I don’t know actually, that’s quite difficult. I need to carve out roles for me that really don’t exist. The role that Carrie-Ann Moss did in ‘The Matrix’. I need to do a sort of action transvestite version of that. Boy, girl.

M: You did a similar role in ‘All the Queen’s Men’.

E: Yeah. ‘All the Queen’s Men’, we didn’t quite get enough action out of it.

M: Well, it’s got the army thing in it.

E: Yeah, well that’s what my background is, is trying to get into the army. But then I thought no, let’s not do that.

M: Having discussed the Siege of Troy on ‘Glorious’ and Jesus’ crucifixion in ‘Dressed to Kill’, do you think the content of your shows is directly inspiring film productions?

E: Yes. I think people are watching my shows and saying, “Let’s do a film! Let’s do one about the guy covered in bees. Let’s do a beekeeping film!”

M: How did you feel when you got the role as a Bomb disposal expert in Oceans 12?

E: That’s the only role I’d do. I mean, they offered me all the other roles, George Clooney’s role, and I said “No”. But um, no it’s great. I’m sure it’ll be quite small and I’ll fzzz by on the screen. But therefore what you’ve got to do, you’ve got to do something dramatic, like keep screaming.

M: Yeah, and get a lot of attention.

E: Exactly. So people say, “He’s only in three scenes, but he kept screaming at the camera, so I noticed him.”

M: Have you filmed any scenes for it yet?

E: No.

M: Ahh. Cos I got a text message saying you were in Prague.

E: That was the European Union gaining tenure members, and I was there for the opening of that.

M: I recently met Michael Madson at the Kill Bill: Volume 2 premiere. What was it like to work with him in ‘Blueberry’?

E: That was great fun. He’s… Michael is a big bear of a guy. You kind of think that he could be bear-like, but he has a very rascally sense of humour. So it was fun working with Mike. In ‘Blueberry’, if and when people see the film, they’ll see this whole scene.

M: Will it experience the same kind of delays as this one, as it’s taken a while hasn’t it?

E: It does take a while. But you see; my early films are going to be like that. It’s better that… you see I could have the career where when I was seventeen I was in this big film, and then another big film, another big film, and by the time you’re twenty-five, suddenly smaller. Then by the time you’re thirty, you’re a bit washed up.

M: So you’re building up to it.

E: Exactly. Let’s do it this way.

M: Being very subtle.

E: Yeah!

M: It must have taken a lot of courage to come out as a transvestite. How did your family react to the news?

E: Well, Dad was very cool. My mother died when I was six, but my Dad was cool when I told him after a football match, bizarrely. He said he thought my mum would have been cool as well, if she’d been still alive. So that was nice.

M: Is it true that Uma Thurman gave you a pair of breasts?

E: No. Well, in ‘The Avengers’ she had a lot of body doubles. She had three body doubles, a gymnastic body double, an ordinary body double, a gymnastic body double for doing spins and things on high wires, and then a stunt body double. Uma was slightly bigger in the breastal area, so some of the women that were playing her had breast enhancements. The chicken fillets, or the complete half chicken things going on. So I said “Oh that’s great! I’m a transvestite. I’ve been looking for these.” So they said “Well we get them in a shop”. So I said, Can I have a pair?” and they said, “Yeah, well you give us the money and we’ll buy you one”. So I ordered a pair of Uma Thurman-ish breasts. Breasts that were styled after Uma Thurman, or breasts that Uma Thurman could well have worn.

M: She could have.

E: Or could have if her double was wearing it.

M: No ones going to know the difference.

E: I don’t know quite the way of articulating it, but they were inspired by Uma Thurman’s breasts. That’s what they were.

M: How’s your project ‘Diva 51’ coming along?

E: It’s… that’s only a working title so it’s not going to be called that. But er, that’s cool but were going for, um, were just developing at the moment. So we’ve still got stuff to shoot and things. But um, hopefully it’ll be an interesting exploration as opposed to a puff piece of “Ooh he’s got a jacket. Ooh he’s got a hat”, ya know, and all that kind of crap.

M: What makes you laugh?

E: Peter Sellers, The Pythons, Harry Enfield, Steve Coogan, The Simpson’s.

M: Do you ever watch your old material, and are you self-critical?

E: Yeah. Yes I am self-critical, but I also laugh at the good stuff, which is a bit weird.

M: I was listening to the audio commentary on ‘Sexie’, and you were saying you had a bit of a cold…

E: Oh right. Does that seem stupid doing audio commentary?

M: No, I like them. I mean, you watch it, and then you want to hear the person’s input on it.

E: Well yeah, I thought they couldn’t hurt. You know it’s…

M: Because you did it straight after didn’t you?

E: Yeah, like on ‘Sexie’ it was like the day after. Yeah. I’ve done three at the beginning of this year, and they’re coming out. ‘Glorious’, ‘Definite Article’ and ‘Unrepeatable’ coming out, those DVD’s.

M: This is a personal question. I’m moving to LA quite soon. Are there any places that you’d recommend visiting?

E: LA’s all spread out all over the place. Well go to Santa Monica, and go to the Third Street Promenade. There’s a place to go, cos that’s quite chilled and cool there. And there’s some English shops around there which gets a bit weird cos you can buy a load of English stuff. And, oh, the Laurel Canyon General Store. Those are two places you should go.

M: Do you have any material in mind yet for a future tour, or do you want to concentrate primarily on films at the moment?

E: No, but I will do drop-ins and occasional gigs and stuff. I want to develop new stuff but I don’t know what I’m going to talk about.

M: Perhaps you can get more experience working on films, and talk about that.

E: Yeah, talking about films is good, but I have done that.

M: Finally, where do you see yourself in five years time?

E: Oh, in this telephone booth.

M: Really?

E: Just there.

M: They make good films about that, you know.

E: They did. I’m doing one but no one actually phones up and shoots them, it’s just mainly talking. Going “Yeah, I know what you mean. What? No…no!”. A lot of that.

M: That was great, thanks a lot for your time.

E: Thank you!

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