May 2015 - Cover Story - Ladies and Gentlemen, Eddie Izzard.
The suits. The nail polish. The boldness. The name Eddie Izzard is synonymous with comedy and New Mexico will get to feel the laughter when Izzard takes the stage at the Kiva Auditorium on May 28th. I was excited to be interviewing the man who’s appeared in such great films and has a terrific humor to boot. HIs role as Tony P in Mystery Men for me was a testament of how simple the comedy could be and still get a laugh - plus, you know, he loves disco. So it was surprising to find out that the love of comedy, Izzard explained, was secondary. “I wanted to do drama. I tried like crazy and just couldn't get into plays, I couldn’t get decent roles,” says Izzard. “I discovered, in comedy, you can setup your own show and I love comedy. I realized I had an uncanny ability to make people laugh, so, in my teenage years, I dropped Drama and did comedy.” Izzard had a theory that, in his late teens, his career would flourish in the new field he had chosen, but still, it would be a tough road to hoe. “In my 20’s I was hashing away through different mediums of comedy and when the stand-up [comedy] finally took off in my 30’s, I decided I’m going to get a separate agent about my drama. So, comedy was my secondary drive and when that started working I decided to do drama as well and that’s how it came around.”
Izzard has done it all - stage and screen, both big and small, but when it comes to what he prefers, film was definitely his wheelhouse. “Making films on location is my preference - film drama. Big films - definitely fun” shared Izzard and he shared one movie that he remembered fondly filming. “I spent ten weeks filming Treasure Island, that was shot in Dublin and Puerto Rico. It was great and it was tough.” The topic lead me to ask Izzard about other movies that were an amazing experience for the actor and he answered the question like my five-year-old son when asked, ‘What part did you like about the movie?’ “To be honest, all of them,” Izzard said with excitement. “In Valkyrie, I was shooting in Berlin, that was amazing. Ocean’s Twelve I was in Rome and [Ocean’s] Thirteen was shot in Las Vegas on a massive set on Warner Brothers' stage. They’ve all ranged up there, I just really enjoy it.”
Stand-up has been a comfortable home for Izzard over the years. The feeling of the audience and how they respond to a set is something Izzard remembers took quite a few avenues to master. “It’s great. The initial stages of break-through on your confidence level so it feels like you’re commanding the stage - that’s one level,” shared Izzard. “Then from the commanding you have to push through. In the end, I decided to block off the television route and just work my way doing live shows, which is an unusual decision. But when you’re on the stage and you’re in the zone and it all working, it is such a beautiful feeling - it’s walking on air.”
I was interested to learn that Izzard identified as transgender. For years, his fans have seen him show off the make-up and nail polish, identifying himself as a transvestite. But over the years, Izzard discovered who he truly was. “We all get different genetics when we’re born. I don’t believe in a God saying, 'Right, you get a little bit there' and so on. I feel it happens how it happens, so you deal with it. We are quick to note our difference when in fact we’re completely similar. I decided to be true to myself.” Izzard also shared that it was a struggle to get to where he is now. “If you asked me 30 years ago, I wouldn’t be this relaxed. I decided the guilt and shame were not my responsibility if I was given these genetics. I deal with words in my career, so I knew if I talked about the transgender topic - I would be my own personal role model. I would articulate who I was. I got more relaxed and confident about the articulation of it. Some of us [in the LGBT community] we come out about, then we get more relaxed about it. Some don’t come out and lie about it. Some actively work against us. There are Republicans who are and they attack LGBT people to distance themselves from their own sexuality. I decided to be honest about it. We need to get the “boring”. When LGBT is boring, then we made it.”
When it came to making it in his career, Izzard knew the specific moment that he realized he "made it" in his field. “When I sold-out the Olympia in Paris. I thought ‘That’s pretty damn good’ And I was standing there on the top floor with my brother, Marcus, counting the filled seats and that was just beautiful. Playing on the same stage where David Boone and Jimi Hendrix playing - I mean fucking hell!”
I asked Izzard what we should expect with this new show coming to the Kiva Auditorium on May 28th and, in a joking manner, he plans to bring you just your everyday run of the mill show. “We’ll start with human sacrifice, then I gone onto digging for gold, fighting Dark Vader, eating Spaghetti Carbonara - medieval kings. It very vibe-enriched by Steve Martin’s stand-ups, so you sort of get that type of show.” Along with his stand-up tour, Izzard is currently filming a new HBO series The Devil You Know (working title), directed by Gus Van Sant and co-written by Orange Is The New Black and Weeds creator Jenji Kohan. The show explores the circumstances around one of the most compelling chapters in American history — the infamous Salem Witch Trials in 17th century New England. Izzard plays farmer Thomas Putnam, the conservative, rigid and devoutly Puritan patriarch of the powerful Putnam family. He is a leader in agrarian Salem Village, but his top position is being threatened from many sides.
Izzard’s career has spanned over two decades of laughter. When asked what he would like his legacy to be - in true role model fashion, he had a role model answer. “It would be nice if anyone looked at what I’m doing could say, ‘I can do that’ and they got a positive part. If kids in countries around the world said, ‘If he can do it, I can do it!’ - that would be nice.”