Comic Relief: Eddie Izzard on Broadway
By Melissa Rose Bernardo
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!"
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