Eddie Izzard talks to Oliver Hall about his desire to transition, strategic success and political aspirations.
Eddie Izzard has been heralded as the greatest British comedian of this age. His surreal Monty Python-esque humour has been embraced the world over. Izzard is quick to hug back, doing what no comedian has done before, performing the same show (Force Majeure which comes to New Zealand in February) in four different languages (French, German, Spanish and English) dependent on the native tongue of the country he is in. He won’t stop there, “I’ve got to do Russian, then I’ve got to do Arabic,” he tells us. It will be interesting to see how those countries react to Izzard’s heels and make-up. 2015 will mark the thirtieth anniversary of Izzard coming out as ‘transvestite’.
Throughout our interview Izzard refers to himself as transgender. Explaining, “transvestites and transsexuals both come under the transgender umbrella – the only difference from my perspective is that transsexuals take hormones.” However he goes on to admit that even members of the gay community think he is lying when he says that he is attracted to women. “There is a big chunk of the out gay community who think I’m not being honest about it. I’m a male lesbian – this is what it genuinely feels like inside me … Why would I take all this shit for being transgender and lie about being gay? It’s insane. For thirty years I have stayed true to this… I would be happy to be gay. It seems illogical if you can put logic into genetics that I’m not gay or at least bisexual. For some reason I have been given this hand out of genetic cards and I have to deal with them as I can. I’m a straight transvestite.”
Izzard drops an unexpected bombshell when we ask if he has a desire to transition. “Yes! Everyday!” He replies, a comment he never made publicly before. So why in thirty years of being ‘out’, has Izzard not taken this step? “Because I seem to have a lot of boy genetics going on… I like doing male [acting] roles. I wanted to be in the army, I like playing football…”
He does not feel he will change his mind on transitioning in the future either, “I think it’s easier to do when you are younger,” the 52 year old tells us.
Comedy is not the only avenue that Izzard has excelled in. Since the mid-nineties he has been cast in a number of British and American films, and in recent years has been getting bigger and better parts often in gritty US dramas. Some writers in the British media have suggested Izzard has ‘toned down’ his cross-dressing to secure these parts. “Toned down sounds like I’m avoiding my sexuality. I told everyone I was a transvestite – how much more out could I be,” he responds, clarifying, “I have been tactical or strategic with it. So if I turn up for a gig like Dr Abel Gideon who I play on Hannibal, I don’t turn up in make-up and heels, because they’ll go ‘shit I don’t think this guy can do it’ – you want to try and turn up as the role you want to be. I have a lot of male hormones in me, so I can grow a beard if I need… At the moment I’m doing press with a beard but I have painted nails, heels and ear rings, so I do this minimal thing, lipstick and a beard don’t work for me. That’s my aesthetic choice. Some people get angry about that and tell me I can’t choose – I say fuck you – it’s my life and I always wanted to be an actor and I’m doing it my own way.”
Over the next five years Izzard plans to wind down both his acting and comedic careers so he can focus on his political aspirations. Over the next two years he wants to keep a close eye of Britain’s next general election (scheduled for 7 May 2015) and the election for Mayor of London in 2016. Depending on the results he says he will either opt to become an elected politicial with the Labour Party or try for Mayor of London in 2020. He tells us he believes the LGBT community are all ‘Jedi Warriors’ and that it is important for us all to strive for excellence in everything we do. “We want to be the best in our work, so people are saying, ‘we need someone who is LGBT or an ethnic minority or a woman, because they really deliver’, as opposed to a white male middle class guy who is just going to phone it in. Be your own personal Jedi warrior,” he advises.
Eddie Izzard’s Force Majeure World Tour will stop in Wellington, Christchurch, Hamilton and Auckland, this February. Tickets are on sale now through Ticketmaster.
Article | Oliver Hall.