He is more than a comedian. Eddie Izzard is a thinker who ties his observations on history and society together with a razor sharp wit. Presently touring Europe and delivering his act in French, Izzard took a break from his busy schedule to talk with a small group of reporters and I was lucky enough to be a part of that group. Below is my portion of that conversation with Izzard where we discussed the very violent and very funny IFC show Bullet in the Face, the state of our society, reality TV, and how he wound up playing Grandpa in the Munsters remake Mockingbird Lane.
Bullet in the Face struck me as being a tad less obvious than other spoofs — you got to sneak some things in without an illuminated arrow pointing at the punch lines. It felt like stupid humor for smart people; is that what drew you to the role?
Eddie Izzard: I do like the smart-stupid angle, which is what I play — I actually play it smart-stupid-stupid-smart. This was just a chance for me to go off on a strange and unusual angle as someone who is a complete megalomaniac. I normally don’t do comedies, and this was a drama, but this is all very heightened, so I sort of went for it and didn’t take many prisoners and tried out some different things. I haven’t seen it all, so I don’t know quite how it all lands.
Obviously it’s a farcical but super-violent show at a time when nobody really thinks violence is very funny — is there a concern about a backlash or regret with regard to the timing?
Well, that is always something one has to bear in mind. In America or maybe around the world, it does happen that very violent incidences happen, and one wonders about timing — you couldn’t pre-think that. Um, so yes, I don’t know. I don’t kill that many people in the show; I am in the show, so there you go. It’s just something one has to bear in mind, and these things happen in reality — I haven’t got the answer.
I think that the debate about gun fascination needs to happen in a much larger way. You know, in America a lot of people fight for gun control, the NRA fights for gun expansion. In Europe — maybe because we had the Second World War, and so many people died that we got rid of them — but still, you do those American films… obviously you’re talking in reference to the Batman situation — those films will just draw in a humongous amount of people, and its always war films that are made into films.
No one does democracy. There is no film about Athenian democracy; it’s just not happening. It is a weird thing. I don’t know what the answer to it is, but we don’t talk about it enough — the gun fascination. Myself as a social democrat, I still have a gun fascination, but I like to shoot milk bottles and things like that. We just don’t talk about it enough. Maybe it’s just a primeval thing, which I think it probably is. It’s a very basic primal thing, this hunting thing that we got rid of, and so its still in our brain.
So how you deal with it, how you deal with this in drama… I’m also doing Mockingbird Lane – that’s a very potentially violent thing, but its comedic; it has a comedic edge to it. And there’s tons of vampire films going out. But still, if something like that happened in reality everyone would just flip, and when it does happen people flip. I don’t know the answer to that question, it is just something that… God, will we ever get to the bottom of it? Will we ever get to a happy medium on it?
You still pack your act with loads of historical references, but we seem to be getting dumber as a society. Would it be easier to just talk about reality TV and then have a cry over the downfall of society?
I don’t think society is down-falling…
Well not necessarily ”down-falling”
Well, we do like gossip, and we do know that reality TV also costs the TV companies zero cents to make, so obviously they’ve fallen in love with that in a financial way. The bean counters have gone crazy, but it’s also America’s greatest time of drama television and great roles for older actors, more mature actors in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and in the UK as well and probably around the world as well.
I think any time you can take a snapshot and think things are rough, but, you know, I’m surprised that I keep getting audiences. I just played the Hollywood-bloody-Bowl, which is about 15,000, and I’m talking about Greeks, Romans, “Is there a God?”, all that kind of stuff. So while we might think we’re getting dumber, I don’t think anything’s moving. I think there’s always enough smart people and there’s enough dumb people.
Maybe television is shoving out more and more — The Wives of Orange County and The Wives of This Place and The Wives of New Jersey, there’s a lot of wives stuff out there. It’s Car-Crash-TV, and people like to watch it; people like to do it because they get famous and people like to watch it because they think, “Well, my life is not that life.” So gossiping goes back to the early cave people… maybe it’s one’s attitude; I’m a glass is half full [person]. Actually, I’m a glass is three-quarters full person. I am a transvestite who’s got this far, so I should be quite happy.
You mentioned before that there are great roles out there on TV for actors in their 40s, 50s, and 60s — did any vanity creep in before you took the role of Grandpa on Mockingbird Lane? Because I don’t see you as a grandfather. I’m watching the show [Bullet in the Face] last night, and then I watched Dressed to Kill, and I just don’t… you don’t… I can’t believe… you’re not really old enough to be a grandfather is what I’m saying…
(Laughs) Well, I could be, couldn’t I?
Well, biologically… yes, I suppose mathematically, but you just don’t seem like…
I could have worked it out… but yes, indeed. What happened was, I was told of the idea, and, “Hey do you want to be inThe Munsters, in the pilot?”, and I went, “No, this is just not gonna happen.” And then they said, “Well, you know you should have a look at it, because it’s Bryan Fuller who did Pushing Daisies, and he’s looking at you to play this role.” I said, “Grandpa. I really haven’t seen the show, but I’m not Grandpa. That’s not my next move.” I’m very into military moves in terms of how I get up the ladder, and I said the next thing is not “Munsters“, and it’s not “Grandpa”. But then he put it to me, and he told me what he was trying to do with it, and I thought, “Well, this could be intriguing; this could be an interesting role to play.” So I was persuaded by Bryan Fuller to do it, and that’s why I’m there, and we’ll see where we go with it. You know, they may not give it to us, but if they give it to us I think we’ll take it to a place where it will be not quite what people are expecting. If you remember the distance that the original Batman went to Tim Burton’s Batman, that is the distance that we should be taking it. It won’t be the same as that; it won’t be that action. But it will have moved probably something like that distance.
Bullet in the Face will air Thursday and Friday night on IFC at 10/9 C