Street performer, stand-up, transvestite... Eddie Izzard likes to keep people guessing. Recently he's turned his hand to acting, following cameos in duds like "The Avengers" and "Circus" with subtler, more layered performances in "Shadow of the Vampire" and "The Cat's Meow". Now he's teamed up with Alex Cox for "Revengers Tragedy", an adaptation of Thomas Middleton's Jacobean drama.
What attracted you to the film?
It was Alex, really. I come from a science background - maths, physics, and chemistry - so I had no idea what the play was. Once I read it, though, I thought it would stretch me. I look for things which are going to challenge and push me, and with good actors you can really raise your game.
How did the shift into acting come about?
I didn't want to be a dramatic actor at school, so once I'd discovered Python and Peter Sellers, I thought I'd try comedy. I concentrated on that because I could give myself a big lead part - personal nepotism as I call it. When I was 30 and it started taking off, I thought right - it's taken so long to get here, I'm going to get an acting agent and start doing drama.
What's the difference between playing for laughs and playing it straight?
The main one is when you're doing comedy, you're a hunter-seeker for funny - the bottom line is you need to get the laugh. With drama, you need to be a hunter-seeker for truth. Comedy is like cocaine, but drama is like food - slow-burning, like carbohydrates and proteins.
Did the transvestite in you enjoy dressing up in "Revengers Tragedy"?
Dressing up is fun anyway, and the costume and make-up design we used - we called it post-apocalyptic Oxfam - was beautiful and really helped you get into character. It was all wonderfully f***** up.
Tell us about your next film, "The Adventures of Mike S Blueberry"...
It's a mystical western. I'm playing a German baron - a kind of optimistic b****** - and I'm acting with Michael Madsen, Juliette Lewis, and Vincent Cassel. It should be fascinating, and it was great fun to do. I can go really fast on a horse now, without dying.