J’ai adoré vous voir dans Velvet Goldmine, un film musical dramatique sorti en 1998. C’était un film magnifique et perturbant. Avez-vous apprécié le tournage ?
Il y avait une scène d’orgie qui, de manière très rock’n’roll, a été tournée à 10 heures du matin. C’était un plan séquence, donc tout le monde devait toujours être en train d’agir car on ne savait pas où la caméra se dirigeait. C’était une prise de six minutes où tout le monde donnait tout dans cette grande pièce. Ensuite, quelqu’un disait « Coupez ! », tout le monde s’arrêtait, puis quelqu’un disait « OK, on refait une prise ». J’étais avec la merveilleuse Emily Woof et nous devions être très intimes, très rapidement. On s’arrêtait, on marquait le temps, puis on repartait.
Joseph Fiennes : «J’ai bien aimé jouer un pape du Ventôse»
George Clooney sent très « George Clooney ». Je l’ai trouvé très positif. Et énervant de talent pour le baby-foot. J’ai été scolarisé en pensionnat, donc je suis très fort au baby-foot. Je l’ai défis quand nous tournions Ocean’s Twelve. Je pensais : « Je vais battre George Clooney ici », et il m’a battu 10 à 8. On ne peut pas être aussi bon sans avoir joué de nombreux matchs de baby-foot. J’ai toujours une revanche en tête.
My new film, Doctor Jekyll, proves that I still love acting. I have just finished shooting Great Expectations, where I played 19 characters. In January, I will be performing in Hamlet in New York, where I will be playing a similar number of characters. I love acting; it was my first love since I was seven years old. I have always had a sense of humor and loved watching comedy. I didn’t know I could specialize in acting until I discovered Monty Python. I have separate agents for acting and comedy, and I pursue both paths simultaneously. I have been doing dramatic roles in films and on stage for 20 to 25 years, and comedy for 35 years. Now, I am going into politics like Glenda Jackson, so I will have to put acting aside for a while. But I still love acting. The bottom line of acting is to be truthful, while the bottom line of comedy is to be funny. They are slightly different and people sometimes get confused.
Izzard in Valkyrie in 2008. Photograph: Mgm/Sportsphoto/Allstar
Did you receive any official feedback from the royal family after voicing Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles in The Simpsons?
King Charles has a good sense of humor. I performed at a gig for the Prince’s Trust. I believe that he and Camilla are truly in love. I am not particularly a fan of the monarchy or hereditary privilege, but I do think that Prince Charles has shown great patience in waiting to become king. He has been ahead of the curve on climate change and organic farming. He has tried to do good things in the past and continues to do so as king. He even spoke in the French parliament in French at a time when the Brexit government was calling for separation. He was saying, « No, we’re still here. Many of us want to work and live together in some way. What can we learn from other countries? What can other countries learn from us? Let’s move forward. » I think he has a good chance of doing great things in the coming decades, so I encourage him to live as long as possible and continue his positive work.
What was your worst ever gig?
When they film live television shows in front of a studio audience, they often have a warm-up comedian. When cameras need to be moved or sets and costumes need to be changed, the warm-up comedian comes back on stage. They engage in room humor, making jokes like « How are you doing? It’s Jack with a funny haircut… ». They are very good at it. I never wanted to do sketch comedy or a sitcom, so I always said I wouldn’t do television. However, I thought I could do warm-up because I had experience in street performing and hosting at stand-up clubs. I did a couple of warm-up gigs for Red Dwarf and another variety show, and I failed miserably because room humor is not my thing. I would come out on stage and talk about things like life on Mars, cats with guns, and whether whales are the DJ’s of the sea. It was a complete failure.
Have you always known that you were female, and that your more masculine appearance was merely due to playing more male roles? Or have you always been on a journey along the gender spectrum?
My genetics have not changed. I have always known that I had both male and female genetics. We know that we are a mixture: XX and XY, not XX and YY. We start off in the womb as females and some of us are then coded as males. Society has an obsession with separating us with crowbars. I believe that the gender spectrum is real – who you are attracted to and how you identify yourself – and that this spectrum can exist anywhere. Since coming out as transgender 38 years ago, I have had the gift of experiencing life from both male and female perspectives. I was assigned male at birth, but now I feel more at peace identifying as a trans woman.
‘I’ve run marathons to make connections’ … Izzard completed 27 races in 27 days for Sport Relief in 2016. Photograph: Comic Relief/Getty Images
Why should voters take you seriously as a political candidate?
Why did anyone take Boris Johnson or Donald Trump seriously? If you look at the marathons I have run and the fact that I have performed in French, German, and Spanish, you will see that I am all about making connections rather than breaking them. I have raised money to help people, not hurt them. Other politicians in our country and around the world have done massively negative, extreme right-wing things, using lying as a tool of politics. I have always tried to be open and honest. I came out as transgender 38 years ago. I have always tried to do things that are honest and play it straight. Take me as you see me. I treat other people the way I would like to be treated. I can communicate and I have a vision for the future: everyone in the world deserves a fair chance at life. That’s 8 billion people. I want to start fighting for that in Brighton Pavilion. I will fight for Brighton, for the country, for our continent, and for our world. The 21st century is the time for humanity to mature. We either make it fair for all 8 billion people in this century or I don’t think we will make it to the next century. It is unfortunate that there are politicians who spin things negatively, use lying as a tool of politics, and face no consequences for their actions. Given everything I have done in my life, why wouldn’t you take me seriously?
‘I’ll fight for Brighton, the country, our world’ … Izzard is running to become Labour MP for Brighton Pavilion. Photograph: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images
Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Is your glass of Eddie Izzard gin half full or half empty?
You will be interested to know that I am neither. I am a two-thirds full glass kind of person. If you came out as transgender in 1985, you had better be positive. Otherwise, you won’t get anywhere. I truly believe that there is more goodwill than ill will in the world. There are some individuals who get caught up in their own ego and, if they become leaders of a country, they start to dismantle democratic institutions and organizations in order to stay in power. The democracy begins to fade away. However, these individuals are a tiny minority. Most of us are decent people. Even though terrible things are happening in the world, the majority of people still believe in live and let live. So, I will continue to be a two-thirds full glass person.
Doctor Jekyll is in cinemas from 27 October.