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Eddie Izzard's World Domination Plot
The comedian-turned-thespian unleashes his powers in "My Super Ex-Girlfriend"
Eddie Izzard has a master plan to take over the world. It doesn't involve the "cunning use of flags" he extemporized upon in his breakthrough comedy show "Dress to Kill," but rather the careful development of his public persona.
Izzard is a phenomenon in his homeland of England, known predominantly for his free-association, ultra-intelligent yet universally accessible stand-up performances. So why has fame eluded him in the United States?
"Oh no, no. Fame hasn't eluded me. I've eluded it," Izzard asserts slyly. "I've studiously avoided comedy and just pushed for doing dramas. If you've ever watched people move over from comedy into drama, there's a huge resistance to it. So I tried not even to get there in comedy, but to hold it down in this cult way, and then come round the side and do drama and build that up."
And build it up he has, from his compellingly charismatic performance as Charlie Chaplin in "The Cat's Meow" to his acclaimed portrayal of Lenny Bruce in the London production of "Lenny" to his Tony-nominated turn in the 2003 Broadway revival of "A Day in the Death of Joe Egg." Add to that his two Emmys for his "Dress to Kill" comedy special and you have an entertainment renaissance man -- even if he is still in stealth mode as far as Middle America is concerned.
His relative anonymity should be a thing of the past after this summer's action-comedy "My Super Ex-Girlfriend." "I thought I should sort of let myself out of the bag and try to make these two strands of my career merge together a little more," says Izzard of his move back to comedy. Izzard plays Professor Bedlam, the arch-nemesis of superhero G-Girl (Uma Thurman). But while such adversaries are usually born of world-domination issues, this enmity arose over a broken B.F.F. pact.
"[Professor Bedlam] actually went to school with Uma Thurman's character [Jenny Johnson]. They were the weird kids who hung out. And then this meteorite arrives, and Uma's character goes and touches it and so gets all these powers. And then I'm a bit too late on the old touching bit, so I don't get any powers. So she goes off and has a great time and just sort of leaves me behind. Which I think is unforgivable, really. So it's basically revenge. It's a revenge story, from my point of view. It's hate through love. Or love through hate. No, hate through love, I think it is. Yeah. So that's what drives me."
Professor Bedlam soon teams up with Matt Saunders (Luke Wilson), who doesn't know his girlfriend, Jenny, is really G-Girl, but does think she's a little bossy and has control issues. "I tell him, 'Look, when you realize that your girlfriend's a complete nutcase, then call me, or e-mail me at professorbedlam.com,'" says Izzard of the alliance that's struck. Said alliance gets off to a rocky start, however: "In the end it all works out, but it's a little skewered. Matt's a bit of a slacker, so he doesn't quite get things going in the right area. Everything keeps sort of screwing up in his wake. But I do try hard."
Izzard, who recently voiced Nigel the koala in Buena Vista's animated hit "The Wild," follows up "Super Ex" with "Across the Universe," a 1960s-set musical romantic drama by Julie Taymor. And after that, he's hoping to premiere a documentary about his career -- going all the way back to his college and street-performing days -- at the Toronto Film Festival. ("It's designed to be a documentary that sort of digs away and explains a bit, as opposed to some sort of floaty kind of thing that just says that you exist and occasionally wear clothes and face different directions," he reassures.)
"It's a very odd career twist that I'm doing," Izzard acknowledges. "It won't make much sense to most people, but I know what I'm doing. Jack Nicholson always said, 'Always be number two.' So the thing is not to get to number one. The thing is to get to where Clint Eastwood is now, where he's directing and acting and getting Oscar-nominated in his 70s. So I'm doing the fine wine approach to careers, as opposed to the fizzy pop thing that explodes and then disappears."
"My Super Ex-Girlfriend." Starring Uma Thurman, Luke Wilson, Eddie Izzard and Rainn Wilson. Directed by Ivan Reitman. Written by Don Payne. Produced by Arnon Milchan and Gavin Polone. A Fox release. Comedy. Opens 7/21.