At 25 years old Eddie Izzard is feeling morose, by the same age Orson Welles had made Citizen Kane, whereas Izzard was still an unknown. You have to be a certain kind of person to feel upset that you haven’t already made one of the greatest films of all time, but that’s ambition for you. And if anyone were going to surreptitiously take over the world, it would be Eddie.
Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story is an hour and forty minutes, a little longer than the average movie, and charts the entire life of the action-transvestite comedian. Using archive footage and talking heads with people who knew him growing up, the flashy, spirited documentary is packed full of interesting things. Eddie Izzard himself is our guide, and attempts to explain how he became such a star, as well as exploring his past, and some painful memories regarding his mother, who sadly died of Cancer when he was just a boy.
Eddie Izzard’s rise to success was by no means easy, and the footage of his early stand-up and street performance is proof of how far he’s come. We see a totally different comedian, when Izzard was still young and inexperienced, lacking his trademark surrealist personality. Young Izzard is, frankly, a bit of a dork (albeit a loveable one) but it would be a very real turning point when he eventually reinvented himself as a rock star. If there’s one thing that seems to define Izzard, and is recognisable as a constant throughout his life, it’s his doggedness, he just won’t give up, and suffers all the uncertainty and embarrassment without letting it stop him for a moment. If nothing else, you really feel how much he deserved his eventual success, just from his passion and the amount of work he put in.
The great thing about this documentary is how dense it is, there’s plenty to absorb, and Eddie Izzard doesn’t shy away from being totally honest. He is a man who craves attention, and although he’s very close to his father, he desperately needs to fill the gaping hole his mother left when she died. This seems to be the predominant driving force for his work, the love and attention of hundreds and thousands of adoring fans, which almost, but not quite, distracts him long enough to forget he’ll never again experience the love of his mother.
Another huge contributing factor to his success is that Izzard is constantly on ‘go’, never stopping long enough to relax or reflect. Almost as a visual metaphor for this constant energy, Izzard ran seven weeks of back-to-back marathons across the UK for Sport Relief, with only about five weeks of training. He is a man who seems incapable of stopping, and has immersed himself in film and television, as well as huge stand up shows. Although as an actor Izzard is fairly average, as opposed to being a star as a comedian, he pointed out that when he started performing comedy he was only average, and besides he’s wanted to be an actor since he was a child.
I watched Believe: the Eddie Izzard story (which originally came out in 2009) on BBC iPlayer, check it out by clicking on this link. When they take it down, it’ll probably be available to watch on YouTube or something, or you could just buy the DVD.
Eddie Izzard will next be seen playing Long John Silver in Sky1′s TV film Treasure Island (below). Personally I think he’s well cast (although can anyone really match Tim Curry’s performance?) and the look of the character is certainly something different to what might have been expected. Different is good though, different seems to define Eddie Izzard.