Eddie Izzard

Eddie Izzard

Date of birth: 07-02-1962
Born in Yemen, Eddie Izzard moved to Northern Ireland when he was about two, then to south Wales in 1967. His mother died of cancer in March 1968, when he was six, and he has frequently cited her early death as a reason for going into stand-up.

He began as a street performer in the Eighties, having been being kicked off his accountancy course at Sheffield University, and then moved into the stand-up circuit. His first appearance at The Comedy Store was in 1987.

He was nominated for the Perrier in 1991, the same year he won a Time Out Comedy Award, and in 1993, he was named top stand-up at the British Comedy Award for Live At The Ambassadors – which was also nominated for an Oliver theatre award. He scooped the same British Comedy Award three years later for his second show, Definite Article.

He followed that up with the shows Glorious and Dress To Kill, which was to prove his breakthrough in America. First performed in 1997, it aired on HBO two years later, winning him two Emmy Awards for performance and writing. In 2000, he cemented his reputation in the US by touring the country with the show Circle.

In 2001, he hosted the Amnesy Benefit We Know Where You Live! at Wembley Arena, and in 2003 embarked on a world tour of a new show, Sexie. His latest show, Stripped, began with a 34-city American tour in 2008, before transferring to the West End for a five-week run, ahead of its tour of the UK in late 2009.

Early in his career, Izzard took a famously offhand approach to television, turning down most appearances. Although in 1997, he wrote the sitcom Cows for Channel 4, about a family of bovines, played by humans in prostethics. But the surreal show was critically panned.

Alongside his comedy, Izzard has developed a straight acting career, that has spanned TV, film and stage.

In 1994, Izzard made his West End drama debut as the lead in David Mamet's The Cryptogram, which was followed by starring roles in David Beaird's black comedy 900 Oneonta and Christopher Marlowe's Edward II. Izzard portrayed Lenny Bruce in the 1999 revival of Julian Barry's biographical play Lenny, and two years later he starred in another West End revival, A Day In The Death Of Joe Egg – a role he reprised on Broadway in 2003, earning him a Tony Award nomination.

He made his film debut in 1996, when he appeared in both the Damien Hirst short film Hanging Around and a movie adaptation of Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent. Other early notable movie appearances include Velvet Goldmine, The Avengers, Mystery Men, All The Queen's Men, and The Cat's Meow, n which he played Charlie Chaplin. In 2003 he starred on TV as testosterone-fuelled Ralph in the three-part Channel 4 drama 40.

His stock as an actor rose further with an appearance in the blockbuster squel Ocean's Twelve in 2004; and in 2006, he landed his biggest American break, co-starring with Minnie Driver in the FX drama series the Riches, about a family of con artists trying to go straight after assuming the identity of a suburban couple, which ran until 2008.

Further major roles include Ocean's Thirteen in 2007, and his starring role opposite Tom Cruise in the 2008 wartime action film Valkyrie.

Izzard is also passionate about issues including history, European integration and the environment. In 2003 he fronted the Discovery Channel documentary series Mongrel Nation. aboutEnglish identity, has long spoken about becoming more active in European politics, and appeared in a 2005 party political broadcast for the Labour Party, to which he has donated more than £10,000.

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Eddie Izzard writes his first movie

Wartime drama Six Minutes To Midnight

Eddie Izzard has written his first film.

Six Minutes To Midnight is a Second World War drama about the daughters of Nazi high command who were sent to an English seaside town in the summer of 1939 so that they could learn the language and become future ambassadors for National Socialism.

It has not yet been confirmed if Izzard, who has performed stand-up in German, French and Spanish, will play the central role of school teacher Thomas Fisher, who 'knows what is coming and tries to raise the alarm but no-one is listening'.

Advance publicity for the film suggests that the seaside town is Bexhill-on-Sea, where Izzard spent much of his childhood. The town was a point of attack for Operation Sea Lion, the Nazi plan for invading Britain and has been cited as the likely inspiration for Walmington-on-Sea, the fictional town in Dad's Army.

Izzard wrote the film's script with actor-turned-screenwriter Celyn Jones, with whom he appeared in the 2014 BBC Two wartime drama Castles In The Sky, about the development of radar.

In an interview earlier this year, Izzard said the script chimed with today’s political climate, explaining: ‘It seems like we’ve just headed back to the 1930s, so suddenly this film has become something that can really resonate. Half of the world seems to be falling backwards, hating people left, right and centre, for absolutely no logical reason.

‘I just happened to find this place in my hometown that had loads of German girls who were being taught English. There were different schools there, and one was full of girls, some of whom were linked through the leaders in Germany in the 30s. I just that that was too good of a start point not to build a story from. We’ll see how it lands, but I think it can be very interesting.’

The comic's former girlfriend, Sarah Townsend, is attached to direct Six Minutes To Midnight. It will be her first narrative feature after several documentaries with the comic, including the Emmy-nominated Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story.

Adman turned film-maker Trevor Beattie is executive producer, and production company Mad As Birds Films previously made the dramatised 2014 Dylan Thomas biopic Set Fire To The Stars, which starred Jones as the poet, alongside Hollywood actor Elijah Wood and Kevin Eldon.

Izzard has frequently referred to the Second World War in his stand-up and appeared in several war films, including last year's Whisky Galore remake and 2008's Valkyrie.

'I was brought up on these books about the war' he has said. 'I know war is hell, but I sort of wanted to be involved in that struggle. It was something to do with not taking in the reality of it all, but the derring-do. Derring-do? That sounds really crap - but the running jumping climbing standing still part of it, that was the reason I wanted to be in the army.

'The reality is that apart from the Second World War, most wars are politically messy. The Second World War was straightforward, "These guys are bastards and they're trying to invade everywhere. Let's stop 'em and let's defend our country." So I link up on that patriotism.'

There was widespread sympathy and even support for the Nazis among the British aristocracy and media in the 1930s, right up until Hitler's invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939. Cultural exchange between the two nations was facilitated in large part by upper-class girls on both sides being sent to the other country to be educated in refinement and to hunt for husbands.

'Minutes to midnight' alludes to the symbolic Doomsday Clock, which measures the likelihood of man-made global catastrophe, and which is currently set at two and a half minutes to midnight.

- by Jay Richardson

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Published: 12 Sep 2017

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