There was a literal turning point in Eddie Izzard’s lifelong pursuit of personal freedom. It came one afternoon in 1985 when he had gone out for the first time in a dress and heels and full makeup down Islington high street. He was 23 and he had been planning – and avoiding – that moment for just about as long as he could remember. The turning point came after he was chased down the road by some teenage girls who had caught him changing back into his jeans in the public toilets and wanted to let him know he was weird. That pursuit ended when eventually, faced with the screamed question “Hey, why were you dressed as a woman?”, he decided simply to stop running and turn and explain himself.
He spun around to give an answer, but before he got many words out the girls had run in the opposite direction. The experience taught him some things: that there was power in confronting fear rather than avoiding it; and that from then on he would never let other people define him. After that afternoon, he says, he not only felt he could face down the things that scared him, he went chasing after them: street performing, standup comedy, marathon running, political activism, improvising his stage show in different languages – all these things felt relatively easy after that original coming out as what he calls “transvestite or transgender”. “You think, if I can do something that hard, but positive – maybe I can do anything.”
The “anything” he has been doing most recently is to take on the challenge of acting opposite Judi Dench and Michael Gambon. In Stephen Frears’s interpretation of the true story of Queen Victoria’s late-life friendship with an Indian servant, Victoria & Abdul, Izzard plays a full-bearded, tweed-suited Bertie (later Edward VII), reining in his comic instincts to inhabit the outrage and scheming of a son seeing his mother apparently making a fool of herself. Izzard has done plenty of films before – he was in Ocean’s Twelve and Thirteen alongside George Clooney and Brad Pitt and the rest – but nothing that has required quite this level of costume drama restraint. He loved it. Read more via The Guardian