A self-deprecating yet cheeky British comedian with a penchant for eyeliner and women's clothes, Eddie Izzard was hailed as the "greatest British stand-up comedian of his generation" by The London Sunday Times and "the funniest man in England" by comic legend John Cleese, a title Izzard easily lived up to. A witty, intelligent and unique performer, Izzard's stream-of-consciousness, non-sequitur style of comedy made him one of the top comedians in the business, as well as a successful film and stage actor. A self-professed "executive transvestite," Izzard's eclectic style and gender-bending wardrobe was often a trait that set him apart from the pack. Making a lasting impression on American audiences in his fifth major stand-up tour, "Eddie Izzard: Dress to Kill," (1999), Izzard combined such unrelated topics as the army, makeup, and the Church of England. One of his most popular stand-up routines, "Kill" later won Izzard two Emmy Awards. A world performer, Izzard often performed his stand-up in different languages, ably speaking fluent French which impressed that country and its denizens. On the stage, Izzard has starred in performances of "A Day in the Death of Joe Egg" in both London and New York, and on screen, appeared in numerous films, including "Shadow of the Vampire" (2000), "Ocean's Twelve" (2004) and "Valkyrie" (2008). With a wit and style all his own, Izzard proved to be one of the world's most interesting and versatile performers.
Born Edward John Izzard on Feb. 7, 1962 in Aden, Yemen to English parents Harold Izzard, an accountant for British Petroleum, and Dorothy Izzard, a nurse, Izzard grew up in Bangor, Northern Ireland before relocating to Skewen, Wales in 1967. After his mother died of cancer when he was only six-years old, Izzard and his older brother were sent to Eastbourne, England to attend boarding school. As a young boy at Eastbourne College, Izzard developed an interest in acting and began auditioning for a number of school plays, but found little success. Finally cast in a small role at the age of 15, Izzard appeared as the jailer in a production of Shakespeare's "Comedy of Errors." Handcuffed to the lead during part of the play, Izzard managed to upstage his fellow performer, and was later cast in a number of other plays. He went on to attend Sheffield University as an accounting and financial management major. Spending most of his time writing and performing comedy shows instead, Izzard's attention to his degree only lasted a year. Focusing on his acting, Izzard staged shows at the university and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, looking for a way to take his performance to a professional level.
After "coming out" as a straight transvestite in 1985 (he had had a penchant for dresses since the age of four and was caught stealing makeup as a teenager), Izzard and a friend began performing comedy stunts in London's Covent Garden. Though these stunts, which involved swordplay and unicycle tricks, were not particularly well-received, Izzard began to build strong improvisational skills that would later serve him well in stand-up. Taking to the improvisational stage in 1987, Izzard made his first appearance at The Comedy Store in London, where he began to hone his stand-up routine. By the early 90's, Izzard's growing popularity allowed him to take on larger venues around London; in February of 1993, he landed his first stand-up gig at The Ambassador's Theatre in the London's West End. Finally hitting his mark, the show was extended past its original four-week run and was later taped and released on video as "Eddie Izzard: Live at the Ambassadors" (1993), winning Izzard the British Comedy Award for Top Stand-Up Comedian.
The following year, Izzard released his second stand-up special, "Eddie Izzard: Unrepeatable" (1994) and made his West End dramatic debut as the lead in the premiere of David Mamet's play, "The Cryptogram." Well received on stage, Izzard went on to land starring roles in David Beaird's black comedy, "900 Oneonta" and a 1995 production of Christopher Marlowe's "Edward II." Making his feature film debut in 1996, Izzard appeared as the devious anarchist-ambassador Vladimir in "The Secret Agent" (1996), Christopher Hampton's take on the Joseph Conrad novel. One of Britain's most popular comedians by this time, Izzard continued to release videos of his stand-up performances with "Eddie Izzard: Definite Article" (1996) and, the following year, "Eddie Izzard: Glorious" (1997), in which he posed the important question, "what exactly is an evil giraffe?" Cast as can-do band manager Jerry Divine in the 1970s glam-rock drama "Velvet Goldmine" (1998), Izzard appeared alongside Ewan McGregor and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, ironically, wearing less makeup than anyone else in the film. The same year, he appeared as a gum-chewing, old lady-thumping bad guy in the film, "The Avengers" (1998).
Though Izzard had toured in the U.S., his major breakthrough with American audiences came in 1999 with the release of "Eddie Izzard: Dress to Kill." Broadcast as a special on HBO, the concert became immensely popular with American viewers and went on to earn Izzard two Emmy Awards in 2000 for Outstanding Individual Performance and for Writing in a Comedy Program. On film, Izzard next portrayed evil disco king Tony Pompadour in the comedy "The Mystery Men" (1999), Gustav von Wagenheim in the dark comedy, "Shadow of the Vampire" (2000) and Charlie Chaplin in "The Cat's Meow" (2001). Replacing Clive Owen in the 2001 stage production of Peter Nichols' "A Day in the Death of Joe Egg" at the Comedy Theatre in London, Izzard later reprised the role on Broadway in 2003, earning him a 2003 Tony Award nomination for Best Leading Actor. In his comedy career, Izzard toured with two more stand-up specials, "Eddie Izzard: Circle" (2002), and "Eddie Izzard: Sexie" in 2003, which marked the first ever arena tour by a comedian.
Izzard next appeared on film in the hit ensemble caper, "Ocean's Twelve" (2004) alongside George Clooney and Brad Pitt, and in the musical comedy "Romance & Cigarettes" (2005). In 2006, Izzard lent his voice to Nigel, a sarcastic koala, in the animated comedy, "The Wild" (2006), portrayed Professor Bedlam in "My Super Ex-Girlfriend" (2006), and reprised his "Ocean's" role in "Ocean's Thirteen" (2007). Making his first television series debut, Izzard also went into production on "The Riches" (FX, 2007-08), a dramatic series about a pair of con artists (Izzard and fellow Brit Minnie Driver) who take up residence in suburbia by posing as a deceased family. Although "The Riches" was soon cancelled due to poor ratings, Izzard kept busy with voice work for "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" (2008) as the heroic mouse Reepicheep and as the conniving Dr. Schadenfreude in the animated comedic fantasy "Igor" (2008). Izzard rounded out the year with a rare dramatic turn in Bryan Singer's based-on-fact WWII thriller "Valkyrie" (2008), opposite Tom Cruise as one of several top Nazi officers who conspired to assassinate Hitler.
The following year, Izzard was seen as a megalomaniacal cult leader in the miniseries remake of the apocalyptic thriller "The Day of the Triffids" (BBC, 2009) and headlined a documentary about himself, titled "Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story" (2009). He later joined Liev Schreiber and Helen Hunt for the romantic comedy "Every Day" (2010), prior to taking on the recurring role of the skeptical Dr. Hattarras in several episodes of "United States of Tara" (Showtime, 2009-2011) during its final season. The British actor-comedian also lent his immaculate enunciation to the voice role of the duplicitous Sir Miles Axlerod in the Pixar sequel "Cars 2" (2011), then played irrepressible pirate Long John Silver with gleeful abandon in the latest iteration of John Louis Stevenson's adventure classic "Treasure Island" (BSkyB, 2012).
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Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Went public as a transvestite at age 23; later incorporated this into his act
First appeared at The Comedy Store in London
Second starring role in David Beaird's West End production of "900 Oneonta"
Made his West End drama debut as the lead in David Mamet's "The Cryptogram," with Lindsay Duncan
Portrayed the title character in the revival of Christopher Marlowe's "Edward II"
Made his American TV debut on an episode of HBO's "Tales From the Crypt"
Performed his first solo show, "Definite Article"; show later had a successful stint in New York
Made his feature film debut in "The Secret Agent" as devious anarchist-ambassador Vladimir
Performed his one-man show "Glorious" in NYC
Played band manager Jerry Devine in Todd Haynes' "Velvet Goldmine"
Portrayed a silent baddie guarding Sean Connery in "The Avengers"
First performed the solo show, "Dress To Kill" in Europe
Cast as a villain fighting a rag-tag group of superheroes in "The Mystery Men"
A performance of "Dress to Kill" was aired as an HBO comedy special
Portrayed comedian Lenny Bruce in a London stage production of Julian Barry's "Lenny"
Replaced Clive Owen in Peter Nichols' "A Day in the Death of Joe Egg" at the Comedy Theatre; reprised role for the 2003 Broadway production
Portrayed Charlie Chaplin in Peter Bogdanovich's "The Cat's Meow"
Co-starred with Derek Jacobi and Christopher Eccleston in a film adaptation of "Revenger's Tragedy"
Had a small role in "Ocean's Twelve" as Roman Nagel, an inventor and technology expert
Cast in John Turturro's big screen musical "Romance & Cigarettes" (released theatrically in 2007)
Played Professor Bedlam in the Ivan Reitman comedy "My Super Ex-Girlfriend" starring Uma Thurman
Was cast as Wayne Malloy (also co-wrote), opposite Minnie Driver, in the FX series "The Riches"
Had a supporting role in the Julie Taymor directed "Across the Universe," a 1960s-set, Beatles-themed musical
Reprised role of Roman Nagel for "Ocean's Thirteen"
Performed the comedy tour, "Stripped"
Lent his voice to the mouse knight Reepicheep in "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian"
Voiced the character of Dr. Schadenfreude in the animated feature "Igor"
Portrayed General Erich Fellgiebel opposite Tom Cruise in "Valkyrie"
Joined the third season of Showtime's "United States of Tara" as a professor of abnormal psychology
Voiced Miles Axlerod in the animated feature "Cars 2"
Played Juhann Tannhauser on the mini-series "Bullet in the Face"
Had the recurring role of Dr. Abel Gideon on "Hannibal"
Played 'Big Bad' Wolfe on the super-hero series "Powers"
Voiced Harry Potter's nemesis Voldemort in "The LEGO Batman Movie"