Eddie Izzard on Creating a Character: “I should be able to come off script and improvise”

“The better you researched it – the better you are into the character before you land on the set, the easier it’s going to be. ” – Eddie Izzard on Preparing for a Role

Eddie Izzard has enjoyed a long and varied career. Starting out in the U.K., he first made a name for himself as a stand-up comic before branching out into acting roles. Now, he’s enjoying success on both sides of the Atlantic, with roles in a wide range of movies and gradually, he’s making the move into more dramatic roles. That’s not to say the comedy has gone completely, of course. Also, in the U.K., Izzard is known for his sterling charity work, including running 27 marathons in 27 days, as well as his politics. Could we one day see Izzard taking up a seat in the Houses of Parliament? Well, never say never, but right now we can see him on screen playing an historical Royal figure; Prince Albert, eldest son of Queen Victoria.

Victoria and Abdul sees Dame Judi Dench returning to the role of the monarch that she played in Mrs. Brown. Izzard plays the Prince, who was always known as Bertie, a role that gives him the opportunity to star alongside his close friend, Dench. Speaking with Den of Geek, Izzard says he has no trouble switching into character even though he’s working with friends, and in fact, he thinks that an actor should be confident enough in the role to slide into character whenever, wherever:

“Well, if I’m getting it right, I feel that I should be able to come off script and improvise, even though that’s not actually going to happen. I feel at least I’m moving around, I go and eat, and have lunch and you say [falling into Bertie] ‘yes, I want one of these’, and you just walk round and you talk to people in a way where you stay in the character.

“It helps you to be able to… when I was doing The Riches, I’d stay in the American accent the entire time, and in fact I got a ticket for jaywalking, and I realized it was my passing out ceremony, because I went up to the guy and I said [in an American accent] ‘was that jaywalking, I didn’t realize’. So I was talking to the policeman, and he says, ‘you got any ID’, and I was giving him my California license, and then I thought, ‘actually, I’m British’, I should just go, [in a very plummy accent] “I’m so sorry this happened, this will be a lot of paperwork, I suppose, because I’m British”.

“I should have done that, and brought out the other license, and I blew it because I was too American.”

As for preparation, while Izzard clearly does prep thoroughly, it’s also a process that he doesn’t seem to think about too much; it’s more something that he just gets on with:

“I’ve never measured it, say, this role is that, you just do what you feel you need to to get in. Also, sometimes coming into a role there might be a different length of time to prepare, but the more you can – I have noticed a reluctance in earlier years to know exactly where to start with research. Maybe it’s a laziness or lack of confidence about which way to go into it.”

“The obvious thing that came into my head, or that I realized, was the better you researched it – the better you are into the character before you land on the set, the easier it’s going to be. You’re just going to be fully formed, I mean, obviously Daniel Day-Lewis does this to a huge extent, and that’s what I want to do, that’s the direction I want to head to, so that when I’m there, getting to the set, I know where I am, rather than a week into it, getting the hang of it.

You get scared at the beginning of film acting, because ‘lock it up, OK, camera’s rolling’, huge camera next to your face, people measuring things, doing things, turning things, the focus puller. And I can’t even see it now.”