Fresno, Calif. It didn’t take Eddie Izzard long to get ready for his role as Gen. Erich Fellgiebel in the new military drama “Valkyrie.” That’s because Izzard has long had a fascination with the military.
Izzard, who as a youngster thought about one day joining the army, even lives his life in a rather military fashion. That’s particularly true when it comes to making decisions. He is very careful to look at all the options before he begins his attack.
“I am a transvestite with a career. You can’t afford to screw around,” Izzard says during a telephone interview. He’s spending the Sunday afternoon chatting about his role in the film that opened Christmas Day. “Think about it. There are not many of us from the transgender community who have been able to stick our heads up and say, ‘Yes, I am here’ and then keep your thing going.
“You can be transgender and exist on the fringes of society. I wanted to exist slap, bang in the middle. You got to be a little military to do that.”
He’s military but not militant. Izzard describes his life as being so dull no one really cares what he does. All he wants to do is be able to wear “the expensive makeup I have purchased with my own hard-earned money as is my rights guaranteed under the United Nations charter.”
Fans of his comedy specials know that is where Izzard is more likely to express himself in terms of fashion. Those who only know him for the cable series “The Riches” or films such as “Across the Universe” have not seen that side.
Izzard’s latest work is “Valkyrie.” The film looks at the true story of a group of Nazi officers and German officials who mounted an attempt to assassinate Adolph Hitler in 1944. The cast also includes Tom Cruise, Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson.
Izzard’s character was in charge of communications at Hitler’s military compound, the Wolf’s Lair. His first day of filming was an intense scene where Tom Cruise’s character of Col. Claus von Stauffenberg pushes Fellgibel to be part of the plan. Cruise was so intent on getting the scenes just right that the actors were filmed multiple ways.
Izzard called the scene tough because it was his first day in the uniform. There were many more days in uniform to follow. Izzard eventually became immune to be wearing and being around so many swastikas. He didn’t think about it until someone would ask to take a picture with him.
“Then it seemed a little odd,” Izzard says.
The actor’s interest in the military served as a foundation for his playing the Nazi general.
“I am quite an encyclopedia when it comes to World War II,” Izzard says. “In my stand-up I talk a lot about the history of the world, religion, sociology, what we are doing on this planet.
“I think I study history because people keep screwing up in the same way. So you kind of make a prediction about where humanity is going by looking at the past.”