Eddie Izzard

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 her 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 her 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 her apart from the pack. Making a lasting impression on American audiences in her 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 her most popular stand-up routines, "Kill" later won Izzard two Emmy Awards. A world performer, Izzard often performed her 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 her 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 her mother died of cancer when she was only six-years old, Izzard and her older brother were sent to Eastbourne, England to attend boarding school. As a child 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 her fellow performer, and was later cast in a number of other plays. She went on to attend Sheffield University as an accounting and financial management major. Spending most of her time writing and performing comedy shows instead, Izzard's attention to her degree only lasted a year. Focusing on her acting, Izzard staged shows at the university and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, looking for a way to take her performance to a professional level. After "coming out" as a straight transvestite in 1985 (s65he 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 her well in stand-up. Taking to the improvisational stage in 1987, Izzard made her first appearance at The Comedy Store in London, where she began to hone her stand-up routine. By the early 90's, Izzard's growing popularity allowed her to take on larger venues around London; in February of 1993, she landed her first stand-up gig at The Ambassador's Theatre in the London's West End. Finally hitting her 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 her second stand-up special, "Eddie Izzard: Unrepeatable" (1994) and made her 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 her 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 her stand-up performances with "Eddie Izzard: Definite Article" (1996) and, the following year, "Eddie Izzard: Glorious" (1997), in which she 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, she appeared as a gum-chewing, old lady-thumping bad guy in the film, "The Avengers" (1998). Though Izzard had toured in the U.S., her 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 her a 2003 Tony Award nomination for Best Leading Actor. In her 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 her voice to Nigel, a sarcastic koala, in the animated comedy, "The Wild" (2006); portrayed Professor Bedlam in "My Super Ex-Girlfriend" (2006); and reprised her "Ocean's" role in "Ocean's Thirteen" (2007). Making her 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 herself, titled "Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story" (2009). She 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 her 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).