Thursday, May 3, 2012

Eddie Izzard on Treasure Island and Pop Culture

Photo by Syfy  
Talking to Eddie Izzard about his portrayal of Long John Silver in the upcoming Syfy film Treasure Island is like going on a pop culture romp. From Winston Churchill to Buddha to Han Solo, the transvestite comedian-turned-serious actor, tickled our entertainment fancy more than we could have possibly imagined.
“Robert Louis Stephenson based him upon a friend of his who was actually an editor and a journalist, and a poet who actually wrote the Invictus poem. So the writer of the Invites poem, which is the one that influenced Nelson Mandela when he was in prison, is in fact the basis for Long John Silver.”

“Donald Sutherland coming and playing [Flint], that's crazy. And I have worked with Elliot Gould on Ocean's 12 and 13. So both Donald Sutherland and Elliot Gould were in M*A*S*H. And I've asked them both this question, because there's a whole section of M*A*S*H where they go off to Japan and they keep saying, ‘We are the pros from Dover,’ because they're these two great surgeons who are going in to work on some Congressman's son.

“And I said, ‘What the hell does pros from Dover mean?’ And both of them said, ‘We just made it up. It actually doesn't mean anything, but we just liked the sound of it.’ So it was quite amazing to have words with Elliot Gould and then to work with Donald Sutherland.
“And he was great and he gave me a book on Treasure Island. And it blows my mind sometimes working with people who I've known from a long time and then finally get to work with.”

“I do have a big vision, as I said, ‘I'm a transvestite, you just have to work out how you can get transgender admitted into society.’ So I do have vision. This thing that George Bush, Sr. said, ‘He had a problem with the vision thing.’ I don't have a problem with the vision thing. I've had to have one because I'm trying to carve a place for myself in the future.”

“It’s all about the indomitable spirit. These lines from Invictus written by the character, who like I said, was based on. ‘I am… captain of my destiny, master of soul.’ It's about just not giving in, which is a trait of Churchill, which is a trait of Lincoln in America, a trait of Washington, a number of people that I respect, I think that the vast majority of people respect [you] if you've got a good heart.”

“I've studied this from George Clooney in the Oceans movies. Because George is like he seems. He is what it says on the cover of the book of George Clooney is what [he is] internally. And that is not the same for a lot of people. Some people are completely different to how they seem. And George was always leading from the front… generous, all that kind of thing. And I worked out that you can set the tone, and you should set the tone, from the top.”

“Villainy, crime plus time equals romance, the way it is… I was born in Aden, which is city of Yemen, Arabic country. And the Gulf of Aden has all the Somali pirates going around. And we know that that's hellish down there. You get caught by those pirates, you just do not want this to happen. Now that's what the pirates back in the 1700s were like. But pirates plus time equals romance. And we have a different take on it.”

“Imagine there's $500 million on the moon and you've got to find, like the Millennium Falcon or Hans Solo, could you go and get it? It's one of those stories. So you do get caught up in it and it just gets nasty. And it's about death and blood and life and finding yourself and what would you do in those situations?”

“Within watching Silver I tried to appeal to my demons. Because I know that I have done things in my life which I'm just, ‘I shouldn't have done that and I'm ashamed of that. That's no good.’ And I try to push for better. I try to be positive. I try to be generous. But at times you're not, sometimes you're very selfish, your ego gets involved. You want to be a Buddhist monk, but only Buddhist monks get to be Buddhist monks, so I don't think I am that. You just got to dig inside you.”

“Shaving the head was the big dramatic departure… I'd been trying to do a role where I could shave my head for some time. And if you ever do choose to shave your head, people out there, it's all about the skull shape, you've got to have a good skull. Some people have an unfortunate skull that doesn't quite work. And you don't know that until you get down there… We all wanted to do something different. And this look, which I feel is like a 1700s punk thing.

“And having the different buzz cuts, different Mohican cuts. It looked just like Mad Max meets Pirates of the Caribbean meets Goodfellas. It's quite a mix that goes in there… We've reset Treasure Island. This is the benchmark, I hope, which everyone's got to measure Treasure Island books by.”

“I am a big science fiction fan. I'm a big imagination fan, which actually ties in with Syfy — the place of the imagination. Everything from Harry Potter, particular the end films. I haven't actually read the books, I'm a dyslexic person so I sort of avoid books. 

“I did read Isaac Asimov actually, a couple of his books before. But there are so many books out there, which I haven't read because I'm just such a slow reader. At the moment I'm going through Netflix. Star Trek: Next Generation. So I'm a fan of the future…

“I was big fan of Matrix, particularly the first one. The second two sort of, I got a bit lost in. But those stories that are gritty and now and edgy and have human sensibilities and you take it to some other place, I love living through those… For a lot of people it gets them out of their normal lives, which might be not that exciting and it's a place of crazy fantasy, ‘What would you do now?’”

Game of Thrones is very interesting, I just started watching that. Because that's like from before, but also in the past we do see our present and our future. Humans keep behaving the same.”

“This is the Godfather of pirate movies… In Britain there has become this model of where you grab people on the Sunday night and then you drag them through to the Monday night. Where Sunday, everyone's saying, ‘It's a school day, the next day it's a work day, let's settle down and watch this.’ And then they get excited and maybe tell things. But there's always a slight drop-off over the next night. But then people TiVo things and re-watch them.

“We did a screening for the crew in London and we had a 1/2-hour break in between. And by the end of the first movie you are going, ‘Oh well, what happens now? Come on.’ So you just go straight in. So I think it's like the Godfather, this is the Godfather of pirate movies.”

Watch Eddie Izzard in Treasure Island on Saturday May 5, at 7:00 p.m. EST/6 p.m. Central on Syfy.  

For related stories check out:

An Interview with the Executive Producers of Grimm

Roxana Brusso on Touch and Living Life to the Fullest  

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