Sunday, September 12, 2010

Interview with Eddie Izzard - January 21st, 2009

Promoting: Valkyrie
Venue: The Dorchester Hotel
Interview type: Round table

Question (Q): You're quite a history buff, aren't you? You throw various lines into your act. Is World War II a particular interest?

Eddie Izzard (EI): I feel I am encyclopaedic on World War II. My dad took me to D-Day beaches when I was a kid. I was there four years ago – every five years they have a remembrance on D-Day beaches and I would have liked to have been there and done my bit. As Tom Cruise said in an interview yesterday, and Bryan Singer too, that everyone wanted to, essentially, kill Nazis. I mean, it sounds a bit extreme, but you do, you think these are the -- if evil's an over-used word by a previous President who just got into a helicopter recently -- but if anyone's evil, they got it, the top guy, you know. The SS, that was it, that was evil and you just wanted to kill them.

Q: So were you familiar with the Valkyrie story beforehand?

EI: Yeah, I knew about the plot, the bomb in the briefcase, I knew about that, I knew that when things went wrong, a number of them were executed with piano wire and it was filmed. And I've been to that place – it's just a simple building but a lot of people died there. So it's great to - - you know, we have The Great Escape, we've grown up with The Great Escape, if you think, if you're from the UK, if you're from America, we've grown up with these films where we went and did this thing to the Nazis and German kids have grown up -- anyone under the age of 75 has nothing to do with this -- and they didn't grow up with anything. And now they've got a film, an international film where they can watch Germans try to kill Nazis and I think that's great for them. Hopefully they'll like it. And that's the end of my answer.

Q: Bill Nighy referred to Hitler as an incompetent nincompoop, earlier. Is that an assessment you agree with?

EI: Unfortunately, for my mind, I wouldn't say he was incompetent. I would say that he was a sociopath, which I prefer to call anti-sociopath, because, you know, they don't seem socio at all, these sociopaths. You know, he went around with kids and you know, he was obviously - - you think, friendly with kids, oh, that's - - but he was, you can see it from these pictures, he was going out, he was asking them questions and with dogs and his dog Blondie and all this kind of thing. And anyone who was on his side, and everyone else, he was happy for them to be killed in the most merciless ways. It's sociopathic behaviour. And they were – they were unfortunately very organised, very driven, and Goebbels was very clever. These were not unintelligent people. And that was the bloody trouble, they spent so much time and effort on this. Most people just want to live their lives and there's politicians, they'll make some decisions and try and make their lives better, but these people they're just desperate for power. He is a cracked personality.

Q: Everyone that met him first-hand, they always say how charismatic Hitler was.

EI: Well, yeah. I mean, Hitchcock did this with all his bad guys, they've got to be charismatic. Because we do think of him, he built himself up in Germany by being evil, well he didn't actually show that side. He went round writing books saying we've got to, you know, deal with the Jewish people - - I'm not putting it - - you know, he said very negative things about the Jewish people, but he would spend a lot of his time once he became the politician of saying, “I will be strong for Germany, you will get jobs and work and stuff”, which seemed pretty positive after the '29 crash. Because the Nazis did come up in the '20s and then go down towards the late '20s and then because the Weimar Republic started getting its thing together and then the '29 crash sent unemployment spiralling and then they came back in.

Q: And even then, they never got 50% in a legal election, did they?

EI: No, until they went to these referenda, um, the endless referenda. Germany no longer has referendums because of what Hitler did. Because once he got in and removed all the Communists, by putting them all in prison and started shooting Social Democrats, and so there was really no opposition at all, he said, “Do you like what I've done?”, because everyone was not allowed to say no, for one thing, and were getting jobs and whatever and if you disagreed and went on strike you went to prison. So everyone was just saying yes. And things were coming round, they were using certain economic methods to get everything going and then they had a referenda saying, “Do you like this?” and they were getting 90% “yes”s. And that was part of the problem, that's what led to Time Magazine giving him Man of the Year in 1937.

Q: Speaking of Germany not having referendums, I think Mrs Merkel would prefer Europe not to have them as well.

EI:'re talking about the European question? Well, that's a separate thing to Nazis, you know.

Q: Yes, but what you said about the Nazis, if you want to prevent that happening again, Europe seems to be the answer.

EI: Well, yes, that's how I feel. For my money, that's why I believe in Europe, I think everyone fought – in Europe, from Alexander the Great to World War II, we've made wonderful, beautiful things in Europe, every fifty years, we down tools and say, “We haven't killed anyone for fifty years, let's kill the guys over there with the blue hats. Yes, the blue hats this time, much better.” Because we used to be on the side of the Germans all the way through, against the French and now they're with the French against the Germans, then we can be with the people from outer space, against the blue people, you know, so I think the European Union, for my money, is about the idea that we don't ever go to war again at them, we try and stop it happening. And now all the Balkan countries are choosing to join the EU, which I think is a vote for peace and a vote for trade and jobs and stability and against the violence that came out of that region.

Q: Can I just ask about the accents? Were you relieved not to have to do the normal Nazi accent or disappointed?

EI: No, I've done two films with German accents and I find there is a way you can do it so it's not too overblown. We've seen a lot of films that way. There's less films, er, World War II films with people just doing it in English. And of course, as the director, Bryan Singer, was saying, when German people were talking to other German soldiers, they weren't hearing accents, they were just hearing someone speak the same language, so I think it gives an immediacy for British audiences, for American audiences, just to see it in that way. So I didn't mind either way, they just chose that way. I thought it was going to be with German accents, so...

Q: Well, you could have done it in German, with English subtitles.

EI: I could have done it in German, but then I'd have sounded like an English guy doing it in German.

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