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If the unflinching title of IFC’s dark comedy Bullet in the Face doesn’t pique your interest, perhaps the unorthodox casting of British comedian Eddie Izzard will do. As merciless mob boss Tannhäuser, Izzard has a bloody good time in the two-night miniseries. Below, Izzard talks about going to a “demented place” to play the sociopathic shut-in and spills some fresh details on his upcoming NBC series Mockingbird Lane.
Bullet in the Face is a bit of a departure for Izzard, but he likes it that way. “I tend to avoid comedies,” he says — a rather surprising admission for a stand-up comedian. But what drew him to Tannhäuser, among other things, was the chance to flex his dramatic chops while also improvving mustache-twirlingly over-the-top lines like “wrap yourself in jewels and kill her.”
Izzard admits he found a bit of himself in the villainous recluse. “Tannhäuser is very determined. I like to play determined characters,” he says. For example, “[my decision to run] 43 marathons in 51 days, that’s obviously determined.” But, he notes, “It’s a maniacal determination … that flips down the line of Peter Sellers in [Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 Oscar contender] Dr. Strangelove.“
Izzard also points to a psychological link between his character and contemporary political despots (though he insists he didn’t model Tannhäuser on any other villains, fictional or otherwise). Tannhäuser is nothing short of a megalomaniac, which is a rather inconvenient form of psychosis considering he’s also agoraphobic. With that in mind, says Izzard, “I was fascinated by his [snow] globes — by the fact that, within these snow globes, he could actually contain the earth. This is where I got my driving force for him: The idea of someone trapped … [who was] trying to control the whole world outside the mind, but he could never get out that door.”
Having finished his stay at Tannhäuser’s mansion-prison, Izzard will soon relocate to another famous address: Mockingbird Lane. He’ll play Grandpa (made famous by Al Lewis in The Munsters) in a reboot he says is “much more elegant. It’s twisted-dramatic that does hit comedic somewhere in there.” Going for something deeper than the broad comedy of the 1964 series, he says he hopes the reboot will prompt viewers to “watch and see the humanity within monsters. They can see themselves reflected [back].”
This notion of recognizing and reining in one’s own demons is a fitting throughline for Izzard’s more impending work. Whether it’s a goofy grandpa or a murderous mobster, he believes, these “sick and twisted parts … are part of all of our minds, and that is our life’s work to control those things or push them aside.”
Bullet in the Face premieres tonight at 10 p.m. ET, then concludes tomorrow at the same time.