Eddie Izzard on playing a male lead in Six Minutes to Midnight post-pronoun change
"Pronouns do not define me," the actor and comedian says.
With Six Minutes to Midnight, Eddie Izzard is making her feature film writing debut. And playing the male lead.
The film was shot in 2018, before Izzard announced that her preferred pronouns are she/her, but she says it's a moot point anyway. "I came out 35 years ago. The pronouns isn't the thing," Izzard tells EW. "Pronouns do not define me. I'm gender-fluid. So I'm not going to make a big deal."
Izzard further says she first requested the use of she/her pronouns when appearing on a TV program a full year prior to the story blowing up in the news this past December. Which only further stresses how minor an issue she finds it.
"Everyone should calm down on this," she says. "Because I'm playing a male role, I give people permission for whatever they wish. Just call me Eddie or whatever. This shouldn't be the big deal. It's not the be-all and end-all of what being trans or LGBT is about. It shouldn't be the thing that trips us up. It's trying to get people to live and let live."
In Six Minutes to Midnight, Izzard portrays Thomas Miller, a half-German, half-English man who takes a post as a teacher at a private British finishing school that caters to young German women while the country is on the cusp of World War II.
Izzard was inspired by her own family. The film takes place in Bexhill-on-Sea, where her grandmother was from and Izzard spent a large portion of her childhood. She even based the character of Charlie (Jim Broadbent) on his grandfather, who also was a bus driver.
Izzard shares writing credit with Celyn Jones and Andy Goddard, but the story came to her initially through her involvement with the local museum in Bexhill-on-Sea, of which she is a patron. There were once 26 schools there, and Izzard discovered a school badge that featured both the British flag and the Nazi flag on its crest. "They were all German girls learning English," she explains. "They were making friends with the British aristocracy and right-wing-leaning people of Britain, and I thought, 'Well, there's a film in that,' and that was about 10, 12 years ago."
Through research, Izzard discovered these schools had been home to many high-ranking Germans' daughters, including Hitler's goddaughter. It exposed a further link between the Nazi party and members of the British aristocracy, which most are familiar with via the sympathetic Nazi leanings of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson.
Izzard also spoke with a former au pair who'd worked at the schools and remembered listening to Hitler's speeches in her time with the girls. It was Jones' idea to make the school matron British instead of German, and to offer the role to Judi Dench, who was all too happy to sign on.
The plot and tone were also partly inspired by Alfred Hitchcock and his films like The 39 Steps that center on a "wrong man" narrative. "There's another one, Went the Day Well, which is shot in World War II, about some Germans that have come in in disguise," Izzard says. "They're paratroopers trying to take over the town, but they're disguised as British people so there's a few references."
Though she's written her own stand-up for years, Izzard says penning a film was quite difficult. "My stand-up, I don't even write it," she says. "I kind of workshop that, and I'm dyslexic, but I had to develop a sense of story/"
Izzard broke into Pinewood Studios at the age of 15, she loves film so much. And it's always been a dream to write a film (and herself a meaty role). "It's been tricky for me writing," she admits. "I really have to pull it out of me. It takes me about five to 10 times longer than I think it's going to take each scene." Still, she hopes to write two more films in the immediate future.
Izzard champions her film's history lesson, while also expressing chagrin at how relevant it has become. "That [real story] was just lying there, and that's what we built our story on top of," she says. "It wasn't even resonating that much, and then [Donald] Trump came in. I was working on it before Trump got into power, and then he did the big lie when he tried to steal the country and steal the election away. It shows that it doesn't go away. When World War II was won, those Nazis went quiet. They did not implode, they just went quiet."
She adds, "If you do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. We've done this before, so it's as if some people in the world are saying, 'Hey, the 1930s, let's try them again.' And we're trying to say it's not good, you've got to know about this stuff. It now sits as very much a film for our time."
Six Minutes to Midnight hits theaters and PVOD on March 26.