Eddie Izzard (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)

The Great Pretender

When does acting stop and real life begin?

Artillery Row

Former Sherlock Holmes, Robert Downey Jr, once said, “I know very little about acting. I’m just an incredibly gifted faker.”

It is perhaps a blueprint for acting that Eddie Izzard is tempted to adopt in excess. So much so that he blatantly attempts to blur the lines between acting and his real life, to the point where we might wonder when Eddie is acting and when he stops. Is it when he says he’s a woman and puts on a dress and stiletto boots, or when he plays the part of a man, as a man, for a huge salary? 

Izzard has apparently forgotten that acting isn’t real life

Eddie Izzard is reported to be “in advance talks” to take up the role of Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock’s Daughter, a forthcoming high-budget drama series which will be filmed in 2023. Yet in December 2020 Izzard declared, “I just want to be based in girl mode from now on” and expected everyone to believe he had become a full-time woman. 

There would be rank hypocrisy in a man saying he wants to be in “girl mode” and subsequently accepting lucrative male acting roles that women are unable to aspire towards. Female actresses often find there are fewer and fewer decent female roles as they age. Male roles by contrast are still abundant as men mature, and those male stars are frequently paired with much younger female love interests. 

I can see why Eddie doesn’t choose “girl mode” when he seeks a film role. Eddie is not a girl, because he’s 60 years old — and he’s not a woman because he’s a man. His commitment to “womanning” seems to be secondary to his desire for top billing. A woman by contrast can take off her lipstick and whistle. No one will come and offer her the role of Sherlock. Izzard knows this very well.

Eddie has in recent months been auditioning for the role of female Labour MP. Few now expect him to get the part, and perhaps Izzard himself has realised it. He didn’t bother contributing to an interview with the candidates this week in a Sheffield magazine, which was falling over itself to call him a woman. The political audience gives feedback at the ballot box, not the box office.

Izzard will shortly be playing all twenty-one characters in a one-man performance of Great Expectations on the New York stage. This will presumably include the ageing Miss Havisham and the nine-year old girl, Estella. It could be ambition, but it could equally be egotistical greed. It might be talent, but it could equally be patriarchal arrogance. He is a wealthy, privileged man demanding the world believe whatever he says about himself. When an actor commands an audience to believe his character is real, he need only have sufficient talent. In the real world, if a man commands women to believe that he is actually a woman, he may experience a lot of loud female booing. This currently appears to bemuse Izzard. He has apparently forgotten that acting isn’t real life and women aren’t a willing audience for his latest costume change. 

The Daily Mail pondered, “It is not clear whether her Sherlock will be played as a trans woman or as a man.” It makes absolutely no difference. Casting a man pretending to be a woman in a role where he pretends to be a different man, is really only about men and pretending, and Eddie is the Great Pretender. 

Someone should alert hairdressers of their new sex-changing power

In another bizarre and petulant demand this week, The Crown actress Emma Corrin called for film and television award categories for males and females to be merged into a single “gender neutral” one. Corrin apparently finds it difficult “being nominated in female categories” because she is now “non-binary”. Corrin is a 26-year-old female actress who played Princess Diana. She is no longer accepting “she/her” pronouns and demands “they/them”.They” is currently in our cinemas playing Lady Chatterley. “They” doesn’t seem keen to give back “theys” awards won so far as a woman, or to turn down “theys” opportunity to play leading female characters. Instead Corrin suggests that there is such incredible equality in the film industry that it matters not what sex you are, talent will win. Perhaps when she is sixty and leading female roles have become scant, she may, like Eddie, realise that you drop your pronouns at the door and take the part on offer. Corrin might find there are fewer parts for her than there were for Eddie. 

What makes Corrin no longer female? Short hair, it seems. A pixie cut is sufficient to demand that the world views you as no longer female. Someone should alert hairdressers of their new sex-changing power, which must be used wisely. One snip and Auntie Shirley’s shoulder length bob will turn her into Uncle Bob, and Christmas dinner will be terribly awkward.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes once announced, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” Neither of these actors appear to like the truth. But the truth remains.

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