03/28/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Eddie Izzard's Master Plan

EDDIE IZZARD'S metaphors don't sit still, onstage or off; they leap into the conversation with an almost physical presence, even when he's simply describing how tough it is for a comic to be accepted as a dramatic actor. "If you arrive in comedy," he said, "the studios won't let you get off that horse. You have to shoot it, you have to kill it, you have to Bill Murray kill it, boom!" and he mimes shooting a horse as he explains, "Bill Murray successfully did that so he could get to the dramatic place he wanted to be; he really had to kill that 'Ghostbusters' place."

The man who chats offstage is a less frenetic version of the performer whose fans recite lines from his stand-up shows, like "Dress to Kill," the HBO special that made him a cult figure 10 years ago. In person, he also does voices and accents, talks about Napoleon and George Washington, drops in bits of songs. ("It's going to be about cats!" he said, jumping into a spoof Broadway musical and cheerfully singing, "He's dead, he's in a box," all as a quick aside.) He pulls out a phone and shows photos of a recent vacation with his father and brother to Yemen, where he was born before the family returned to Britain when he was 1.

But just as the inspired silliness of Bill Murray shooting the "Ghostbusters" horse almost obscures a deeper point -- Mr. Izzard has analyzed that career for all it's worth -- the surreal wit veils a methodical determination to be taken seriously in drama. The guy who may be the most brilliant stand-up of his generation really wants to act. His ambitions are huge, but when he talks about his step-by-step career path he makes himself sound like some plodding worker ant.

Read more on New York Times