Renowned British actor, comic and stage performer Eddie Izzard tells STACK that his character in sophisticated Aussie rom-com The Flip Side is a lot like himself.
The directorial debut of Marion Pilowsky, The Flip Side brings a comedic edge and a distinct South Australian flavour to the subject of female ambivalence.
Emily Taheny plays Ronnie, a struggling Adelaide restaurateur whose brief but intense affair with an egotistical British actor, Henry (played to perfection by Eddie Izzard), stirs conflicting emotions when their paths cross five years later.
Arriving for a promotional tour with his flirtatious French girlfriend Sophie (Vanessa Guide), Henry seizes the opportunity to seduce Ronnie once again, even though she’s now in a relationship with Jeff (Luke McKenzie).
“Emily’s and my character have this really messy relationship. I think everybody’s probably had that one relationship that got away – one good relationship that should have happened but never did,” Izzard tells STACK.
“It’s bittersweet. Even though her boyfriend is there and his girlfriend is there, this is the relationship that should be the right one.”
A sophisticated rom-com, The Flip Side also ticks several other boxes – it’s a road movie (during which a copious amount of wine is consumed), a culture clash, and a ‘visitors from hell’ comedy.
“It’s like an Australian Notting Hill mixed with Sideways, and wine in the middle of it,” offers Izzard. “It’s not so much a love triangle as a love quadrangle that’s going on, and it seems to work very nicely.
“It’s designed for more of a female audience but I think it will work well with guys, too, who like quirky romantic comedies. I think people will be laughing at it and be intrigued by it. Test audiences have reacted very nicely and positively – that’s why I’m here talking to you.”
As to what attracted the celebrated British comic, film, TV and stage performer to a little indie film Down Under, Izzard says it was the opportunity the character presented.
“I’ve come into my career in such an odd way that I’m not necessarily an easy fit. I’m older and with a varied background, so the roles that come to me are often unusual,” he explains.
“I’ve pushed not to do comedy and this has distinct comedic elements to it. I love playing darker characters; I’ve learned how to do that and feel that’s what I can bring,” says the actor who most recently played the manipulative Prince of Wales in Victoria & Abdul, as well as Dr. Gideon in the TV series Hannibal.
“Henry allows one to play, in a romantic kind of way, the sort of Cary Grant side of oneself. To be funny, offhand and relaxed, and also show that he’s completely screwed up and emotionally immature.”
He adds that working with director Marion Pilowsky was also a factor in signing on.
“I decided I liked her five minutes after I met her. The fact that she’s come from producing and distributing into directing is unusual. I’m very fascinated by that; it’s a part if filmmaking that I need to know and she’s come through that into the more creative side with directing.
“She allowed me a certain leeway and didn’t quite know what I was going to do next – I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do next! So I had certain latitude in some scenes.”
As an actor playing an actor, how much of himself did Izzard invest in the character of Henry?
“Henry is me – I have that ego that he’s got,” he admits. “Hopefully I control it better, and I’m more emotionally mature. Henry’s not even sensing what he’s doing or the implications his actions will have. So I just cherry-pick the parts of myself I want to lean into and which ones to switch off, and let him be fun and flip.
“I liked being able to improvise; stay in the moment but play around with the moment. Emily plays a character that is close to herself, so I give her the space to lay into me, or I can lay back into her.”
Shooting in Adelaide, Hahndorf and the Barossa Valley region, Izzard reveals that the cast initially embarked on a winery tour as a character-bonding exercise.
“I pushed for that on the first weekend we got there. If we’re going to do a film about a wine trip, let’s go do it! Filmmaking is so close to just real existing, so to go and do it and then film another version of it is a wonderful thing.”
And so, he adds, was the Shiraz.
The Flip Side is in cinemas on August 30.