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3 Challenges to Making a Pirate Movie

Treasure Island’s Long John Silver, Eddie Izzard, fills us in on the trouble with seadogs

Photo: Syfy | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
Over the years, we’ve seen Long John Silver played by everyone from Ben-Hur to Nigel Thornberry. British comedian Eddie Izzard is the latest to take on the famous pirate in the mini-series Treasure Island, now out on DVD. But the role wasn’t all rum jokes and planks. Find out the problems that come with playing a ruthless marauder, courtesy of Izzard himself.

You Might Be Missing a Leg
I had to put on a green or a blue sock so the blue or green screen situation could happen. But I could never put that foot down, it just used to hang there limply so it would never touch the ground. After a while you become unbalanced, because you’re just standing on your left foot all the time. Between scenes I had to stand on my right foot just to balance out my body so it wasn’t getting too bent out of shape. Then I’d get the crutch back under me and off I’d go. It was technically quite tricky, but I got better and better at it.

Parrots Are Tricky Costars
They could only act into the wind, so you have to face one direction into the wind. You have to get the hang of that. You can’t move around much otherwise the parrot will be facing backwards on your shoulder. And also you have to get used to the parrot, but don’t get too used to him, otherwise he won’t ever leave you. They become attached. So having to deal with these things and do the scene was slightly tricky. And it’s not like he’s upstaging but he had the great potential to upstage. You spend the whole of the scene worrying about where the parrot is going, or what he’s doing or what’s on his mind. [Laughs] So it was tricky. I wouldn’t encourage people to try it.

You Have to Buck Jack Sparrow Syndrome
I feel that most adaptations have done a kind of family version of pirates and as we know from the pirates of Somalia, these are dangerous people. These are people who kill and take money and it shouldn’t really be a family film. It should be at least an edgy family film, if anything. That’s what I said I wanted to do. If we’re going to do an adaptation of this, it had to have teeth and be more like a Goodfellas version of Treasure Island. Different from Pirates of the Caribbean, which I felt took the swashbuckling, thigh-slapping feel. We wanted to make an edgy film, because 20 guys go out to get this cash and only four come back. It’s that kind of film.

Photo: Syfy | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
On Pirates
Death plus time equals romance. That’s the really weird thing about it. Pirates are really evil bastards to be honest. They just are. They’re probably the most evil, twisted, money-grubbing people in the world. Those kind of people rape and pillage, these are not good people. But rape and pillage plus time equals romantic stories and swashbuckling stories and adventures. It’s how we deal with stuff from the days of old.

Gotta Love the Villains
I’d like to play Napoleon, who I suppose is a villain, but was an  amazing fighter and general, even though his megalomania caused a lot of people to die in the wars he insisted on doing. But then he was pushing back against kings and aristocracy, so I’m kinda into that. If you try to do a real villain, someone who’s a real character, you have to remember they were human beings, they did live lives and there must be some humanity in there somewhere. And if you can get that, then you can play an intriguing villain. The problem with Bond villains is that they would get that wrong, and they would be bad upon bad upon bad, and that just doesn’t really work.

On Carrying the Olympic Torch
That was wonderful. It was a great honor to be asked. Eight thousand people in the UK were asked to take it around, and they had all done things, been nominated, done positive things for charity and good works around the country. I come from a sleepy, quiet part of England and it was great to see so many people out, old people and young people. It was something that we all grabbed a hold of. I think I’d say about 90 percent, maybe 95 percent, of our country is excited. I could be wrong -- I’m making these figures up -- but hopefully a whole chunk of people are excited about it. I think it’s a wonderful thing, the Olympics. Very exciting.

Photo: Syfy | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
On the Olympian He’s Rooting For
Paula Radcliffe in the women’s marathon running. She’s the world record holder and she’s British. I have done multiple marathons but I’m a very slow runner, I’m just an endurance runner. If she could get a gold, that would be great.

On the Munsters Reboot Mockingbird Lane
Well I didn’t grow up with The Munsters but I feel it was quite a broad comedy in the way it was done and shot. This is going to be an hour long and it’s more like a quirky drama than a broad comedy. That’s how it will be different. We can actually delve into the depths of these characters and see what drives them. And hopefully see human beings more distinctively by watching monsters interact and behave. I like the juxtaposition of this, that you see humanity in sharp relief because inhumanity also has its families and this is a family of inhuman people.

Treasure Island is available on DVD and Blu-ray now!

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