No ho ho! Or why Eddie Izzard”s not joking this Christmas…
On a cold Christmas night in Manchester, a drunk with a past finds a strange man lying next to the canal. His shirt says ‘I am called Antony’, but he doesn’t know who he is. So that’s where Eddie Izzard has been hiding.
The comedian, who has been quiet on the showbusiness front for the past couple of years (he has been running marathons for charity instead), will be back in force in the coming weeks.
He plays Long John Silver in the forthcoming Sky1 drama Treasure Island, but before that he is the mysterious Antony in BBC1 drama The Lost Christmas.
Plucked from danger: Eddie Izzard as Antony and Larry Miles as Goose
The 90-minute film is a co-production with CBBC and is made with older children in mind, but it contains very adult themes of loss.
There is a ten-year-old tearaway nicknamed Goose who lost both his parents the Christmas before, a couple who lost their daughter, a man who has lost his family and a doctor who has lost his wife.
The mysterious Antony unites them, but it is hard to work out who or what he is.
He can appear and vanish at will, has an array of amazing facts which spill out randomly as he talks and he has a magical ability to help people find what they were looking for.
‘It’s massive to be on television over Christmas,’ says Eddie, 49.
‘It is a bleak subject, but I think people are used to that at Christmas — look at Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol. Like them, this is a film about sacrifice and second chances.’
Ironically both Eddie and Larry Mills, who plays Goose, had a bigger understanding than many about loss, as both lost their mothers at a young age.
‘This is a family film but a lot of kids won’t get the themes of loss because they won’t have experienced it.
Curiously, Larry and his family, and my family, both had family losses,’ says Eddie.
‘That was a strange thing. I didn’t know how to broach it but it was definitely in there for both of us. This is a dramatic film, very much rooted in reality.’
This particular role is unusual for Eddie in that there is barely any comedy.
‘I love that there is no comedy,’ admits the star.
‘I played the character straight and that was fun in itself. He has no fear because he has no memory and that is interesting. It gives you an ethereal quality.’
The end has a twist which only one person in an audience of more than 500 people at the first screening of the drama was expecting.
But, thankfully, it restores a little bit of the magic of Christmas.
‘You have to have that,’ says Eddie. ‘You can’t be completely bleak at Christmas.’
The Lost Christmas is on BBC1 on Sunday at 5.30pm, and CBBC on Christmas Eve at 5.30pm.