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Izzard has ‘Diva’ fever

Townsend pic has been lensing for 3 years

Eddie Izzard is lifting the skirts on his life.

The surreal Brit comedian-actor — who describes himself as “the first ‘out’ straight transvestite in the public eye” — is making a feature documentary about his life and work, titled “Diva 51.”

Directed by Sarah Townsend and exec produced by Joni Sighvatsson, pic has been shooting for three years and will be ready for release in 2005.

It follows Izzard through his exhaustive efforts to crack America, as both a standup and an actor, culminating in two Emmys for his standup and a Tony nom for his perf in “A Day in the Death of Joe Egg” on Broadway.

It digs into the roots of his comedy, driving ambition and transvestism, combining concert footage and candid backstage scenes with testimony by everyone from his father to Robin Williams, Tom Waits, Tim Roth and Eric Idle.

Izzard has come to Cannes to screen five minutes of footage, in a bid to line up distribution and further financing for completion of the pic. He calls the project “my ‘Rattle and Hum.’ ”

He has bankrolled the production to date, but handed creative control over to Townsend.

“There’s an element of my wild and large, rollicking ego about doing it, but I wanted her to dig deep,” Izzard said. “I can be buttoned up, and I’m always waiting for someone to stitch me up. But we’re trying to unlock this way I have of qualifying everything.”

Izzard said he has been “hacking (his) way up the mountain of entertainment” since he slept on the street at the Cannes Film Festival in 1980 when he was 18. His first ambition was to be a movie actor — he broke into Pinewood Studios as a teenager.

He has carved an acting career, with roles in “Velvet Goldmine” “Shadow of the Vampire” and “The Cat’s Meow.” He is voicing the magical creature in “Five Children and It” and has been cast in “Ocean’s Twelve.”

The doc uses archive footage from Izzard’s childhood in Yemen, his student days and his street performances in 1980s London, leading up to his recent soldout stadium gigs. The style of the movie is described as “David Lynch meets the Velvet Underground.”

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