Bringing to the big screen the story of the world’s worst ski jumper was a delicate matter from the very beginning.
“I think there was a great risk with this property and script that you could deride him and mock him and make him a figure of fun,” said Taron Egerton, who stars in “Eddie The Eagle” as the titular underdog Michael “Eddie” Edwards. “
Speaking after a sneak-peek screening Thursday in Los Angeles, Egerton added, “We don’t shy away from the fact that he’s an unlikely hero and there are a few moments where he looked a little bit silly, but the heart of it is that he’s someone who’s incredibly determined and passionate.”
Edwards, a British skier who in 1988 became the first competitor to represent Great Britain in Olympic ski jumping, became a global sensation after finishing last in the 70-meter and 90-meter events. Trained as a downhill skier, he narrowly missed qualifying for the 1984 Olympics. To realize his Olympic dreams and make the cut for the following Calgary Games, he switched to ski jumping because no other Brit entered the competition.
He was out of his element: 20 pounds heavier than the heaviest in the competition; and longsighted, which required him to wear glasses under his ski goggles that fogged the lenses.
Egerton says he spent time with the former Olympian to “absorb a little bit of who he is.”
“The most useful things was hearing him talk about ski jumping, because his passionate for it is infectious,” he says. “That’s because it’s all he talks about,” director Dexter Fletcher quips, laughing.
Of course, when Egerton screened the movie alongside Edwards for the first time, he was “nervous” about what he would think about his portrayal.
“I couldn’t relax the whole way through,” he recalls. “At the end, I turned to him and he was crying. It wasn’t because he hated it—it’s because he loved it.”
Also starring Hugh Jackman and Christopher Walken, “Eddie the Eagle” opens Feb. 26.