The inside story of how a man who risked his life for a dream – but was seen as a joke – became the subject of an inspiring film.
‘I remember Eddie the Eagle as a bit of a joke,’ says Dexter Fletcher, the actor turned director who admits that at first he didn’t really want to make a film about the hapless British ski jumper’s life.
‘Eddie just wanted to compete in the Olympics, but he grinned and gurned and played up to the cameras and didn’t do himself any favours at all.’
The part-time plasterer from the West Country was a figure of fun as well as a national hero when he insisted on competing at the Winter Games in Calgary in 1988 – despite knowing he would come last, by a long way.
In order to follow his dreams Eddie slept in a cowshed, broke his jaw and ended up scavenging for food in bins, before later losing his wife and his fortune.
Even those who cheered him on as a great British loser thought it was all a bit of a laugh. Others applauded his bravery, but some said he was making a fool of himself, his nation and his sport.
Fletcher changed his mind about Eddie when he saw how terrifying the ski jumps really were, close up.
Now the actor who was in Layer Cake and Hotel Babylon before directing the hit musical Sunshine On Leith has turned Eddie the Eagle’s extraordinary tale of never-say-die daring into an unexpectedly wonderful, inspiring family movie that will make you laugh, gasp and cry.
Eddie The Eagle is already a surprise hit in America, with critics calling it ‘this year’s The Full Monty’.
‘They love that he just does not give in,’ says Fletcher. ‘He jumps, hurts himself, gets up and does it again. They say, “What do you mean, he doesn’t win?”
‘It’s very British in that respect but it’s so inspiring.’
I met the stars and crew of this remarkable new movie for Event, including actors Hugh Jackman and Taron Egerton, producer Matthew Vaughn and Take That’s Gary Barlow, who supervised the music for the film, to tell the story of how and why Eddie the Eagle is flying high again – including the secrets of a death-defying tandem ski jump that led to one of the most breathtaking sporting film sequences ever seen.