Eddie the Eagle: Inspirational Tale by Director Matthew Vaughn

Mandatory Credit: Photo By Steve Wood / Rex Features EDDIE 'THE EAGLE' EDWARDS EDDIE 'THE EAGLE' EDWARDS - 1986 SKI JUMPER JUMPING

Based on true events, Eddie the Eagle is an inspirational story about Michael “Eddie” Edwards (Taron Egerton), an unlikely but courageous British ski-jumper who never stopped believing in himself.

With the help of a rebellious and charismatic coach (played by Hugh Jackman), Eddie takes on the establishment and wins the hearts of sports fans around the world by making an improbable and historic showing at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics.  Eddie the Eagle stars Taron Egerton as Eddie, the lovable underdog with a never say die attitude.

Although he was never athletically gifted, from an early age he dedicated his life to achieving one goal: to become an Olympian. Eddie tried his hand at various sports and disciplines, before settling on downhill skiing. Having narrowly failed to make the British team at the Winter Olympics in 1984, he recalibrated and switched to ski jumping.

There were several problems here: Britain had never had a ski jumping representative at a Winter Olympics. And Eddie had never even attempted a ski jump before. He was heavier than most ski jumpers, all of whom started at a very early age, he had no funding, very little training and his terrible eyesight meant that he had to attempt jumps while wearing glasses that would dangerously mist up mid-jump.

Yet his indefatigable spirit prevailed.  Begging and borrowing equipment, Eddie was the sole British entrant at the 1987 World Championships, where placing 55th was enough to see him through to the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada.

Calgary was where Eddie really took off, literally and figuratively. Although he placed last in both his events – the 70 meter jump and 90 meter jump – he became a media darling (he was quickly dubbed “The Eagle” by the tabloids) and something of a folk hero, famous for his unorthodox style, appearance and will to compete. It was only a matter of time, surely, before someone made a movie about this unassuming hero’s life.

It actually took almost thirty years. One night, towards the end of 2014, Matthew Vaughn – director of Kingsman: The Secret Service, X-Men: First Class and Layer Cake – sat down to watch a film with his children. The film was Cool Runnings, the comedy about a Jamaican bobsled team that defied all the odds to compete in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.

“My kids were loving the film,” says Vaughn, “and I started thinking, ‘Why does nobody make movies like this anymore?’ I wanted to make a movie that you could watch and just come out feeling inspired. And I wanted to do a film I could show my kids!”

Perhaps spurred on by the remarkable coincidence that the Jamaican bobsledders and Eddie Edwards competed at the same Olympics, Vaughn turned his thoughts towards The Eagle. Fifteen years or so earlier, Vaughn and his then directing partner, Guy Ritchie, had been sent an Eddie The Eagle screenplay with a view to turning it into a movie. That deal hadn’t worked out, but something about it resonated with him. “I thought it was charming, and worth making. Loads of people had bought it since, but nothing had happened,” Vaughn explains. “I tracked down the script, said I wanted to buy it, and three months later we were filming.”

Vaughn quickly assembled his dream team both in front of and behind the camera. Deciding immediately that he didn’t want to direct (“This is a whole new experience for me, making a family-friendly feel-good film!”), he turned to his old friend, Dexter Fletcher. Fletcher had starred in the first movie produced by Vaughn, Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, and the two had remained in touch ever since, during which both had become directors. Fletcher’s helming debut, Wild Bill, in particular, caught Vaughn’s eye.

“I loved Wild Bill,” says Vaughn. “Dexter’s good at heart, and he’s good at looking after people.”

Unlike Vaughn, who was glued to Eddie’s exploits in Calgary, Fletcher has little memory of the time. “I was in my 20s, he wasn’t cool, and everything had to be cool when you were in your 20s,” laughs Fletcher. But he had been impressed when Edwards showed up in, and won, the British high-diving reality show, Splash! “I thought, Eddie has the right attitude. He was 45 years old, but he had an Olympic approach to it, a real singlemindedness. He had no fear.”

So, when he got the call from Vaughn, Fletcher was more than ready to make the Eagle soar. “It was a great opportunity to work with Matthew as a producer, but there’s something really interesting about this story. It’s not just what we think we know,” he explains. “And then Matthew started talking to me like I was doing it! The train had left the station. I just happened to be on it!”

Fletcher and Vaughn wanted to keep the focus firmly on Eddie’s drive for glory. “The story is all about when he’s there and what he achieves,” says Fletcher.

Edwards’ exploits were solitary. Largely shunned by the ski jumping community, he would either train himself or go through a string of short-lived coaches. For the film however, Vaughn and Fletcher wanted to create a character to join Eddie through every step of his journey. “We needed someone we can relate to, a participant we can imagine ourselves to be,” says Fletcher. “Our attitude towards Eddie would be that he’s mad, but we’re won over by his inspirational enthusiasm and approach.”