British Olympic ski jumper Eddie ‘the Eagle’ Edwards says he’s glad Steve Coogan didn’t end up playing him in his biopic, which charts Edwards’s memorable journey to the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, during which he finished last in both the 70m and 90m events but became a cult hero in the process.
Coogan was originally cast in the lead role in 2007, but Eddie (real name Michael Edwards) wasn’t keen on the version of the script that had been penned for the actor.
“It was too Alan Partridge,” Edwards exclusively told RadioTimes.com. “You can’t have Alan Partridge as Eddie the Eagle!”
In 2009 Harry Potter star Rupert Grint was cast as another attempt to make the film came about but it once again failed to come to fruition.
Problems ranged from budget to production changes, according to Edwards. The sportsman added that Disney was interested in the film early on, but he thought they weren’t keen to put so much money into it because producer Rupert Maconick didn’t boast a lot of experience at the time.
Now, more than 16 years after Edwards said he first put pen to paper, the film is actually hitting the big screen. Sunshine on Leith’s Dexter Fletcher directs and, as for that all-important lead, that responsibility falls to Kingsman: The Secret Service’s Taron Egerton, who has been given the Eddie the Eagle seal of approval.
“It is weird watching someone play me, but Taron is fantastic. I spent an afternoon with him at Pinewood Studios so he could get a feel for my mannerisms and my accent. He’s studied tapes, interviews and videos of the Olympics. He watched footage of me sitting on the bar at the top of the ski jump so he could see my specific pre-jump routine.”
The jumper joked that the young actor hasn’t quite got the daredevil sport down pat, though.
“Can he ski jump? No. He’s not a very good skier. He needs a few lessons. I’m always available… as long as he pays well,” Edwards grinned.
Hugh Jackman is a hit casting with Edwards, too. His character of Eddie’s trainer is an “amalgamation” of many of his coaches, rather than just one person. “I learnt lots of different techniques from many different coaches,” Edwards explained.
Simply seeing the trailer made the ski jumper emotional, he admitted.
“It’s a fabulous film, I loved every minute of it. I laughed, I cried…”
He’s given the costume department plenty to go on too, lending them skis he himself jumped on, his Olympic uniform, bib, helmet and goggles. They’ve made plenty of replicas and Edwards thinks some of the real gear was used in the film, too.
The night I spoke to him, Edwards was in Kühtai in Austria for the launch of Channel 4’s reality series The Jump. He joined host Davina McCall to watch from the sidelines as the celebs tried to call on their inner Eddie. He’s not sticking around to train the celebrities in the art of throwing themselves off of a ski jump – famous faces this year include Superman actor Dean Cain and gymnast Beth Tweddle – but he’ll be back in the crowd for the final.
The Jump continues Sundays on Channel 4. Eddie the Eagle is in cinemas from 1st April