Eddie the Eagle feared star-studded biopic would make him a joke

Eddie the Eagle recalls famous Calgary Winter Olympic jump

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The film ‘Eddie the Eagle’ will be shown on Channel 4 this afternoon at 4:35pm. The sports drama, starring Hugh Jackman and Taron Egerton, follows British Skier Michael Edwards, aka Eddie the Eagle, who became the first competitor to represent Great Britain in Olympic ski jumping since the Twenties. In the film Eddie meets Bronson Peary, a former ski jumper who is impressed by the Briton’s spirit and determination and agrees to train the underdog athlete.

Despite the odds very much stacked against him, Eddie’s infectious never-say-die attitude takes him to an improbable showing at Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta.

The inspirational film was a box-office success, grossing $46.1 million (£34.8 million) worldwide, while it was the highest grossing British film released in the UK in 2016.

Of course, it was based on a true story, after Eddie became a household name when he came last at the Calgary Winter Olympics in 1988.

However the former ski-jumper revealed he had feared the film might show him as “an object of ridicule” and turn him into a “joke”.

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Speaking at its UK premiere in 2016, Eddie said: “I was worried that they would either turn me into some sort of superhero, or worse ‒ an object of ridicule, a clown, a joke.

“But they’ve done a fantastic job.

“And they kept the heart, the essence and the spirit of the story just right.”

Eddie was working as a plasterer in Cheltenham when, entirely self funded, he qualified for the Calgary Games.

Despite finishing last in both the 70 metre and 90 metre events, the ski jumper’s inspiring story captured the heart of the nation and he became a beloved household name.

On the film’s accuracy Eddie stressed that it was “very close” to the truth. 

Speaking to BBC Point West he said: “The only things that were really obvious were that my dad was just as supportive as my mum, which isn’t shown in the film. 

“And Hugh Jackman was an amalgamation of all my coaches.”

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The Australian Hollywood star, who plays Eddie’s fictional coach Bronson, said: “We all felt like underdogs at some point.

“I think that’s why we love seeing these stories, to watch someone who did it and also who did it with such fun and charisma and positivity.”

Following the widespread attention that Eddie received in Calgary after the Olympics finished, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) made the entry requirements stricter.

 They instituted what is now known as the Eddie the Eagle rule, which asks aspiring Olympic athletes to compete in international events or be placed in the top 30 percent of the top 50 competitors. 

This rule change has made it essentially impossible for anyone to follow Eddie’s example.

The ski-jumper himself failed to qualify for the 1992 Games in Albertville, France, or the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. 

Eddie did receive sponsorship from a small UK charter company, Eagle Airlines, to support his attempt to reach the 1998 Nagano Games in Japan, but the athlete again failed to qualify.

Since making headlines with his Olympic showing, Eddie has gone on to appear in advertising campaigns. 

He also featured on a number of television programmes, having commentated on Channel 4 show ‘The Jump’ and featured on short-lived celebrity diving programme ‘Splash!’

In 2021, Eddie also appeared on the UK edition of The Masked Dancer, masked as a Rubber Chicken. 

Watch ‘Eddie the Eagle’ on Channel 4 at 4:35pm.

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