Calgary Olympics tale ‘Eddie the Eagle’ lands on big screen
TORONTO – The trick to shooting a movie about daredevil Olympic ski jumpers is securing daredevil Olympic-style ski-jumping cameramen to capture those death-defying feats.
Such was the case with “Eddie the Eagle,” a light-hearted dramedy based on the rookie British ski jumper who charmed the world at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics.
The film’s co-star Hugh Jackman, who plays a fictional former U.S. skier who takes Eddie under his wing, says capturing some of the film’s stomach-churning leaps involved two expert jumpers — one to play Eddie and another to follow behind with a camera.
That led to at least one harrowing near-crash when the second jumper actually caught up to the first, says the Australian star.
“On this one take, because he had a camera and because he was in the slipstream … he was actually moving faster,” Jackman recounts during a round of interviews in Toronto.
“So the first guy took off, and the second guy actually overtook him in the air, touched him on the shoulder as he went past him — and that’s really potentially a fatal accident.
“And they got to the bottom and the two of them looked at each other … and they just burst out laughing. They thought it was the funniest thing.”
Thankfully, no one was hurt in the making of the film, which is full of outrageous spills as the floundering Eddie embarks on a crash course in the sport.
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It’s all inspired by the real exploits of Michael (Eddie) Edwards, the first competitor to represent Great Britain in Olympic ski jumping.
The bespectacled athlete became better known as Eddie the Eagle when he made his appearance at the Calgary Games, coming dead last in the 70-metre event but earning the adoration of the crowd for his exuberant, against-all-odds spirit.
Jackman says his character Bronson Peary was wholly invented “to make it a good story,” but says Edwards’s real life supplied plenty of dramatic moments.
“Some of the most audacious and amazing things in this are completely true — like the fact that he had hardly ever jumped, the fact that he was sleeping in the basement of these pubs, the way he got around,” he says.
Taron Egerton of “Kingsman: The Secret Service” plays the awkward athlete and says he and director Dexter Fletcher were keen to remain respectful of Edwards and his achievements.
“Dexter and I connected very quickly on the idea that we really didn’t want to send him up or make him look ridiculous, that people should leave this movie feeling kind of inspired and uplifted and that he was a fairly extraordinary guy,” says Egerton.
Fletcher says capturing those sky-high sequences involved cranes, Steadicams and about a dozen young skiers, “all crazy.”
And when it came to getting Egerton into character, he’s proud to note the transformation is largely through behaviour, rather than makeup.
“There’s no real trick used — there’s no dentures or prosthetic bits and pieces. It’s really just Taron and his mindset,” he says, adding that Coke-bottle specs helped.
For his part, Egerton says he was mindful of how the real Edwards would respond, noting they spent a fair amount of time together as he researched the role.
“That was always at the forefront of my mind, partly out of respect to Eddie and also partly out of vanity, really. I never really wanted to play a fool.”
“Eddie the Eagle” opens Friday.