The new Fox film Eddie the Eagle, in theaters today, brings to life the true story of Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards, the unlikely phenom who briefly became a cause célèbre -- and an icon to underdogs the world over -- when he competed as a skier in the 1988 winter Olympics.
Directed by Dexter Fletcher, the film stars Kingsman's Taron Egerton in the title role, and co-stars Hugh Jackman, soon to be the once-and-former Wolverine, as his American coach, an over-the-hill alcoholic who finds a reason for his redemption in Edwards' uphill struggle for Olympic glory.
Talking to Fletcher, Jackman, and Egerton about the feel-good film, what became clear is not just affection they have for the project, but how much they enjoyed working with each other. Read on for some highlights of our conversation:
Can you discuss the decision to include Hugh Jackman's character in the movie, since he wasn't a character in real life?
Fletcher: That's such a hard question.
Jackman: (laughing) Yeah, I've been wondering why you included Hugh Jackman.
Fletcher: Well, I'll explain, if you'll listen carefully. It's about Eddie and his journey, but it's also important that there's some sort of attempt to explain who Eddie is, what he's going through, why he's feeling the things that he is, and also have a character who's pushing back against him in order for the audience to feel like they're part of that journey as well.
So initially that's the core -- that's the heart of that reason. We, as an audience, need a character who is gonna push Eddie on why he's doing what he does, but also then it develops into something more interesting, and that is, you've got to have a human relationship at the heart of a film like this because that's what people connect to and understand.
So it felt important that Eddie didn't just feel like this soul-searching lonely character, so we created this other character so it becomes a movie about friendship, and that's very important. You create someone who is a polar opposite to Eddie, it feels like, "I'm both of these two people," and it makes, hopefully, something interesting for them to play and get their teeth into. And Hugh Jackman wanted to be in it! What was I going to say? "Quick, I better write something!"
Jackman: I did test for Eddie.<
Egerton: Too. Old.
Jackman: Yeah, too old. He threw me a bone! (laughs) Yeah, just to be clear, most of this movie is really based on truth. Like a lot of - and there are some deviations, but actually the key things, the most amazing things, like the fact of his jumping, and the injuries, and the coming back. That fact that he was sleeping in a closet, when he got the mental institution. When he got the letter from the Olympic committee - all that is true. All the really amazing things are true. The rest is about telling a story.
Fletcher: There were people who did help him along the way. And of course, you know, in a film you got six, seven, different characters who come in and play some part in that journey. It becomes confusing, and you gotta introduce someone to tell a story. So we, you know, we reduced it to one super character, which happened to be Hugh Jackman. It's a story telling exercise. It's fact told in a fictional way. That's where it's born of.
Taron, I was wondering, how was it like playing this role that -- you know, kids see this movie and even young adults -- they could be inspired by your character and how does that make you feel as an actor?
Egerton: If that's the case, I can't imagine anything more rewarding for an actor. I mean that's truly, truly, truly gratifying, on a level more than anything. I think the thing I love about Eddie, and it's something I've said before, is that he's someone who's got this - you know, he was easy to kind of - to make a fool out of and for people to deride and mock.
But actually, he's got this incredible quality that so few people have, where -- not that he's impermeable, far from it -- but that he takes the negative and is able to turn it into fuel for the positive. So when someone says something unkind to him or tells him he can't do it, it's actually, in a very quietly defied way, he doesn't engage with it or retaliate.
He just allows it to make him stronger and tougher. And I think that's a real - I think it's probably one of the most valuable lessons you can learn. It's an amazing thing to even suggest as an idea.
Fletcher: That's why I did it on a daily basis. I said, "You're rubbish! You're terrible!" Works very well.
One of things that appeal to me most about the movie was that it doesn't take so seriously. We can actually laugh at Eddie a little bit in a good-natured way. I think that makes this movie kinda special. Can you talk about the tone?
Jackman: It's called being British, right? It has got that British-like Full Monty quality. If you're too earnest and on the nose in England, it's just never gonna work. And I don't think Eddie would have liked it to be. I think he enjoyed it. He had a laugh. If anyone ever in sports has showed - gotta have a little bit of laugh at yourself, it's Eddie Edwards.
Egerton: Because Eddie's not - Eddie's a bright chap. You know? He's not an idiot. And he knows that what he did was funny. I mean it's to people - people responded by finding that very funny. He had been doing it for a fraction of the time his competitors have been doing it, and it was this death-defying terrifying jump that he just kinda threw himself into.
And that's funny and he knows that. So when he saw the movie he was thrilled. And I think because he knows that we struck the balance because he knows that there is a funny side to it. But obviously, to him, it was a very serious thing. And I know Dexter was very conscious of, and I think we were too, of making it a balance. Because it has to be funny, but you have to leave the theater going he did it, he did it. Yes, he did it. And I think -- I hope we've succeeded.
Jackman: Well he actually really at one point broke his jaw and tied up his jaw with a pillow case that he'd stripped. Because he couldn't afford - and competed like that.
Egerton: We shot that actually, but it didn't...
Jackman: Oh really?
Fletcher: Yeah, we did shoot it. We did shoot that, yeah. But also I think we don't treat it in a sort of sentimental or mushy way. Because if you're gonna get up on those ski jumps like Eddie did you've got to have a certain amount of foolishness in you. There's no, "I hope I don't hurt myself." He's like -- he doesn't even think about that.
It's sort of unsentimental, and allows him to be strong, and I think that's what's good about it. It allows us to laugh. We know he's a strong character with a strong story. So, we could afford to laugh at him. He's not oversensitive at all in any way, which is a good healthy approach. It got him to the Olympics. and that's what he is. He doesn't go around going, oh woe is me. He's very sort of positive driven.
Hugh, when I look at your role here and I look at Charlie Kenton in Real Steel, and even Wolverine, I see a through line of kind of rough-hewn rogues with a heart of gold. What is it that draws you to characters like this?
Jackman: It's the opposite of me. Because I'm actually, on the surface, seemingly very likable and outgoing, but underneath just zero heart. It's kinda fun playing those kinda characters. It's really weird to experience that feeling. (laughs)
Egerton:It's total flip reverse -- it's like you being nice.
Fletcher: He's dead inside. He's like an android.
Jackman: (laughs) Yeah, I don't know. It's really very different to me. I'm sure sometimes these kinda roles come to me because Wolverine is the ultimate sort of reluctant hero. But you know, I just really love this story. If there had been some other construct or character I probably would have been part of it. I love working with these guys. And I do love I suppose seeing on film that idea of redemption.
I think all of us like to think that there is a second chance of people. And he's someone who lives with a lot of regret and has therefore turned quite cynical about the world. Because deep down he realized he stuffed up his chance, for whatever reason. Through a lack of self belief, ultimately. I love the idea that people are redeemable, I suppose.
Fletcher: I think, also, you're not afraid to play the human flaw, you know? To be someone who's flawed. I think it's more interesting thing...
Jackman: Absolutely yeah.
Fletcher: When we talked about it, it's like it's good to have someone who's flawed. He's human. He's real. I think that seems to be to be something that you readily tackle and relish as well, you know? Yeah, he's broken. This guy's a bit f**ked. It's interesting. You know? Rather than just being sort of perfect.
Jackman: It's funny. I was just thinking about Marshawn Lynch. Like I'm a big fan. And one of the things -- apart from the way he played the game -- I loved that he kind of did it on his own terms. He got fined a ridiculous amount of money by the league because he refused to do interviews, and all of that, and he was, like, "Ah well, what's the point?" I'm not like that. I'd be the guy that's, like, "OK!" I probably am intrigued by those characters, and now that you think about it, I am actually like a few of them. (laughs)
Check out Eddie the Eagle at a theater near you. For more movie talk, including an in-depth, spoiler-filled discussion about superhero mega-hit Deadpool, check out the latest MovieFilm Podcast at this link or via the embed below: