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The most well known underdog story from the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada is likely that of the Jamaican bobsled team, a story immortalized in the film Cool Runnings. But it wasn’t the only one. In another event, ski jumping, a tenacious if awkward Brit named Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards, made headlines, and his story hits theaters this weekend in the form of Eddie the Eagle. Hugh Jackman is one of the stars, and the Australian actor has one important thing he hopes audiences take away from the film.
Eddie the Eagle has been described as an uplifting, inspiring true-life sports story, despite the fact that Eddie Edwards, played by Kingsman: The Secret Service’s Taron Egerton, actually came in last. But talking to The Hollywood Reporter, Hugh Jackman said that’s kind of the point, that not every triumphant sports movie has to feature actual triumph. He explained:
My favorite thing is that he really achieved something great without coming in any position other than last. It's just a great reminder that you don't have to win to be a winner. Often in life, you get very results-orientated — as an actor, 'Did I get the job? Have I got a callback?' You start worrying about how the box office is going and really, what you should be worrying about is making movies that people love.
At the Calgary Olympics, Eddie Edwards did in fact finish dead last in both the 70 and 90-meter events, but if you’re old enough to remember those games, you’ll recall what a huge story he was. The first ski jumping competitor in British history, his narrative was so unique that it captured the public attention. Driven to make the Olympics, he took up ski jumping because of the ease of qualifying and the fact that there were no other British ski jumpers to compete against. After the games, a rule was actually put in place that required contestants to compete in international events in order to qualify.
Eddie Edwards’ story became almost mythic. A super goofy, awkward dude, some competitors and Olympic officials felt he was making a mockery of the stage. The public, on the other hand, embraced him as a kind of folk hero for his unquenchable desire just to be there and compete, even though he had no hope of winning.
As is often the cast in these situations, the film takes some great liberties with the facts. In Eddie the Eagle, Hugh Jackman plays Bronson Peary, Eddie’s coach, though in reality, no such person exists. He’s at least loosely based on one of the Olympian’s real life coaches, but much has been changed and Hollywood-ed up for the big screen.
Regardless of the factual accuracy, Eddie the Eagle has been lauded as a feel-good, if perhaps overly sentimental sports flick. You can see it starting tomorrow and judge for yourself.