We need more people like Michael "Eddie The Eagle" Edwards. And more movies like this one that tells the story of how he made it to the 1988 Winter Olympics as the first British ski jumper, becoming an overnight sensation.
Whether you call him a champion for the common folk or a laughable novelty act, nobody can argue that he left an impression.
Like many biopics before it, this movie does stretch the truth somewhat — but nothing about Eddie's determination, drive or sheer joy and enthusiasm are exaggerated. The real-life tale of Eddie is every bit as exciting, inspiring, endearing and significant as the one brought to life on the big screen.
It's for this reason I'd really like to show you the real Eddie.
His journey began in Cheltenham, England. Eddie's family was working class, with little opportunity to allow their son to pursue his dream of Olympic glory. Eddie's mother worked long hours in an aluminum door factory, while his father was the latest in a long line of plasterers, and fully intended for his son to continue the family business. However, Eddie had other aspirations.
One important detail that the film faithfully included is that Eddie was extremely longsighted, which required him to wear very thick glasses at all times, even under his ski goggles. His specs often fogged up and might have impaired his vision as much as help it, but they also became a kind of symbol of Eddie's humble beginnings, personal adversity and undaunted determination.
As opposed to the dramatized version of his story, Eddie was indeed a dedicated downhill skier who failed to qualify by the tiniest of margins for the 1984 Winter Olympics. After this disappointment, he relocated to Lake Placid, where he trained under two coaches (neither of who were named Bronson Peary).
In addition to being the British ski-jumping record holder, Eddie also took the world #9 for amateur speed skiing (106.8 mph), and held the stunt-jumping world record for flying over 10 cars and six buses.
So, far from being a complete beginner and someone who just randomly showed up at the Calgary Winter Olympics, he already had a well-established history of skiing — very, very fast — and jumping — very, very far.
A major reason for the wide appeal of Eddie The Eagle was that he was real. He was accessible. An honest, relatable everyman, who we could talk to and be friends with and laugh with — even if some people were certainly laughing at him.
He was someone who broke out into infectious giggles and dances whenever he made a jump nobody expected him to make. It might not have been a medal-winning performance, but it didn't matter. He was living his dream, having fun, and flying.
And happily, Eddie didn't peak at the Olympics or retire after achieving his dream. He kept skiing and improving his jumps; his personal best is an impressive 377ft in 1997.
He appeared many times on TV, not only commemorating his Olympic infamy and running with his folk-hero status, but competing — and winning! — in a variety of reality shows (yes, in sporting ones, not just skiing).
He wrote a book about his experiences, titled On The Piste, And even performed songs. In Finnish. Like this infectious one that hit #2 on the Finnish pop charts.
So while it might have looked like he was trolling reality (and having fun doing it), he was — and remains — dedicated to his sport. Eddie even lent his expertise to the making of the biopic, assisting the set and costume designers to achieve maximum authenticity, even offering to perform his own stunts.
So the film that bears Eddie The Eagle's name is an uplifting and boundlessly hopeful retelling of the story that captured worldwide attention in the '80s, even if it does stretch the truth somewhat. However, it doesn't fudge one bit of Eddie's determination to fly, or his love of the sport.
Sadly, however, Hugh Jackman's character is apparently entirely fictional. Still, the rough-hewn ex-Olympian burnout works really well as a foil to the starry-eyed idealistic newcomer, and Jackman and Egerton have great chemistry together.
Ditto for Christopher Walken, who gives a standout performance as another fictional character in the film.
Aside from the creative liberties the film takes, its authentic spirit is front and center. It's about an earnest and unpretentious dreamer who just wants to fly.
As fun as the movie is, I hope we don't forget the guy who inspired it. Although, given his legacy of courage, I doubt there's much chance of that.
Make sure to catch Eddie flying into theaters on February 26!