Hugh Jackman Talks About the True Details That Didn't Actually Make It Into Eddie the Eagle
Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards took the 1988 Winter Olympics by storm, but not in the way you might imagine. The British jump skier was by far the least experienced, and his excitement to simply be at the Olympics made him a media darling. The true story is fascinating, and now there's a movie to tell his story. I, along with a handful of other media outlets, sat down with Eddie the Eagle stars Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman and director Dexter Fletcher to talk about the film. You might be surprised by the true details that didn't make it into the final cut!
Can you walk us through the decision to include Hugh Jackman's character in the movie, since he wasn't a real person?
Dexter Fletcher: That's such a hard question.
Taron Egerton: I have been wondering why you were including Hugh Jackman in the movie.
DF: 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!"
Hugh Jackman: I did test for Eddie.
Too young though.
DF: Too . . . short.
HJ: Just to be clear, most of this movie is really based on truth. A lot of that's true. 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, the fact he was sleeping in a closet in a mental institution when he got the letter from the Olympics — all that is true. So all the really amazing things . . .
DF: Also, there were people who did help him along the way, and of course, in a film, if you've got six, seven different characters who come in and play some part in that journey, it becomes confusing. You've gotta choose someone to tell that story. So we reduced that into one super character, which happened to be Hugh Jackman. It's a storytelling exercise; it's facts told in a fictional way, so that's what 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?
TE: Well, I mean if that's the case, I can't imagine anything more rewarding for an actor. That's truly, truly, truly gratifying on a level more than anything. The thing I love about Eddie, and it's something I've said before, is that he's someone who's got this . . . he's easy to make a fool out of and for people to deride, mock, but actually he's got this incredible quality that so few people have, where, not that he's impermeable, far from it, but 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 quiet, dignified way, he doesn't engage with it or retaliate, he just allows it to make him stronger and tougher. I think that's probably one of the most valuable lessons you could learn. It's an amazing thing just to even suggest as an idea.
DF: That's what I did on a daily basis — I just said to him, "You're terrible, you're terrible, you're terrible," and he's, like, "Ooh! I've gotta show him!" Worked very well.
I think one of the things that appealed to me most about the movie was that it doesn't take itself so seriously. We can actually laugh at Eddie a little bit in a good-natured way. I think that makes this movie kind of special. Can you talk about the tone?
HJ: It's called "being British." It has got that kind of British full-monty quality. If you're too earnest and on the nose in England, it's never a good thing. And I don't think Eddie would've liked it, to be honest, I think he enjoyed having a good laugh, and if anyone ever in sports has shown it's OK to have a little bit of a laugh at yourself, it's Eddie.
TE: 'Cause Eddie's a bright chap, he's not an idiot, and he knows that what he did was funny. People responded by finding that very funny. He had been doing it for a fraction of the time that his competitors had been doing it, and it was this death-defying, terrifying jump that he just kind of threw himself into, and that's funny, and he knows that. So when he saw the movie, he was thrilled, because he knows that we struck the balance because he knows that there is a funny side to that. But obviously, to him, it was a very serious thing. And I know that Dexter was very conscious of, and I think we were too, of making a balance, because it has to be funny. You have to leave the theater going, "He did it! Yes! He did it!" And I hope we've succeeded.
HJ: He actually really, at one point, he broke his jaw and tied up his jaw with a pillowcase, and he competed like that.
TE: We shot that actually! But it didn't make the movie.
DF: We did shoot that, yeah. But also, I think we don't treat in a sort of sentimental or mushy way. Because if you are going to get up on those ski jumps like Eddie did, you've got to have a certain amount of fortitude. There's no point in going, "Well, hope I don't hurt myself." He doesn't even think about that. He attacks. So it's sort of unsentimental allows him to be strong, and I think that's what's good about it. It allows us to laugh. Because we know he's a strong character with a strong story, so we can 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 round going, "Oh, woe is me." He's very positive and driven.
Hugh, when I look at your role here and I look at the Charlie Kenton in Real Steel and even Wolverine, I see a real through line of rough-hewn rogues with hearts of gold, and I'm wondering: what is it that draws you to characters like this?
HJ: It's the opposite of me, because I'm actually, on the surface, seemingly very likable and outgoing, but underneath, there's zero heart. It's kind of fun playing those kind of characters . . .
TE: It's table flip reverse — it's like you being nice.
DF: He's dead inside. He's like an android.
HJ: Yeah, I don't know, it's really very different from me. I'm sure sometimes these kind of roles come to me because of Wolverine, is the ultimate sort of reluctant hero, but I just really loved this story. If there had been some other construct or character, I probably wouldn't have even heard of it. I love working with these guys and I do love, I suppose, seeing on film that redemption. I think all of us like to think that there is a second chance for people, and you know, 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 scuffed up his chance for whatever reason through a lack of self-belief ultimately. I love the idea that people can redeem themselves.
DF: I think also you're not afraid to play the human flaw, to be someone who is flawed. It's a more interesting thing to play, in a way. It's what we talked about — it's good to have someone who's flawed, who's human, who's real, and I think that seems to me to be something you readily tackle with relish as well. Like, "Yeah, he's broken. This guy is a bit f*cked." It's interesting, rather than just being sort of perfect.
HJ: 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.