The story of Eddie Edwards is the story of us. Okay, maybe not quite. But it’s pretty damn hilarious and occasionally inspirations. EDDIE THE EAGLE unveils a slightly fictionalized version of Edwards (played by Taron Egerton of KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE) journey to the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary as a the sole member of the British ski-jumping team, who had virtually no experience in the field and only the help of his drunken American coach and former ski jumping champ, played by Hugh Jackman (of VAN HELSING and nothing else). The film is lovingly directed by actor-turned-director Dexter Fletcher and produced by the fine director Matthew Vaughn, who had this script on a shelf for years before rediscovering it, in a sense.
I had a chance to sit down with these three fine gents the morning after we did a quick introductory Q&A before a Chicago screening of EDDIE THE EAGLE, which the crowd absolutely ate up (the feel-good, crowd-pleasing powers of this movie are endless). I caught the three right after they got off a luxury helicopter ride around the city skyscrapers, for a local television feature. They were great fun, and I even managed to squeeze a tiny bit of information out of both the actors about their upcoming sequel projects. Keep in mind that this interview was conducted shortly before it was revealed that Julianne Moore was in the running for the villain in the KINGSMAN sequel or that Jackman’s final WOLVERINE movie would likely be taking on the Old Man Logan storyline and possibly be R-rated. Please enjoy my talk with Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman and Dexter Fletcher…
Capone: Taron, you weren’t even alive when these events happened, so you had to start from square one with this character. You met with Eddie, obviously, but talk about the process of building this character that you had no connection to before you were hired to play him.
Taron Egerton: There’s quite a lot of interview footage of him, and there’s some completely hilarious musical numbers he recorded. [laughs]
Dexter Fletcher: He wrote a book.
TE: He wrote a book which Dexter gave me before we started. It’s not great. It says a bit about him and where he was at at the time. There was an external force in that book, someone else writing it.
DF: Yeah yeah, it was all ghost written.
Capone: I think people assume that with many autobiographies.
DF: What happened was, when he got back, he was absolutely inundated with people who wanted a piece of his story, and it’s not him. That is not him. Same with that song; I think it’s Czechoslovakian or something like that. There’s a video of him in Bucharest or somewhere dancing around fountains. It’s terrible.
TE: That’s right. It was just terrible. I think it was about meeting him and bringing elements of his personality and then also creating the Eddie that I think people, in my opinion, would want given the story. The perception of him was he was this happy0go-lucky, quite innocent guy who just wanted to have a go. That is what he’s like, but I took it to the extreme for the purposes of our movie. In our version, he’s almost asexual. He doesn't have an interest in women [laughs]. I really don’t think the real Eddie was like that. But for the purposes of our story, I feel it works. So he was an amalgam really.
But meeting Eddie was invaluable, and the big thing about Eddie was his complete mind bending enthusiasm and passion for what he does. That was the thing that I took and brought to my Eddie, that almost the total focused, blinkered, how are we going to do this?, nothing else even comes into he equation, you do’t even come into the equation until you’re something that’s going to help me get there.
Capone: That’s funny that you mention he asexual nature because sex plays a role in him figuring out how to do ski jump, at least in the film version. I don’t know how it was in real life, but the whole Bo Derek discussion, which was hilarious. Hugh, you show us your “O” face, and that’s bold for a man to give that away so freely
Hugh Jackman: I’m not saying that’s the real Hugh Jackman face, but it probably is.
HJ: It’s probably way worse, way shorter [laughs].
Capone: But your character is a creation. You get to actually have a little more flexibility in how you create this guy. Talk about that process of creating somebody from scratch.
HJ: One of the first things I thought about these guys is they’re kind of the rock and roll of the Winter Olympics. They are crazy, mad. I think about it as an Australian like surfers. Everyone surfs, right? But there are few people surf 50-foot waves out off Hawaii. They’re that kind of guy. I was watching this documentary about Ginger Baker [BEWARE OF MR. BAKER].
Capone: I’ve seen that documentary, where he hits the director across the nose.
HJ: Right! In the opening scene, he smashes his nose of the filmmaker like, “Don’t you fucking talk to my family.” He’s about 75, right? That was my temple when I started. Obviously, it’s an invention, but it’s a really good one in that you have to, as Dexter said the other day, my character asks the questions the audience are asking and makes it clear “Tou can’t do this, man. You can’t start now. You’re crazy. You’re going to kill yourself.” All that stuff as a foil. The main story is about Eddie, but having this subplot about friendship that’s coming together of two, not lonely— well my character may be lonely—but outsiders struggling who never really fit in in their way, coming together and bringing out the best in each other…it’s a nice subplot to this story.
Capone: I love that idea, especially in a sports movie, of winning without winning, about celebrating without winning.
HJ: Yeah, you don’t have to win. Some of this came to me in a way. Eddie is the opposite of cynicism, whereas Bronson is completely cynical and turned off from life. I think actually the movie works, because we’re in a quite cynical world. A lot of films, even humor comes off that shared cynicism in a way, and this is not. It’s just an open-hearted character, and it wins. It melts you, and you go “Life can actually just be fun, and you can overcome things, and you can have a go at things, at life, no matter what anyone says.” It melts Bronson in a way, and I think it does that for the audience, too.
DF: Picking up on what you’re saying, Eddie comes up against that really for the first time because he has a relationship, this friendship with someone that he’s never really had before. He comes up against that slightly jaded world view, and still manages to stay strong and to be true of spirit in a way. He understands. Eddie’s not an idiot. He is kind of asexual. There’s an innocence about him. He steps into the wider world but still retains that, and they come out of the airport together at the end. It’s an absolutely shared experience, and it’s really lovely that Eddie goes and finds that, but you don’t see him get burned and hurt. He still stays positive and strong, and that’s what the film is about.
Capone: Talk about how the script came off the shelf after so many years, why Mathew pulled it off. What inspired him to do that and bring it to you? And what was your response?
DF: Mathew, like you say, pulled it down off the shelf because he sat and watched COOL RUNNINGS with his kids, and they went, “This is a really good movie, Dad. You should do a movie like this.” And he’s like, “Maybe, I’ve got one of those.”
HJ: He did say that, didn’t he? My kids love COOL RUNNINGS too.
DF: Yeah, yeah. It’s a great thing that’s not about winning, winning, winning. It’s about being true to yourself and doing something and just having a bit of belief in yourself, which is a great thing. Obviously, there’s comparisons. It was the same Olympics. The story is the same—they came last. Ours is about the individual, that was about the team, and it’s a different take on it.
I think Matthew understood he had this great actor with Taron, and Taron was looking to do something different after KINGSMAN, and Matthew, once he’s your friend and on your side, he’s very acutely aware of what people want and need, so he’s like “Great, this is the thing we should talk about.” Then he came to me with it, because he felt it’s not a big set piece action movie. It’s about relationship and that human connection, and so maybe I was the right person to run with that idea. Maybe Matthew’s version would have been more explosions or something like that, a bit more subversive. Matthew is an old friend of mine as well, and we spoke to Hugh, and Hugh was like, “I’m engaged. This is great.” And so it’s about all the elements coming together at the right time and right place.
Capone: Taron, he said you were looking for something much different than what you had done before. Do you think, going forward with your career, that you’re going to seek out things that are different than the last thing you’ve done?
TE: I certainly hope so. I was just aware that most actors when they start working in film have the opportunity of a slow build and doing different things and showing the different colors they have on their palate. Whereas I, very fortunately, had this massive, $100 million showcase that was pumped into the rest of the world, and I was scared, I think. I always have great faith in the movie and I think it’s Mathew at his best and that it always had the potential to be something that did well, but I was aware that it could become an albatross quite quickly, maybe, and I was really keen to find something else really quickly that made everyone else go, “There’s another thing he can do.” Because I think the variety is what really excites me about it. I may do the rest of my career playing a version of Eggsy or a version of Eddie. Who knows.
DF: He’s proved he can get on with it. ”We know you can play a geek. Alright, fine.”
Capone: Hugh, that’s not a dissimilar story to your film career, either. You came out of the gate with something that everybody saw and loved and thought no one else could have done it and is still doing it.
HJ: Yeah, which is surprising.
Capone: When you’re not doing something in that universe, are you looking for something that’s completely different, just to mix things up?
HJ: People ask me all the time, “Are you afraid of getting typecast?” There was a period around X-MEN 3 where I did notice things were…I had done other things. I had done Peter Allen on Broadway [in “The Boy from Oz”], but things just started to get narrow in the offers I was getting. I didn’t know if that was from the filmmaker point of view or scripts, but from LES MIS, PRISONERS, things like that, I never really felt that feeling of being trapped. I’ve really enjoyed being able to do that. /
It’s funny, my agent who’s great, he’s been with me from he beginning, his advice to me straight after X-MEN—I’m remembering it now—was to do different stuff. Because he knew me from before in Australia, so that’s when I did KATE & LEOPOLD, SWORDFISH, and he said, “Don’t have the burden of the entire film.” Taron has got more, like I would say he’s 10 years ahead of me in terms of his confidence in terms of his choosing and waiting to chose, and the idea of coming out with EDDIE straight afterwards, it seems like the smartest choice now, but that’s a bold choice. I can’t think of any actor alive today who could pull off those two movies in a 12-month period so successfully.
Capone: I’ve seen your two other movies since KINGSMAN, before EDDIE.
TE: What have you seen?
Capone: I’ve seen LEGEND and TESTAMENT OF YOUTH.
TE: And they’re all different. Yeah. It’s just exciting to do different things. I think I’d get bored if I felt like I was not playing different characters.
HJ: I’m with you, same.
Capone: You both are sort of getting into fighting shape again for these things you’re doing next.
HJ: Yeah, we trained together this morning.
TE: We did train together this morning.
DF: It’s becoming a mashup.
TE: EGGSY VS. WOLVERINE.
HJ: We should make a video of us just punching each other. It’s going to go viral.
Capone: Speaking of which, I just saw that interview you did with Ryan Reynolds that just popped up yesterday. I watched it a couple of times. It’s hilarious.
HJ: He is just so funny. It actually goes for 15 minutes. They could only get three good minutes out of me, but every minute of him is gold.
Capone: He was just hammering you, though.
HJ: It was so brilliant. He is so brilliant.
Capone: Before I ask you about these other two film, you have a “presence” in DEADPOOL. Did they have to come to you and say, “Can we do this?”
HJ: [laughs] I knew about half of them, and I was glad I didn’t know about all of them. I got such a shock at the end when the mask comes off. I laughed my head off. Everything is game for me. Open season. Go for it. It was such a great movie. It’s very funny.
TE: I haven’t seen it yet.
Capone: So a quick update on these two film. The script for KINGSMAN 2 is done, you’re getting ready to start shooting.
TE: We’re starting in May, is what I’m hearing at the moment. There’s a script. It’s really, really good. I think Mathew’s still tweaking, but there’s a full, finished script. I think I can tell you I’ve learned a fight. I’ve learned a full fight. There’s a lot more to learn. I’ve been spending some time with stunts, and they’ve assembled another incredible team. Some of the same guys from last time and some very cool new guys. There’s a bit of casting going on that’s really, really exciting. It’s going to be amazing. it really is. He’s not going to let everyone down. It’s bigger; it’s more global. He’s going to pack a bigger punch. And there are some great new characters. It’s going to be really good. I’m slightly terrified about what it’s going to cost, because there’s lots to do.
HJ: You’re investing?
Capone: And Mathew is for certain directing it, right?
Capone: And then for you, I’ve heard the final WOLVERINE script is now done.
HJ: Yeah. I’m trying my best to be locked down, because I just want this one to surprise.
Capone: It’s your last one; you want go out on a high note.
HJ: Of course. I think so often there’s so much information about the movies and all of this. It’s fair to say, I think there are a lot of surprises in the film.
Capone: And James Mangold is back? Right?
HJ: Yeah, he’s phenomenal. We’ve been working really hard at it for two or three years now.
Capone: Alright, well best of luck to you on this film especially.
DF: That was a good but of fishing on your part.
Capone: Gee, thanks. “Who’s the bad guy?”
TE: And thanks for last night.
HJ: Thanks for last night and for your support.
Capone: Of course. Taron, thanks for coming to Austin, too. That was a total blast having you there.
TE: That was great. I’ll be back next year hopefully.