The audience of journalists and critics is buzzing, high off of the fantastic victory that is the film Eddie the Eagle as credits roll and lights come on. We are anticipating the Q&A to follow with Hugh Jackman, Taron Egerton, and Director Dexter Fletcher only to be met with the announcement that unfortunately, Wolverine is unable to make it.
“But I’m here!” says Fletcher.
“And so am I. Please don’t leave, that would hurt my ego,” chimes in 26-year-old Egerton, looking quite different from his portrayal of Eddie on-screen. And just like that, our disappointment dissolves—we’ve got two accomplished, easy-going, funny stars in front of us discussing their latest endeavor, Eddie the Eagle.
UK-native Egerton, fresh out of drama school, is no stranger to Q&As and junkets ever since his major breakthrough in the widely popular Kingsman: The Secret Service (the sequel is about to kick into production). Now, he takes on a drastically different character in the biopic based on Eddie Edwards, an awkward, endearing Olympic ski jumper who finished last in the 1988 Winter Olympics.
“I didn’t do any weight loss,” says Egerton on preparing for the role, a welcome break from the strenuous workout he undertook for Kingsman. “Dexter told me early on that he wanted Eddie to look like an unlikely hero, an unlikely athlete, and told me don’t spend any time in the gym. I immediately made a fist bump and punched the air.”
Egerton is refreshingly self-deprecating and attributes his brilliant performance to merely adapting an under bite and wearing thick glasses. But Fletcher disagrees—and throughout the night they continue to shower each other as well as Jackman (who plays Eddie’s trainer) with high praise.
“What you get when you watch the film is how much heart and determination Taron brings to Eddie. We admire that determination and that relentlessness,” explains Fletcher. “We were always very clear we wanted to treat Eddie with warmth and affection because we really admire him.”
There was always a risk of taking the easy route and portraying Eddie Edwards as a figure of fun. After all, despite the media’s enthusiasm and the world’s love for the Eagle, some athletes and officials saw him as a laughingstock and labeled him as a joke. Striking a balance was a “tightrope walk,” according to Egerton.
“We don’t shy away from the fact that he’s an unlikely hero—he looks a bit silly—but I feel and I hope the audience feels that the heart of it is that he was someone who was incredibly, incredibly passionate,” says Fletcher. “Watching it as many times as I have, the real challenge for Taron was to make him complex and not make him two-dimensional. He’s very multi-layered…And that’s a testament to this young man’s talent.”
Egerton brushes Fletcher’s praise off as the crowd cheers. But Fletcher admits that Egerton was not the first person who leapt to Fletcher’s mind when casting for the perfect Eagle.
“Matthew [Vaughn] (producer) called and said we should look at Taron. And I thought, ‘He’s just too good looking.’ He’s a movie star,” says Fletcher.
“Stop it,” interrupts Egerton, grinning abashedly.
“It’s just my personal opinion,” shoots back Fletcher.
But Fletcher is correct—both in terms of looks and personality, ski jumper Eddie seems like the complete opposite of British teenage spy Eggsy. And that was precisely why Egerton leaped at the chance to play the legend.
“As an actor the dream is to play different parts, to do different sorts of things. The variety is the real joy of it,” says Egerton. “I really hope everyone likes, but if the world didn’t, it would still be a wonderful experience. From start to finish, it’s been incredible making this movie.”
For the young star, it was a dream come true to work with Jackman. According to Fletcher, “Taron very much wanted to impress Hugh. And Hugh was impressed.” Though Egerton laughs it off, it’s those moments that make the film so special.
“I started the movie… with the intention of making Hugh Jackman laugh on camera whenever I could, to sabotage his career,” deadpans Egerton. “It was quite a fun game.”
Egerton and Jackman became such good friends, cracking up on set and singing in between takes, that they even found compatibility in music.
“[The end credits song] was me being backed up by Hugh—which is a source of pride for me,” laughs Egerton. “Matthew [Vaughn] had this idea right about six months ago to record an 80s’ track… we recorded it!”
As for Fletcher, the joy was found in the spontaneity and unpredictability that is always found in directing, or utilizing “ugly but effective methods,” as Eddie and his trainer do in the film.
“There’s a great deal of planning and preparation that has to go into making any film. You’re shooting for eight weeks, you’ve got to shoot the script, and you can’t guarantee that… it’s going to come together when you edit,” says Fletcher in response to my question. “But when you’re there in the moment, on set directing, or finding the moments, you’ve got to be open to going for the ugly but effective methods. ‘A little bit of wee came out’ is something that happened on the day,” he continues, quoting a line from the film. “But that’s allowing those moments of inspiration… and what made it so much fun.”
It’s safe to say that the Olympics athlete was duly satisfied—Eddie Edwards was seated next to Egerton for their very first screening and teared up. Ultimately it was the story of real-life Eddie that carried the movie. It was his never-give-up attitude and courage to attempt 90 meter slopes that won him the world’s admiration, and it’s clear that Egerton and Fletcher are honored to bring that story to life.
“I think we live in a culture where we put so much emphasis on being the best, being the utmost you can be, which of course is a great idea,” reflects Egerton. “But we put people on a pedestal and we live in celebrity culture and when someone comes along who isn’t the best, but has such determination and passion, I think people connect with that.”
Eddie the Eagle soars into theaters Feb. 26.
Note: I was thrilled to be able to ask one of the questions in the Q&A for Eddie the Eagle last night. Check out Taron Egerton (star of KINGSMAN) and Director Dexter Fletcher’s answer to my question about “ugly but effective methods” (line from the movie) in acting and directing.