Eddie the Eagle: 'The musical will surprise people who’ve seen my film'

Ahead of his stage debut at the Everyman Theatre in the new musical Fly Eddie Fly, local Olympic legend Eddie the Eagle talks Taron Egerton, West End ambitions and the power of never giving up with SoGlos.

Described as a ‘heart-warming underdog story of an ordinary bloke at the centre of a worldwide media frenzy’, Fly Eddie Fly is a new musical about the extraordinary life, so far, of Michael ‘Eddie the Eagle’ Edwards – Britain’s first Olympic ski-jumper.

From the slopes of the 1988 Calgary Winter Games to the $23million Hollywood blockbuster about his life, Fly Eddie Fly premieres at the Everyman Theatre in May 2019, providing audiences with a feel-good comedy storyline, uplifting score and a community cast supporting professional actors, as well as Eddie’s theatrical stage debut as the narrator.

SoGlos spoke with the Olympic legend himself to find out more…

Fly Eddie Fly, tell us more – what can audiences expect?

It’s a very interesting project… I wrote a book 30 odd years ago, straight after Calgary about my life, they made it into a movie, and now we have a musical! It’s a whole new field for me. I’ve never done anything like this before. There’s songs and choirs and 100 children from the Everyman Youth Theatre are involved.

It brings my story up-to-date. Not only some of the things that happened to me in training and at Calgary, but even the Hollywood film premiere features in the musical.

The music, the songs, and scenery, everything is fantastic. I’m really looking forward to it…

This is your first stage performance, are you excited?

Well, I do lots of talks around the country and overseas. But I’ve never done anything like this, with other actors and lots of kids, before. And there’s someone actually playing me on stage! He looks more like me 31 years ago than I did! There’s singing and dancing. It’s a whole new ballgame…

Do you sing, Eddie?

Do I sing? Well, I’m not sure I can give that away! I can’t sing, but that doesn’t necessarily stop me! I definitely do dance…

We’re sure you often get asked about the Hollywood blockbuster, Eddie The Eagle, starring Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman. How realistic was it and were you pleased with the final film?

I signed the deal to make the movie over 20 years ago and I never thought it would ever be made. But then I won series one of the television show Splash and all of a sudden there was the impetus to do it. It is the biggest topic of conversation and thing I get asked about nowadays!

The movie was really nice because it showed what I had to go through to get to the Olympics. They did a very good job. I was so pleased with it. It still makes me cry when I watch it!

What do you think about Taron Egerton’s portrayal of you? We thought his accent was spot-on!

Taron, when he played me, I couldn’t believe how much he looked like I looked 30 years ago. He had the jaw, the moustache, the glasses. He played me so well. I was really pleased.

I did say to (the director) Matthew Vaughn when he started making it ‘if I don’t like the film, I won’t say I like it!’ but as it happened we had a private screening at The Screening Rooms in Cheltenham and I invited 50 family and friends and we were blown away and all came out crying!

I’ve seen the film 65 times now! I know every scene, every line…

It was pretty realistic. It’s about 90 per cent true, broadly, but it only represented 25 to 35 per cent of my life as a ski-jumper. They had to leave a lot of things out.

Do you appear in the film at all?

I do! They use the actual footage of me from the Olympic closing ceremonies.

Is there anything in the musical that will surprise audiences who have seen the film?

Yes, the musical will surprise people who’ve seen my film! In the musical we do a lot of stuff they didn’t get the chance to include, so, it gives audiences a new perspective. The songs are really catchy. There’s even an orchestra! Have a hanky ready…

If you had your time again, would you still choose ski jumping?

That’s hard! If I’d been introduced to ski jumping earlier, I could have performed much better, but if I’d done better, I wouldn’t have become Eddie the Eagle and I wouldn’t have had this career for 30-odd years. So, if I could do it all over again, I’d probably do exactly the same. I still had so much fun.

When I went to Calgary, I hoped that would just be the very start of my Olympic career. I was hoping for a little bit of attention from the British press as Britain’s first Olympic ski-jumper, and to use that to get sponsorship and train more and compete for the next 20 years. But it didn’t happen like that.

I got more attention than the winner and the rules were changed to stop me competing again. At the time I was very disappointed. The British Ski Federation about-turned on me, they didn’t like it, they thought I was making a mockery of the sport.

Perseverance, is that a lesson people can take away from your story?

Resilience, tenacity, never giving up and doing something that makes you happy… If you have a passion for something, you go out there no matter what other people say, and you can achieve great things.

Inspirational stuff! As well as performing in the new musical, what do you do now? Do you still ski?

A lot of my time is spent speaking professionally. I do the odd TV show and lecture. And I’m a builder and plasterer, and am currently renovating my house.

I still live locally. I went to school in Cheltenham and now live just outside Stroud. I still ski in Gloucester occasionally – where I first put on a pair of skis when I was 13. But I dance more than I ski now, I do Ceroc dancing and just love it. There’s even a bit in the musical!

So, what does the future hold for Eddie the Eagle?

I just go with the flow really. I’m always up for new experiences. I just hope the next 55 years are going to be as fun and exciting as the first 55 years.

And finally, Fly Eddie Fly premieres at the Everyman Theatre, but we’ve heard you’re hoping the musical might reach the West End?

Well, you have to aim big. We don’t just want to hit the West End, we’re aiming for a world tour!

Fly Eddie Fly is at the Everyman Theatre from Thursday 23 to Saturday 25 May 2019, with tickets costing from £15. For more information see Fly Eddie Fly or visit everymantheatre.org.uk directly.

By Michelle Fyrne

© SoGlos
Monday 20 May 2019

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