I can honestly say that underdog ski-jumping hero Eddie ‘the Eagle’ Edwards is one of the loveliest people I’ve interviewed. From his 1988 Olympic triumph in Calgary (I say triumph as he was Britain’s first Olympic ski jumper and truly championed the taking part over the winning), to the Hollywood film of his life story and his unlikely secret success weapon (read on to find out what that is :)), Eddie talks with a joy and a spirit that instantly lifts you, whatever your mood.
There’s been a ton of stuff written about him - about his 60,000 jumps, his 30 injuries, his damaged kidneys and broken jaw, his helmet tied on with string, his huge glasses, the Establishment hating him and whether or not he was “a laughing stock”. It almost feels like everything Eddie's done in his life has been against all odds (and no. I’m not humming the Phil Collins tune right now :)).
If there’s one person that sums up what it means to believe in yourself, ignore what people might think of you and keep going with a determination and focus that shines like the world’s biggest beacon, it’s Ed - and we love it!
If you’re wondering why we’re interviewing him, Eddie is speaking at the Yeovil Literary Festival tomorrow afternoon (2pm at the Octagon Theatre) - so if you’re around, do go along to hear his stories. For now though, here’s Eddie’s Four Thoughts. Well actually, there ended up being more than four because I couldn’t stop asking him questions. So here's Eddie’s Eight Thoughts… and they’re all given with lots of smiles, chuckles and honesty!
1. I’m sure when you look back on your time at the Olympics there are lots of stand out memories, but what’s the one thing that will always stay with you?
It has to be standing at the top of the 90m jump in 1988, with 90,000 people at the bottom all shouting my name. Most of them were hoping I’d make it down safely - but I’m sure some were hoping for blood! :) I was just thinking “I hope I don’t break my neck”! I felt nervous, excited, and scared all at the same time and of course the TV cameras were on me, which put a bit of pressure on!
2. Could you have ever imagined the media interest and the public reaction that followed?
I hoped I’d get a bit of attention as the only British ski jumper and hoped I could then raise enough sponsorship to compete in future Olympics - to learn and to get better. I wasn’t prepared for the extent of the noteriety though… I got more attention than the guy who won! :)
My story was the biggest thing to come out of the Calgary Olympics and that was nice. It showed that it’s genuinely about the sport itself, not about the winning. It’s about living your dream - trying and never giving up and whether you win or lose, that’s what really matters.
3. You’ve got awesome spirit and you’ve touched many people’s hearts over the years. You’ve had some tough times too. How hard has it been to deal with the highs and the lows?
I’ve had some fantastic highs and some awful lows, but the highs easily outweigh them. Without the lows you don’t appreciate the highs and for me, it’s all about how you deal with tough times. I got my head down and I ploughed through - kept thinking about the light at the end of the tunnel and that it wouldn’t feel like this forever. I dragged myself out, strived for better and I always look forward, not back.
4. We love the film of your life story. How did it come about and how was it seeing everything you’ve achieved, up on the big screen?
Twenty-eight years ago, I never dreamed there would be a film about my life and when Cool Runnings was made about the Jamaican Bobsleigh team, I didn’t think there’d ever be two films about Calgary 1988! Then, 17 years ago, I got a call from a producer in LA who wanted to make a film about me. I was shocked, excited and I sold the film rights to my story and a script was written. There was lots of talk, different actors who were going to play me... but it kept falling through. I got on with my life, did my law degree, got married, had kids, things moved on and then when I did Splash, Dexter Fletcher (the film's eventual Director) saw me on the programme and got in touch straight away. They said they'd bought the rights and were going to start filming! They've done such a good job with it. I'm just so pleased and proud. I love Taron's (Egerton) portrayal of me. It's spot on.
5. There's quite a bit of poetic licence in the film, but the thing we'd love to know is in real life, did your Mum and Dad really wear jumpers saying 'I'm Eddie’s Mum' and 'I'm Eddie’s Dad'? :) (for anyone who hasn’t seen the film, his mum and dad are shown wearing the jumpers close to the end… and that *might’ve* been a point in the film where I cried like a baby!)
Yes they did! My Grandma and Sister had one too. My Grandma was a super knitter and she knitted them all. I've still got them somewhere. Maybe I should put them on eBay! ;)
6. Tell us secret about you that no-one else knows!
Ahh… I don’t have any secrets! What you see is what you get - and I love that. Oh… I do dance! When I have a spare evening I go dancing - the Jive. I used to dance about 15 years ago when I did my law degree and then when I was divorced, I thought I’d take it up again. It’s a great social thing and keeps me fit!
7. Ooh, so would you go on Strictly Come Dancing if you were invited?
Maybe, in a few years if I was still fit and raring to go... and they asked me! :)
8. How are you feeling about speaking at the Yeovil Literary Festival on Saturday?
Really looking forward to it. I know Yeovil a bit - we used to stop by on the way to Weymouth and I did a jump at the old ski slope too. On the day I'll be chatting about my life, how I got into ski jumping, what happened at the Olympics and answering any audience questions - and I'm hoping I'll get chance to go to lots of cake shops!
Hang on ... cake shops?!! Yep. You didn't mishear! Perhaps the best thing about our conversation was that we had a great chat about cake (CAKE! YEAH!) because it turns out that Eddie does have a secret after all... his secret weapon for success is eating cake! It fuelled him on the slopes and nothing has changed either. If you've got a chelsea bun, a bit of fruit cake, a nice victoria sandwich or the odd scone, Eddie's face will light up even more than usual. In fact, he told me he had two iced buns in front of him as we spoke and that made me like him even more! I reckon if there was another celebrity bake-off Eddie would be there - possibly as chief taster! :)
Anyway, it was World Values Day when we spoke yesterday and when we'd finished our chat, I happened to see this post on Twitter:
It just reminded me of Eddie - a true British original, soaring like an eagle! Born that way... staying that way!