Feature | Ski Jumping

Eddie the Eagle: Everything you need to know about the iconic British ski jumper from the 80s

We answer some of the most common questions about the charismatic competitor from the 1988 Olympic Games in Calagary

By Ed Knowles ·

Eddie the Eagle was one of the stars of the 1988 Olympics in Calgary.

His Olympic dream captured the imagination of the globe with his quest to be the first British ski jumper since 1928 to make the Games.

He finished last in both the 70m and 90m events. His good nature and commitment to reach his goal brought him more media attention than most of the Olympic gold medallists.

I’d like to say I flew like an eagle, but I was probably closer to the ostrich - Eddie the Eagle

One of the memorable moments were that his trademark thick glasses would steam up underneath his ski goggles due to the altitude.

Eddie the Eagle received massive media attention at the 1988 Olympic Games in Calgary

His brazen bravery and willingness to take risks brought smiles to audiences. Although – it did come at a price.

“I think the only bones I haven’t broken are my shoulder, hip and thigh,” he said to the Guardian.

At these Games, some competitors have won gold, some have broken records and some of you have even soared like an eagle
Frank King, President of the Organizing Committee speaking at the closing ceremony of the 1988 Winter Olympics

People still ask questions about his exploits over thirty years later.

We’ve picked out a few of the most frequently asked questions about the man who was originally called Michael Edwards.

Michael 'Eddie the Eagle' Edwards receiving a hug from actor Hugh Jackman at the European premiere of the film about his life  

Is Eddie the Eagle movie a true story?

The 2016 film Eddie the Eagle is largely accurate but there are a few discrepancies.

“It’s about 80% true and I think they did an excellent job with the film,” Eddie said.

“It brings a tear to my eye every time I watch it.”

The actor Taron Eagerton portrays Eddie in the movie with Dexter Fletcher taking director duties.

“I think the film shows he dedicated his life to it to an [Olympic] level. Why not celebrate that?, Fletcher said.

“Everyone was slightly embarrassed that he came last… We should have been celebrating that he was even there.”

The Polish men's ski jumping team in PyeongChang 2018

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Did Eddie the Eagle really miss the Opening Ceremony?

The film did take some liberties with certain events.

The Opening Ceremony was one of them. The movie sees him have one too many drinks with teammates but the reality was much more sombre.

“I gave my life for the Olympics - I wouldn’t have missed any of it,” he said to the Daily Mail.

Did Eddie the Eagle have a coach?

In the movie, Oscar-nominated actor Hugh Jackman takes the role of coach Bronson Peary.

Peary must shape the ungainly and unathletic Eddie the Eagle into an Olympian.

Eddie was, in reality, a decent amateur athlete with a respectable record in downhill skiing.

With little money, he couldn’t afford a regular coach once he decided to switch to ski jumping.

Chuck Berghorn is not an Olympic medallist like Jackman’s character but he does claim to have trained Eddie in 1986 in Lake Placid.

'He didn't have a single item of equipment, so much so I had to give him an old helmet which didn't have a strap,” Chuck said.

“He fastened [it] with a bit of string and some ski boots that were so big he had to wear them with five pairs of socks.”

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Did Eddie the Eagle get paid for the film?

When he was chasing his Olympic dream, Eddie was so tight for money he would eat and find shelter as cheaply as possible.

“Sometimes a slice of bread would be what I ate that night. I just did the best I could with what I had, which wasn’t very much,” he said.

“If that meant sleeping in the car, sleeping in cowsheds, sleeping in barns, sleeping in mental hospitals, scraping food out of bins and getting odd jobs here and there, that was what I’d do.”

The film about his life went on to gross a box office total of over $46m worldwide.

So, did that make Eddie – who did go bankrupt after the Games – into a millionaire?

Maybe.

“I am still not sure how much I have made because I am waiting for the final royalty payment,” he said.

“I got 3 per cent of the profits… They are paying me in instalments – one payment I received was for £300,000. That was quite a pay day.”

Eddie the Eagle with Devon Harris of Jamaican Bobsleigh Team

What is Eddie the Eagle doing now?

The film's came out in 2016 and introduced Eddie's story to a new generation.

“Since the film was released and until the beginning of 2020, when Covid happened, I was doing between eight and 12 speeches a week all over the world – cruises, conferences, dinners and lunches,” Eddie said.

“It was a whirlwind that never stopped.”

Edwards is living in Gloucestershire – not far from where he grew up

“[The enforced break has] actually been a bit of a breather and I’ve been able to get on with renovating my house.

Perhaps it has been time to reflect on some good times.

After the film was released, he hoped that he would stop always being at the punchline of jokes.

“For me, just getting [to the Olympics] was my gold medal,” he said to the Guardian.

“A lot of people loved me being there, but they said it with a smile on their face. I’m hoping now they’ll think, ‘He did good.’”