Eddie the Eagle

By Christopher Redmond

Mailed on February 26, 2016

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Dear Vic Armstrong
Action Unit Director

Dear Vic,

I knew you were a big deal the moment I saw your name. I just didn’t know why.

See, I fully expected the feel-good sports film Eddie the Eagle to end on an upbeat note. After all, it’s based on the heartwarming real-life story that charmed the world back at the 1988 Olympics. What threw me off-kilter was seeing your credit at the end—it’s the first one onscreen, alone, and directly tied to all the warm feelings spilling over from the soaring story.

A seemingly low-ranking participant stealing the glory usually reserved for the more accomplished players. Sound familiar?

I knew it couldn’t be an accident. You must have earned this moment in the spotlight. So I looked you up. Indian Jones. Superman. James Bond. You didn’t just work on these films, you were these characters. When the action star couldn’t cut it, you were the one they called. You won the 2005 Lifetime Achievement Award at the World Stunt Awards. You were awarded an Academy Award for Technical Achievement after helping to create a safety rig for stunt performers. You’re the most prolific stunt double in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. And now you’re responsible for helping us soar with Michael “Eddie the Eagle” Edwards. It all started to make sense.

Unlike Eddie, you didn’t get to jump the cue because of outdated rules or lack of competition. You no doubt earned the respect of your fellow filmmakers, including director Dexter Fletcher, through years of perseverance in a craft that is poorly understood even within the profession (there’s still no Oscar for Best Stunts) and mostly reserved for daredevils with a death wish.

Actually, this is where you and Eddie start to have a lot in common.

Ski jumping is a head-scratching and head-smashing sport that few have the gall to try, and even fewer are able to survive Olympic competition. But this was exactly the opportunity that allowed an oddball like Michael “Eddie” Edwards to live his dream. He was cut from the British Men’s alpine team, but found a back door perched 70m above the hill. Without anyone else in Britain competing for the position of ski Jumper on the 1988 Olympic team, he mustered up the guts to go for it, and the rest is a hell of a fun little film.

So where do you come in? I find it hard to imagine this film tested your abilities as a stunt coordinator or director, with the bulk of the action always being confined to a straight track that shoots skiers into the sky. But the simplicity of the action (and narrative) is exactly what makes Eddie the Eagle so fun to watch. The stakes are raised directly in relation to the height of each jump, and peaks at just the right moment. After all, ski jumping is a perfect spectator’s sport. It’s a lot harder on the athletes, which is how the film finds joy in small moments of perseverance, and a loveable performance by Taron Egerton. We’re also treated to some immersive and clear visuals that help us feel the heights and crashes, which you no doubt had a hand in crafting.

When it comes to dramatic tension, there are a few bureaucratic and logistical hurdles, but we know where this is story going (even if, personally, I didn’t know how it would end). Would it be a Mighty Ducks victory or a Cool Runnings heartbreak? I was prepared for either (Hollywood embellishments and all), and rather pleased with how it all ended. Including, I can now say, seeing your name so prominent in the final credits.



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