“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well,” he professed.
That mantra of fearless yet honest participation was perfectly exemplified by Cheltenham-born athlete Eddie Edwards, who became a media sensation in 1988 when he represented Great Britain in the ski jump in Calgary.
His remarkable story of triumph against gravity, which swelled the patriotic hearts of a nation, provides the creative spark for Dexter Fletcher’s silver medal-winning comedy drama.
Screenwriters Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton don’t let the truth get in the way of telling a good yarn, slaloming between historical fact and humorous artistic licence to ensure their film remains giddily airborne.
Fletcher’s light touch behind the lens concentrates on the camaraderie between a remarkable underdog and his fictional trainer, who defied the snooty naysayers to prove that anything is possible when you take a leap of faith.
Since he was a boy, Eddie (Taron Egerton) has driven his father Terry (Keith Allen) to distraction with a burning dream to compete in the Olympics.
The young man struggles to find a sport that suits him, so he switches attention to the Winter Olympics and discovers a loophole in the rulebook that would allow him to become Britain’s first representative in the ski jump since 1929.
Aided and abetted by his mother Janette (Jo Hartley), Eddie heads to Germany to a ski jumping training centre run by hard-drinking former competitor Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman), who was booted off the US team by legendary coach Warren Sharp (Christopher Walken).
Bronson takes pity on Eddie and helps the newcomer to master the basics.
However, Dustin Target (Tim McInnerny), chairman of the British Olympic Committee, refuses to let Eddie compete on a technicality and adds a qualifying standard of 61m to the rulebook at the last minute.
With time running out before the Calgary games, Eddie hits the European ski jumping tour with Bronson, determined to soar to break records rather than bones in his quest for Olympic qualification.
Eddie The Eagle is an unabashedly crowd-pleasing delight for all ages.
Egerton brings a sweetness and steely resolve to his plucky fish out of water, who defiantly tells a crowded news conference: “I did not come here as a novelty act... and I will not be going home as one.”
Jackman offers robust support, rabble-rousing from the sidelines as effects sequences allow his younger co-star to take flight.
In real life, Edwards never climbed atop the Olympic winner’s podium, but this charming film is champion.