The 1988 Winter Olympics was a great venue for lovable underdogs who would someday have their own movies.
The new feel-good sports film Eddie the Eagle, about a real-life Brit named Michael “Eddie” Edwards (Taron Egerton) who was determined to compete in the Olympics without any discernible athletic gifts, and who ultimately ends up ski-jumping at the ‘88 games in Calgary. (Sorry, spoiler alert.)
That was the same Winter Olympics that welcomed some other famously unlikely contestants, the Jamaican bobsled team immortalized in the beloved 1993 comedy Cool Runnings.
The connection wasn’t lost on Eagle’s filmmakers, who place a quick but inspired shout-out to the island bobsledders (played in Runnings by Leon, Doug E. Doug, Malik Yoba, and Rawle D. Lewis, and coached by the late John Candy) when Eddie’s begrudging trainer (played by Hugh Jackman) turns off a radio just as a newscaster begins to announce one of Jamaica’s runs.
In the initial script for Eddie, though, the bobsled team actually appeared.
“There was originally going to be a bit where I went up for my jump, and walked past the Jamaican bobsled team,” Egerton told Yahoo Movies. “And they had some line like, 'He doesn’t belong here.’ But I think it felt just a bit overdone or too convenient.”
The film’s director, Dexter Fletcher (also an actor known for Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels), said that he “thought it was a lovely moment,” but it became expendable when the script was deemed too long. “And that moment it was important to have focus and keep the heart of the film and not try to dilute it with a gag. Though it would’ve been a great gag. It’s just one of those things that [wasn’t as important] in the process of developing the script.” Fletcher credits Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, Kingsman), who’s a producer on Eddie, for writing the Easter egg that made the final cut.
Edwards isn’t that well-known in the U.S., a major reason the biopic took 15 years to make, and the biggest challenge it faces at the domestic box office. But Jackman is encouraged by the fact that Edwards was more internationally known than the Jamaican bobsledders.
“I had no idea the Jamaica had a bobsled team until the movie,” he said. “The movie made that very famous. Eddie was mentioned in the closing ceremony. He was on Johnny Carson. He was hugely famous at the time. He became The Guy. But it’s funny, the power of a movie. Everyone knows about the Jamaican bobsled team now.”
Eddie the Eagle is now in theaters.