Steve Coogan signed to play Eddie the Eagle

13 August 2007

Steve Coogan  has signed up to play Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards in a film of the British ski-jumper's life story. Eddie the Eagle will begin shooting in January in the UK and Calgary - the Canadian city where Edwards took last place in the 1988 Winter Olympics.

Coogan said he was "very excited" to be playing Edwards, whom he described as "a very British kind of hero".

Edwards, meanwhile, called the casting "brilliant", saying he could not think of a "better comic actor" to play him.

Declan Downey, winner of two Baftas for his work on sitcoms Father Ted and Help, will direct the film, whose release next year will coincide with the 20th anniversary of Edwards' exploits. Eddie may not have impressed the Olympic judges, but he won the hearts of people round the world.

The script, written by Sean Macaulay, is currently being "polished" by Coogan and his writing partner Henry Normal, according to producer John Heyman. Born in Cheltenham, Edwards was working as a plasterer when he qualified, entirely self-funded, for the 1988 Winter Olympics ski-jumping competition. Despite finishing last in both the 70 metre and 90 metre events, he rapidly became what Downey calls "a people's champion". "Eddie the Eagle achieved his hero status by turning conventional aspirations on their head," he continued.

The Cheltenham-born sportsman became a household name in 1988. "Although he never brought home a medal, he succeeded on a very personal, human level," said Coogan. The film has been in the works since 2000 when Edwards sold the rights to his story to an American production company. In a 2001 interview with the BBC Sports website, he joked that he hoped to be played by Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise.

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