Search:  
Rupert Grint Press Archives

Eddie The Eagle Talks Rupert Grint!

Goodbye to groupies, hello plastic surgery… Meet the all-new Eddie the Eagle

Goodness. What has Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards done with his Olympic spirit?

For a minute it’s starting to sound as if he’s packed it away with his Mr Magoo glasses, all those ‘hardly worn’ ski-suits and the medal he got for taking part in the most famous games on earth.

As the next generation of Olympic hopefuls take to the slopes in Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Games this weekend, he’s back home in Britain, in a not dissimilar climate.

We have been discussing our very own oddly Arctic conditions and I assume he’s spent the past few months flinging himself from great snowy heights, possibly to Mrs Eddie Edwards’s great irritation. Not so, apparently.

‘We live in Stroud, in the valley, so yes, there has been some great snow. My wife keeps looking out, saying: “Why don’t you go and have a ski today?” I say: “it would be’ nice, but…” ‘

But what? ‘Well, I could start at the top of the common and ski all the way down into Stroud, which is a mile and a half, but then I’d have to walk all the way back up again, wouldn’t I? If I feel like a ski, I’d sooner go to the artificial slope in Gloucester, because then I can get the lift back up.

‘Once I was out at the slope every night. Now, not so much. I’ve got mortgages, two little girls, my wife. I mostly ski for promotional stuff, just a quick down-the-slope for the cameras.’

It’s more than 20 years since Eddie stood atop a ski-slope in Calgary in a borrowed ski-suit and battered skis but with the hopes – and astonishment – of the nation on his shoulders.

Of course, he came last, and by some margin, but could anyone else have come last with such aplomb?

Today, Eddie remains one of our best-loved Olympians, up there with Sir Steve Redgrave in terms of affection, if not sporting prowess.

People do insist on remembering him as our greatest-ever loser, but as he points out: ‘How can I be the loser when I’m the one who is remembered. How many people actually know who won the gold?”

Well, the name – and his image, hurtling down that slope, glasses steamed up to the point that he couldn’t see – may be unforgettable, but the face is no longer recognisable.

The man who greets me at the door doesn’t look anything like Eddie the Eagle and confirms he is Eddie only after I tell him who I am.

If I were not a journalist, he would be ‘Michael’, which is his real name (‘Well Michael the Eagle wouldn’t have worked, would it?’ he points out, helpfully), and the one he uses with clients.

Many, it seems, don’t actually know they are having their loft extensions done by a bona fide Olympic hero, and it’s not just down to the fact that he pitches up for work in overalls, rather than salopettes.

Physically he’s undergone a transformation. A few years back he had an operation to reset that famously prominent lower jaw, after his dentist convinced him there really was no need to go through life unable to chew properly (‘I had to tear like this rather than bite like this,’ he says, demonstrating nimbly on a teacake).

Those bottle-bottom glasses are also long gone. A company specialising in laser surgery offered him free treatment, on account of his celebrity, and he was, again, happy to oblige.

‘I’ve kept them, though, and I will put them on if people want it. People expect to see me in them. It’s daft really, because I can’t see through them, but, I don’t like to disappoint.’

He seems to have acquired a taste for self-improvement. Later this year, he tells me with a grin, he is off to Budapest to get his teeth ‘done’.

Somehow Eddie’s face – open, regular, balanced – now fits his personality. He’s not quite as kooky or as vacant as his features once seemed to suggest. And with teeth the colour of snowcaps, he’ll be positively dashing.

I tell him if he were an Olympic competitor today, he would be fighting the women off. He giggles, and says he always was, even with the glasses.

‘Yeah, yeah, I had a number of marriage proposals, all that stuff. Women used to write to me and say: “If you are ever in the Birmingham area, pop over.” Weird. Sadly my sister used to run my fan club, so I never saw a lot of those. She whisked them out!

‘There were also a lot of women in nightclubs when I was doing personal appearances. That was crazy. Before, I’d never once talked to a woman in a nightclub. It just wouldn’t have happened.

I’d always been able to ski up to them on a ski-slope – I was always more confident there – but in a bar, never. Suddenly, they were approaching ME.’

He shakes his head and takes a schlurp of tea. At the risk of being intrusive, did he partake?

‘Not as much as I should have done,’ he grins. ‘I had a girlfriend at the time of the Olympics and when that ended, I did have a few one-night stands, but maybe five, tops, in all that time.

‘Not that I even saw them as onenight stands. They were always girls I would have seen again, if I hadn’t heading off to do another PR appearance. I think I always had too much respect for them to be a love-’em-andleaveem type.’ And he wonders why some never considered him a proper sporting legend?

He met his wife Sam while working as a part-time radio presenter and, bizarrely enough, studying for a law degree. She was his co-presenter.

They married in Vegas in 2003, in a drive-through ceremony at the Little White Wedding Chapel. Clearly, by then, Eddie had developed a taste for the glitz.

‘She knew all about me, but I think she was relieved to find out that I wasn’t the sort of person people assume I must be.’

The myth always was that Eddie the Eagle was a joke, a geeky nobody from a country with no snow who somehow tricked his way into the Olympics and wasn’t found out until he was at the top of a ski-slope, with the eyes of the world on him.

It wasn’t quite that far-fetched, of course. Eddie had started skiing at the age of 13, on a school trip and had been good enough to compete internationally. Desperate to compete in the Olympics, he switched to the less-crowded sport of ski-jumping, despite the fact that there were, er, no ski jumps in Britain.

He first represented Great Britain at the 1987 World Championships, on account of the fact that there was no one else, and was ranked 55th in the world. This performance qualified him, as the sole British applicant, for the 1988 Winter Olympics ski-jumping competition.

Aware early on in Calgary that his novelty could make him some money – he had no sponsorship and couldn’t afford ski boots, hence the famous six pairs of socks inside his borrowed ones – he decided to indulge the British Press.

‘The interest started building about this mad Brit, so I made a big deal about being scared at the top of that big slope. It was true. I defy anyone up there and not terrified, but the point is I wasn’t scared enough to stop doing it.’

He was an overnight media star, all the more so when he arrived for his first press conference and found his way barred by a security guard.

‘He said: “You don’t look like an Olympic athlete,” and wouldn’t let me in. The media loved that.’

After Calgary, Eddie the Eagle was suddenly big business. There were international appearances, including one on the Johnny Carson show.

He says he was never proud. He dressed up as a chicken for a promotional job, because the client hadn’t been able to find an eagle costume. ‘Once I was making £10,000 for an hour’s work, but there have been years where my promotional stuff has brought in only a few hundred. I’m not daft. I always say my first job is my building trade. The rest comes and goes.’

And how. It continues to irk that, despite regarding himself as a particularly canny person, he was declared bankrupt in 1992. He blamed those who ran a trust fund on his behalf, claiming mismanagement meant money which should have been set aside for tax was not, meaning he could not meet the taxman’s bill.

Furious, he set about suing his trustees for negligence, and eventually reaching an out-of-court settlement. ‘I only got back maybe 30 per cent of the money but it was the principle that was important,’ he says. ‘What really peeved me, was I knew people would be thinking: “Oh, he is a loser with money as well as in sport.” It just wasn’t the case.’

What’s remarkable is he went back to school to fight this case, taking first GCSEs and A-levels, then a law degree. That shows doggedness, I venture. ‘Oh yes. When I want to do something I will get my head down and get on with it. I’ve always been like that.’

How his stubbornness must have dismayed the sports industry bigwigs, whom, he claims, ‘still hate me’. ‘They are still embarrassed by me. They say it wasn’t right that a guy who came 58th should get more attention than the guy who won the event. They thought I was making a mockery of the sport, bringing it into disrepute.’

Still, he travelled to Winnipeg last month to carry the Olympic torch for the opening ceremony of these games. Surely wounds had healed?

‘No, it was the Canadian tourist authorities who invited me to do that. I’m still persona non grata with the Olympic ones, and the British Ski Federation for that matter. That makes it all the better when I get invited to do these things. It’s another stick in their ribs to say: ‘I’m still around, you can’t get rid of me.’

And he really isn’t going to go away. Indeed, the Eddie The Eagle story could soon be brought to the big screen, starring Rupert Grint, who plays Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter films. ‘He can’t start filming until he is clear of his Harry Potter commitments, and with everything I won’t believe it until it actually happens, but I’m quite excited,’ says Eddie.

‘The script is about more than just laughing at me. It’s looking at what I did, and what it meant. It’s about life as well as the Olympics.

‘Is it all about winning? Of course not. Even today, I always say it was never about medals. I don’t even have my participation medal on display. My gold medal was the taking part, and that will never leave me.’

And it helps, presumably, that Rupert Grint is a genuine heartthrob, almost handsome, in a certain snow-bright light? ‘Oh yes,’ he laughs. ‘That is most excellent casting.’


Original article found here at Daily Mail I February 12, 2010

View The Next Article