‘Eddie the Eagle’s Screenwriter Picks His 10 Favorite Underdog Sports Films of All Time

02.25.16 12 months ago

'Eddie the Eagle' tells the story of Britain”s first Olympic ski jumper, Eddie Edwards, a lowly plasterer with Coke-bottle glasses who beat the odds to fulfill his dream of competing at the 1988 Winter Olympics.

When I was first approached in 2002 about writing the screenplay of his life, I knew instantly it would make a great movie. (What I didn”t know was that it would have been quicker to train and go the Olympics myself, but that”s another story. “Two underdogs. One dream. 1,207 drafts…”) As madcap as Eddie”s real life exploits were, they still contained the core ingredients of any classic underdog sports movie: determined misfit, scant resources, whacky training methods, sporting authorities out to stop him at every turn, and – of course – a heart-tugging triumphant ending even though he came last in both events.

The only thing missing from his amazing journey was that beloved staple of the genre, the grizzled, curmudgeonly coach – the more hard-drinking, the better. Enter Bronson Peary (played by Hugh Jackman), our fictionalized former Olympic jumper, whom Eddie badgers into helping him achieve his Olympic dream.

In reality, Eddie was helped by a succession of fellow jumpers and coaches. In Lake Placid, he got free tuition from two kind-hearted locals, Chuck Berghorn and John Viscome. Results were limited given Eddie”s late starting age of 22. “You couldn't really teach him anything,” admitted Berghorn, but they admired his guts. Later, when Eddie gatecrashed around the Europe jumping circuit, he cadged advice from a whole string of folks in the jumping community. All of which was no help for a movie version, so Peary and his whiskey flask sprang to life in part as an homage to the glorious booze-swilling figures from the 70s sports movies I grew up loving so much.
Here then, to repay the debt, are some of my favorite films from the underdog hall of fame. 

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