Steve Coogan will star in Eddie The Eagle as the eponymous British ski-jumper whose last place ranking in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary endeared him to tens of thousands of fans and came to epitomise British eccentricity and spirit.

Producers John Heyman and Rupert Maconick are lining up a January 2008 shoot in time to release next year to mark the 20th anniversary of Eagle's - real name Michael Edwards - Gold medal bid. Heyman and World Film Services are financing.

Declan Lowney, whose credits include UK TV hits Father Ted, Cold Feet, Little Britain, and Help, will direct.

Edwards was a plasterer from a working class family in Cheltenham who self-funded his sporting aspirations and traveled in a jalopy to European competitions after he was blocked by the British sporting establishment.

He suffered a fear of heights and was so far-sighted that he had to wear glasses beneath his trademark pink goggles, which often fogged up and made it hard for him to see as he soared through the sky.

With the assistance of his self-styled coach, who was in fact a snow groomer by trade, Edwards qualified for the Calgary Games and gained a cult following due to his unorthodox 'arm-flapping' technique, never-say-die attitude, and self-deprecating humour.

'Eddie the Eagle achieved his hero status by turning conventional aspirations on their head,' Lowney said. 'He became the people's champion through his determination to achieve his mad dreams. This human emotion will strike a chord with audiences everywhere. Like Eddie once said, 'There's a little bit of Eddie the Eagle in all of us.''

'I'm very excited at the prospect of playing Eddie Edwards,' Coogan said. 'His story is a very British story and he is a very British kind of hero. Although he never brought home a medal he succeeded on a very personal, human level. He may not have impressed the Olympic judges but he won the hearts of people round the world. When I read the story I found it funny but more surprisingly quite moving.

'It's brilliant,' Edwards said. 'I can't think of a better comedic actor to bring my story to the big screen'.

Sean Macaulay wrote the screenplay from an original draft by Simon Kelton.