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'Cool Runnings': An oral history

Jon Turteltaub first heard the story of the 1988 Olympic Jamaican bobsled team when he was in film school. “We all thought that was both hilarious and sort of indicative of what the Olympics was all about,” Turteltaub said. “In some ways it was looked at as a joke, and in other ways, it was looked at as a very inspiring little anecdote that made the whole Olympics have more character.” Less than five years later, Turteltaub would get a call from his agent about a new opportunity.

Disney was making a film about the Jamaican bobsled team’s story, and Turteltaub was in need of a gig. “I needed a job. This script was just sitting out there, and they weren’t sure whether they were making it or not. My agent sent it to me, and said, ‘Remember when you were the flavor of the month? Your month is over. Do this movie.'” Just like that, Turteltaub agreed to audition for the job, which he would later get. “When I first got the job to do the movie, I called my mother and I told her the big news that I finally got hired by a real movie studio to direct a movie and that I was going to Calgary for two months and then to Jamaica for a month. The first words out of her mouth were, ‘How do you pack for that?’ So that was my welcome to show business.”

Now, more than 20 years later, Turteltaub is not only accustomed to the world of show business, but he’s yet to stop hearing about that Disney film he created all those years ago. And in honor of the 2014 Winter Olympics — and the similar story behind this year’s Jamaican bobsled team, who will start competing in the 2014 Winter Olympics on Sunday — EW is looking back at the 1993 film about the Jamaican team that could. As the saying goes, “Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme, get on up, it’s bobsled time!”

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