Scott Hamilton had a career on the ice that spanned decades, but he’s given up the skates for the entertainment side. The host of the 2006 Fox TV show Skating with Celebrities joins Will Ferrel and Jon Heder as a commentator in the figure skating comedy Blades of Glory out March 30th. Hamilton talks about this bizarre comedy, how cancer was the best and worst thing that happened to him, and saying absolutely not to Dancing with the Stars twice.
Listen to the Scott Hamilton CYInterview:
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Chris Yandek: Tell me about your role in Blades of Glory.
Scott Hamilton: “They approached me because they wanted to have a commentator that had a familiar voice that could ground the absurdity in some sort of bizarre legitimacy. They came to me and we talked for a couple of hours just about figure skating in general. It turned into the role of the commentator they wanted me to play that person. It’s kind of a version of myself I guess. It’s kind of their image of what I am. What we tried to do is do the skating sequences as if it were really an event. It was really funny because what’s happening on the ice is completely insane, absurd, and could never happen in the real world. It’s grounded and kind of a familiarity from what I’ve done the last five Olympics. It was a lot of fun. It’s ironic in one way that they do the end of the movie when they do credits they say Sasha Cohen was played by Sasha Cohen and I played sports anchor which I guess they said well it wasn’t really me. I guess I am a card carrying thespian now.”
CY: You say it’s insane and totally just out there. Give me a funny story from the set from Will Ferrell and Jon Heder.
SH: “Well, it’s just the whole movie of who they are, their characters, and how they’re at their level of skating in any way is just completely insane. Anything that makes sense or that is somewhat based on reality was kind of thrown out. The choreography for this movie was Sarah Kawahara who is my choreographer forever. Just to see what she was able to pull out of these actors was great. It’s a male male pair competing against male female pairs on the highest level of competition. All of it is so crazy and absurd that it will never happen in a million years and that’s why the comedy is so broad and funny because they created their own world.
When you see what they are doing on the ice and how they are skating and the technology that went behind it it’s awesome, it really holds it own. The guys did a great job and when you look at Will Ferrell being as tall as he is and his body style, you’d never accuse him of being a figure skater. To see them skate together was really fun.”
CY: Did you help Will Ferrell or Jon Heder with their skating training or give them any preparing tips for their roles?
SH: “No. I just told them the key to figure skating is it isn’t what you do so much, it’s what they think you do so good luck.”
CY: Be a judge for a moment and tell me how they did on their skates.
SH: “Well, again there is a lot of technology involved that made it look flawless. When you see it on screen you actually believe it’s them skating and they are through a lot of it. I don’t want to burst anybody’s bubble or break the spell that was cast by the directors. It’s just, one plays a shameless showman and one is more focused and disciplined and they don’t like each other at all period. They hate each other, but are forced to come together. That’s what makes it really funny.”
CY: It’s been 23 years since you won the gold medal at the 1984 Olympics. Can you take me back to that moment and what was going through your mind?
SH: “Just that I had waited a long time for that moment and I couldn’t have trained harder. When I stepped on that ice I knew there was no would’ve, could’ve, or should’ve. I trained as hard as I possibly could and I did everything to prepare for that moment so there were no regrets. As much as it wasn’t my strongest performance, I really felt I went in with a solid strategy and the strategy paid off and I was able to come away very happily with the gold medal. I hit my hardest jump and I held my own in the compulsory figures.
I won the compulsory figures by a lot which was my strategy going in. I had a guy named Brian Orser who was absolutely throwing down some phenomenal skating and another upcoming kid named Brian Boitano that pretty much made me decide that after that world championships three weeks after the Olympics that maybe it was time to turn professional. Now I am an entertainer. I think I made the right choice.”
CY: Your first time around working with celebrities on skates was the host of Skating with Celebrities on Fox. What do you think about that show looking back on it?
SH: “It was the most fun I ever had doing any kind of skating thing because again it wasn’t trying to be something it wasn’t. It was putting celebrities on the ice with world champion skaters and just seeing what they can do. It was fun just knowing all the skaters and getting to know some of the celebrities. I knew Bruce Jenner for a long time and I did everything I could to talk him out of it. There was no talking him out of it and I am glad I didn’t because he did a good job. John Zimmerman and Jillian Barberie did a great job and I thought their skating really stood up legitimately and the eventual winners Lloyd Eisner and Christy Swanson ended up starting a family together. The environment was a little unique, but it was really fun to see the skaters improve with their partners each week and to see the choreographers draw the best they could out of them. I enjoyed hosting it. I’d love to host something else.”
CY: Many athletes have participated so is there any chance we’ll see you on a similar show show in Dancing with the Stars?
SH: “Well, Dancing with the Stars came to me the first year and I said absolutely not. They came to me the second year and I said absolutely not and they kind of gave up after that so I don’t know. That be a tough one. As much as I am trading in some of my credibility on this movie, I don’t know if I am willing to go out there and do that whole ballroom dancing thing. That’s too big of a stretch for me. Here I am a figure skater saying that. You’ve got Emmitt Smith winning it last year so who am I?”
CY: Why do you feel some of the public doesn’t understand how intense the physical training preparation is for a program?
SH: “I think a lot of it is with skating is that you are trying to make something impossible look easy and once you accomplish that people don’t think it’s difficult anymore. Then you put people on the ice and you talk to Will, you talk to John, you talk to anybody, Will Arnett or Andy Poehlr, and they will tell you skating is really difficult especially if you can make it to Olympic or competition level skating. Talk to the Skating with Celebrities cast and they will tell you this is brutally difficult.
You can look at Bruce Jenner bruises and his sixteen stitches above his eye and when you are trying to force something to happen with little or no time with very little training, you realize just how much these skaters go through to prepare themselves for that level and you realize just how difficult skating can be.”
CY: You were very open about your battle with cancer back in 1997. What was going through your mind at the time?
SH: “In that time I was in a very specific moment of just wanting to get my life back and skating took care of it. I knew I wanted to be back at center ice next year and next season. That was my inspiration for doing everything I could to stay on schedule with the chemotherapy and to get through the surgery, to rehab properly, and to get back in shape. I did everything I possibly could to be there for the next season and I was able to do that. The next episode was the brain tumor I had six and a half years ago and that one was more like I really had a lot at stake now with my family. It really kind of grounded me in the sense of I really want to be here for my wife and my son and I really want to be an active participant in my family dynamic.
That pretty much took me off the ice more than the brain tumor did. In everyone’s life you are going to go through these kind of fork in the roads and you can decide exactly where it’s going to take you. For me there were specifics, the cancer was getting back to skating and the brain tumor was just participating with my family.”
CY: Was it the hardest part of your life even though you did your best to turn a negative into a positive?
SH: “I think the cancer is probably the best and worst thing that has ever happened to me. I speak a lot about it. I do a lot of public speaking addresses just looking at the different moments in your life and how you can interpret them. For me it took a while to get to that point to honestly look at my cancer experience and know that it was truly a blessing. It really put me in touch with part of my being that I never would’ve known existed had I not been diagnosed with cancer. Since then I think I have enjoyed life a lot more and I’ve been able to kind of role with it better than ever before.”
CY: Finally, what else are you up to today?
SH: “I was hanging with my son and was taking him to the zoo and then I forgot I had all these interviews. I got him home and he is settled and we are going to go out a little bit later this afternoon and do some really fun stuff. I am just trying to be a full time dad and am mixing in a lot of other things. I want to do more acting. I really enjoyed that process. I love doing good speaking and I’ve been stepping that up the last couple of years. Life is busy. I am traveling probably a little more than I want to. I like the participation and I like being involved in the community and the world as a community. Being a player in the cancer community has meant a great deal to me. I am trying to make that world a better place.”
Blades of Glory is in movie theaters nationwide March 30, 2007 staring Will Ferrell and John Feder. You can find more information about the movie at www.bladesofglorymovie.com.