It happens very rarely, but when inspired casting and beloved subject matter coincide, something very special is created. Such is the case with the upcoming film project Stan And Ollie, which has just found its two leads in the form of Academy Award nominees Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly. Meeting the legendary pair in their later years, the film will centre on their 1953 tour of the UK, during which the stars each met challenges head-on, and reaffirmed one of the most iconic partnerships in entertainment history.
UK born Stan Laurel and US born Oliver Hardy were both well-established contract players in their own right when they first collaborated onscreen in the 1927 silent short film, Putting Pants On Philip. They remained in partnership at Hal Roach film studios until 1940, when they began to work together with other production companies. Their final feature length film was titled Atoll K, which was made in 1951, and capped a prolific onscreen artistic relationship that ultimately delivered over 100 productions.
With Steve Coogan in the role of Stan Laurel, and John C. Reilly in the role of Oliver Hardy, Stan And Ollie will be directed by Jon S. Baird (Vinyl, Filth), who expressed his excitement at taking the helm of the project.
“Like so many others I grew up watching Laurel & Hardy and I’m therefore honoured to help bring this incredible true story of love, laughter and friendship to the big screen.”
The script comes from Jeff Pope, who previously co-wrote Philomena with Steve Coogan, and who has endeavoured to create a balanced view of the pair, despite the fact that the comedy icons remain his heroes.
“Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are my heroes. When I watch their movies, in my head it is forever a Saturday morning and I am six years old watching the TV at home utterly spellbound. I am aware of the huge responsibility of bringing their characters to life, but I have not treated the boys with kid gloves or looked at them through rose coloured specs. They are living and breathing characters, with flaws and shortcomings. The research into this story threw up so many details and facts that I had no idea about. But everything I have done has come from a place of love and more than anything else I hope this shines through.”
Producer Faye Ward is especially enamoured of the newly announced casting of the two leads, and explained her hopes for introducing Laurel and Hardy to a new generation.
“I feel privileged to have been entrusted to bring to screen the magnificent lives and work of comedy legends, Laurel and Hardy. It is incredibly exciting to be working with such a fantastic and collaborative team. Steve and John are a dream partnership and with Jon directing Jeff’s moving and affectionate screenplay, I know this will be a film to treasure for fans both old and new.”
Stan and Ollie was originally developed by the BBC, and Christine Langan expressed her excitement on behalf of the broadcaster.
“John C Reilly and Steve Coogan are dream casting for Stan & Ollie, bringing to life with uncanny accuracy and irresistible gusto the genius creative marriage that Jeff Pope’s script explores so lovingly. With Faye Ward producing and Jon Baird at the helm, BBC Films is extremely excited to crank up production of this gem in 2016.”
While biographical films are familiar stomping ground for the mainstream film machine, Stan and Ollie has more than enough potential to stand out from that crowd. The extraordinary artists that are its subject matter are international icons – bringing together both the United Kingdom and the United States – and this film will hopefully bring fans across generations together, too. Statements suggest that the screenplay is highly noteworthy, so the pressure will be on the two lead actors to live up to expectation, and deliver a pitch perfect rendering of the comic genius of Laurel and Hardy.