How am­bi­tious biopic Stan & Ol­lie breathes new life into comic leg­ends Lau­rel & Hardy

Empire (Australasia) - - Contents - IAN FREER

Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly play the great­est com­edy dou­ble act of them all: Stan Can­non and Ol­lie Ball.


Stan & Ol­lie is not a womb-to-tomb ha­giog­ra­phy. “We had to throw out some of the biopic clichés,” says John C. Reilly, who plays Oliver Hardy. “What can’t you find out about these two on Wikipedia?” In­stead, Jon S. Baird’s (Filth) film fo­cuses on the dou­ble act’s lit­tlere­mem­bered 1950s tour of the UK’S mu­sic halls and the­atres dur­ing the twi­light of their ca­reers, giv­ing the film­mak­ers a lens to ex­am­ine the part­ner­ship. “I thought it was a re­ally in­ter­est­ing take, be­cause peo­ple won’t be ex­pect­ing that,” says Baird. “They will be ex­pect­ing the slap­stick. Hence why we called the film Stan & Ol­lie. It was more about be­hind the scenes than their film char­ac­ters.”

IT Busts Myths

If you be­lieved the pair were best buds off screen, you’d be wrong. “They liked each other but they didn’t so­cialise much,” says Steve Coogan. “They had dif­fer­ent tastes. It was only when they toured across the UK in the ’50s that they be­came close. They got to know each other af­ter they were fa­mous.” In this sense, Stan & Ol­lie re­veals some­thing la­tent in the 30-year part­ner­ship: it be­comes a love story.

it’s cin­e­matic

Baird didn’t want to make a bog-stan­dard pe­riod biopic. Stan & Ol­lie opens with a lengthy bravura Good­fel­las-es­que Steadicam shot, fol­low­ing the char­ac­ters through a Hol­ly­wood stu­dio onto set. “It took 18 takes,” laughs Baird. “We shot that in Pinewood on a Sun­day be­cause Star Wars had all the stages. The weather fore­cast was ter­ri­ble but as soon as we started shoot­ing the sun came out. The film gods were on our side that day.” An­other fine mess avoided.


Em­pire vis­ited the set of Stan & Ol­lie at Twick­en­ham Stu­dios in April 2017. Com­edy gold: Stan Lau­rel (Steve Coogan) and Oliver Hardy (John C. Reilly) with Hal Roach (Danny Hus­ton), who cre­ated the duo.

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