An­other Fine Mess

STAN & OL­LIE | Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly star in a heart­felt study of Lau­rel and Hardy…

Total Film - - Teasers - JF

I’m see­ing Mr. Scors­ese to­day,” Jon S. Baird tells Teasers from a New York ho­tel. This is a hum­ble­brag with a point – Baird’s new film Stan & Ol­lie opens with a bravura track­ing shot fol­low­ing leg­endary dou­ble act Lau­rel and Hardy through a Hol­ly­wood sound­stage dur­ing the shoot for Way Out West. “He saw the film a few weeks ago. I said, ‘You know where the first shot of the film is com­ing from?’ He gave a lit­tle chuckle, as if to say, ‘Yeah, you’re not the first to do that…’”

Scors­ese homages aside (Baird prom­ises a “sil­ver star” to the TF reader who spots the sec­ond), Stan & Ol­lie is no as­sem­bly line biopic. Fo­cus­ing on Stan Lau­rel and Oliver Hardy’s lit­tle-known live tour of Bri­tain in 1953, it’s a poignant pla­tonic love story be­tween two men in the twi­light of their ca­reers. “The film is called Stan & Ol­lie, be­cause we wanted to make a film about two friends who just hap­pened to be these icons,” says Baird. “There’s a real sad­ness to what hap­pens to these guys. They were ex­ploited by the stu­dio sys­tem. They’re fac­ing mor­tal­ity and try­ing to hold onto that thing they had in their youth.”

Pathos-fu­elled it may be, but no Lau­rel and Hardy film would be com­plete with­out a steady stream of chuck­les. En­ter Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly. The pair count Lau­rel and Hardy among their com­edy he­roes, and re­hearsed with a clown chore­og­ra­pher for three weeks to per­fect the duo’s stage rou­tines. “The first time [Steve and John] walked on set I didn’t watch the mon­i­tor, I watched the crew’s faces,” Baird re­calls. “I knew by the ex­pres­sions that they had got it, be­cause it was like watch­ing these ghosts ap­pear in the room.”

In a neat touch, Lau­rel and Hardy’s an­tics aren’t lim­ited to their stage per­for­mances, with sev­eral fa­mous skits bleed­ing into the pair’s ‘real’ lives. “That was some­thing we built into the script quite late,” says Baird, who worked from a script by Philom­ena’s Jeff Pope. “One of the most iconic mo­ments in a Lau­rel and Hardy movie is the pi­ano that falls down the stairs in The Mu­sic Box. So we built that into the sto­ry­line, and wrote around it.”

In a thrilling what-if? Baird also filmed a snip­pet of Lau­rel and Hardy’s fi­nal, un­made pic­ture – a Robin Hood fea­ture the pair were hop­ing to fi­nance with the Bri­tish tour. “There was a lot of pres­sure do­ing that, be­cause that’s when you re­ally have to get it right,” Baird ad­mits. “But it was great fun to do. Steve and John were get­ting very ex­cited about do­ing a real Lau­rel and Hardy film, and say­ing, ‘We should ac­tu­ally do this Robin Hood film. This should be the se­quel!’”

ETA | 11 JAN­UARY / STAN & OL­LIE OPENS NEXT YEAR, AND PRE­MIERES AT THE LON­DON FILM FES­TI­VAL ON 21 OC­TO­BER.

COMIC TIM­ING Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly play the leg­endary slap­stick stars.

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