STAN & OLLIE
How ambitious biopic Stan & Ollie breathes new life into comic legends Laurel & Hardy
Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly play the greatest comedy double act of them all: Stan Cannon and Ollie Ball.
IT’S A NEW TAKE
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 little-remembered 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 oé screen, you’d be wrong. “They liked each other but they didn’t socialise much,” says Steve Coogan. “They had diéerent 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.
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.