A pair of actors have been chosen to step into the massive shoes of legendary comedy duo Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, best known simply as Laurel and Hardy, in a movie about the pair titled Stan & Ollie.
Laurel is set to be played by Steve Coogan, best known for his work on Philomena (for which he scored two Academy Award nominations), Alan Partridge, Tropic Thunder, the Night at the Museum movies, and more. He was recently seen in the short-lived Showtime series Happyish. Hardy will be played by John C. Reilly, who is best known for his roles first in dramas like Chicago (for which he was nominated for an Oscar), Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and Gangs of New York, and then comedies like Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Step Brothers, and Wreck-It Ralph. He was also seen in a smaller role in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.
Stan & Ollie will be directed by Jon S. Baird, who previously directed Cass, Filth, and an episode of the upcoming new HBO series from Terence Winter and Martin Scorsese, Vinyl, from a screenplay penned by Jeff Pope, whose shared a writing Oscar nomination with Coogan for Philomena. The movie was developed by BBC Films, and will be produced by Faye Ward and her Fable Pictures.
Of the casting announcement, Ward said:
“I feel privileged to have been entrusted to bring to screen the magnificent lives and work of comedy legends, Laurel and Hardy,” said Faye Ward, who most recently also produced the well-received Suffragette starring Carey Mulligan and Meryl Streep. “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.”
With Baird adding:
“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.”
Screenwriter Pope also spoke on the news, saying:
“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.”
And finally BBC Films head Christine Langan said:
“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.”
Stan & Ollie will follow Laurel and Hardy in their later years, as a world-famous comedy duo on a variety hall tour across Britain in 1953 long past their best years. Attendance is low for the shows at first, but as they continue to do what they do best, they re-connect with old fans and gain new ones as the tour becomes a hit. But their past and Ollie’s failing health become a problem that could threaten their longtime partnership, and they’re left trying to rediscover how much they mean to each other as the end potentially approaches.