Jeff Pope, who shared the Venice Film Festival best screenplay prize with his Philomena co-writer Steve Coogan, is prepping a biopic about legendary comedy duo Laurel and Hardy. The 90-minute TV movie Stan And Ollie will reteam Pope with Philomena distributor The Weinstein Co. It’s also a reteam for TWC with the BBC and UK production outfit Lookout Point (Ripper Street). The trio are collaborating on Stan And Ollie, and are already partnered on a six-part adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s War And Peace which signaled TWC’s serious push into the European TV arena when it was announced in October.
Stan And Ollie will center on Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy’s 1953 UK tour. At the time, the superstars, who had made 106 films together, were facing declining popularity and a series of personal issues. The UK tour was a redeeming success until Hardy was sidelined by a heart attack. When Laurel was offered the chance to go it alone, he refused and Hardy eventually roused himself for a few last, triumphant performances. He died shortly thereafter. Shane Allen, controller of BBC Comedy commissioning, calls Pope’s take a “love letter to two pioneers and enduring giants of screen comedy.” Cast and timetable are yet to come on the BBC In-House Comedy/BBC Worldwide/Lookout Point co-production for BBC One. The BBC’s Saurabh Kakkar, Lookout’s Simon Vaughan and TWC’s Harvey Weinstein are exec producers.