EXCLUSIVE: Here’s a mouth-watering development: Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly have come on-board Jon S. Baird’s Stan & Ollie to star as comic geniuses Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy respectively. The inspired casting will see Coogan and Reilly portraying both the highs and lows of the iconic Laurel & Hardy, one of comedy’s all-time great double acts.
Faye Ward’s Fable Pictures will produce the film, which was developed by BBC Films. Penned by award-winning screenwriter Jeff Pope (Philomena) whose Sonesa Films banner is also on-board to produce, and directed by Jon S. Baird (Vinyl, Filth), Stan & Ollie celebrates the duo’s unique friendship and legendary working partnership. In a major coup for producer Faye Ward and her relatively new banner Fable Pictures, the rights to the work of Laurel and Hardy has been licensed by Larry Harmon Pictures Corporation.
The film will focus on the now-legendary 1953 tour embarked on by the ageing duo. Once the world’s favourite comedy double act, but now diminished by age and their golden era a distant memory, Laurel & Hardy set out on a variety hall tour of Britain in 1953. As they set out, crisscrossing the country, attendances are disappointingly low. But they’ve always been able to make each other laugh and as the charm and beauty of their performances shines through their audiences laugh too, and they re-connect with legions of adoring fans, old and new.The tour becomes a hit, but Laurel & Hardy can’t quite shake the spectre of Stan and Ollie’s past; and long buried ghosts, coupled with Oliver’s failing health, start to threaten their precious partnership. A portrait of the most tender and poignant of creative marriages begins to unfold as the duo, aware that they may be approaching their swan song, try to rediscover just how much they mean to each other.
“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.”
“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,” said Jon S. Baird, who most recently directed James MacAvoy-starrer Filth and has a number of buzzy projects in development, including an Ivanhoe adaptation with Irvine Welsh that Basil Iwanyk is producing.
“Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are my heroes,” said Jeff Pope, who won awards and acclaim for his Philomena screenplay. “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.”
“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,” said BBC Films head honcho Christine Langan. “With Faye Ward producing and Jon Baird at the helm, BBC Films is extremely excited to crank up production of this gem in 2016.”
The film will be a Fable Pictures and Sonesta Films production, produced by Faye Ward and exec produced by Christine Langan and Nichola Martin for BBC Films, as well as Jeff Pope for Sonesta Films and Gabrielle Tana.
Steve Coogan is repped by Independent Talent Group and CAA. John C. Reilly is repped by WME and Framework Entertainment.
Ward is emerging as one of the UK’s most interesting producers. In addition to Suffragette, she is also prepping Country Music , with rising star Karen Gillan attached to play a young singer from Glasgow who dreams of making it to Nashville. Nicole Taylor (The C Word) has written the script with Dominic Cooke (Hollow Point) set to make his feature directorial debut with the project. The BFI, Creative Scotland and Film4 are financing. Eugenio Perez is co-producing.