Spotlight distrib eOne has moved decisively to take Laurel and Hardy dramedy Stan and Ollie off the table by agreeing to co-finance the Steve Coogan-John C. Reilly pic, handle sales and distribute in its territories. eOne will co-finance the film with BBC Films. It looks like a canny move by the Canadian mini-major, which has a strong 2016 line-up of films after a more modest 2015. The company is enjoying success with Spotlight, which it handled international sales on and distributed in the UK. It also beat out fierce competition to land George Clooney’s Suburbicon for the UK in what was the most in-demand title at Berlin this year.

“We are thrilled to be teaming up with Faye Ward and BBC Films on this endearing film,” said eOne Features president Xavier Marchand.

Ward’s Fable Pictures is producing Stan and Ollie, 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 (VinylFilth), Stan & Ollie celebrates the duo’s unique friendship and legendary working partnership. In a major coup for producer Ward and her relatively new banner, 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. Criss-crossing the country, they encounter disappointingly small crowds. 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.

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 and dynamic 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.

In January, eOne announced it was acquiring a minority stake in Nick Meyer’s Sierra Pictures, which repped both its own and eOne’s slate at the EFM in Berlin.. As part of the agreement, Sierra will handle international sales and distribution of films produced and acquired by eOne Features — as well as eOne-distributed films from the Mark Gordon Company.