Two movies from Sony Pictures Classics presented at today’s The Contenders LA at the DGA Theater reflect radically different worlds but have in common the challenge of being based on real-life events.
Actor John C. Reilly joined Deadline’s Pete Hammond to discuss the daunting challenge of portraying larger-than-life comedy star Oliver Hardy in Stan & Ollie alongside Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel, directed by John S. Baird from a script by Jeff Pope.
Hammond started off by joking with the audience: “So good to be in a room where I don’t have to explain who Laurel & Hardy are. Thank you for being old.”
Then Reilly joined him to talk about the hard work involved in creating the character underneath the fat suit and makeup that required two hours a day to get into and 45 minutes to remove. “He was a big guy his whole life, [but] he looked like a fat little baby all his life,” Reilly said. “He was always up.” He said the look was designed to create that kind of sunshine, not what 300 pounds might look like “after 30 years of gravity.”
Reilly said the overall mission of the movie was “to move people, to tell a great story, to remind people of the legacy of these two guys.” Stan & Ollie, he said, tells the story of the end of a legendary career for a pair that were “the biggest stars in the world” in the 1930s but who began to lose their luster after World War II.
“The world just seemed like such a cruel place,” Reilly said. “Suddenly these sweet clowns didn’t make any sense anymore.”
Reilly said he still laughs out loud when he watches Laurel and Hardy on the screen but admitted that watching Stan & Ollie brought tears to his eyes. “I cried more at the premiere than at any movie I’ve ever been in.”
Moving to the contemporary world, Sony Classics’ The Rider goes even further into re-creating real life: It stars real people as themselves. The film’s director Chloé Zhao talked with Deadline senior editor Dominic Patten about what drew an urban woman, raised in Beijing and educated in New York, to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota to tell the story of young cowboy Brady Jandreau, a rising star on the rodeo circuit who is warned that he should no longer compete after a riding accident. Jandreau stars as himself, and his autistic sister Lilly Jandreau also appears as herself in the film.
“I grew up cities,” Zhao said, “and I always felt like something is missing.“
So when it came time to make a film, “I knew it was not in New York. … Maybe when people get lost, they go west.”
The director explained that he she met Brady Jandreau before his accident. She knew she wanted to make a movie with him, but the accident gave her the story.
Zhao has been tapped to direct Marvel’s upcoming film The Eternals. Patten jokingly asked if we could expect to find Marvel shooting in Pine Ridge. “You have to get a ticket and see it,” Zhao quipped.