Ahead of its DVD release, Express.co.uk spoke to screenwriter Jeff Pope about working on the highly regarded biopic. Stan & Ollie stars Steve Coogan and John C Reilly as the iconoclastic comedy duo, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. The film begins in 1937, laying the groundwork for when the story really picks up – in 1953 when the double-act decided to undertake a UK tour to reinvigorate their careers. Through ill health, cantankerous moods, and varying degrees of success, the pair have remained one of the most influential comedians to this day. Screenwriter Jeff Pope said: “Although they have faded from their heyday, Laurel and Hardy are still just as relevant now as they ever were.
“Both Steve and John cite them as influences on their work and I don’t believe there is a comedian working today who is not inspired by them, or in some way consciously or sub-consciously channeling their genius.
“They were the most perfectly formed characters, the most perfectly complete double act.”
In addition to being wholly complete for storytelling, the double act had an extensive story to tell. Pope had to be selective about what made it to the big screen.
His process was “to delve into the subject as deeply and comprehensively as possible – which takes in books, interviews, documentary footage, Movietone reels, archives and so on.
“In the case of Stan & Ollie, it was about picking the right part of their lives to focus on so that I was not trying to cram too much in and therefore only skimming through their lives.
“I realised that this last tour was in many ways a microcosm of their whole time together, it was a prism through which I could tell their story of their relationship on and off the screen.”
One of the moments which didn’t make it into the movie was Ollie’s death in 1957.
Though his death undeniably impacted Stan, Pope said: “I knew very early on in the writing process that the endpoint I was aiming for was a caption, which told the audience that after Ollie died Stan still spent all his time writing Laurel and Hardy sketches.
“I think that tells us everything we need to know about how much they meant to each other.”
Both Reilly and Coogan were nominated for awards – Reilly was nominated for a Best Actor Golden Globe, and Coogan won the BAFTA for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
Pope is working with Coogan again on another true story, this time one much more contemporary in a way.
“I am working again with Steve Coogan on the true story of how an ordinary Edinburgh housewife discovered the long lost body of King Richard III, missing for more than five hundred years, under a car park in Leicester.”
Pope said of working with Coogan in particular: “Steve likes to work on scenes right up until the last moment, to try and wring every last drop of emotion or drama from them, which is a very stimulating way of working.
“He was able to totally master Stan Laurel’s voice and physical mannerisms, but then threw all that away so that his performance became purely about the story and what Stan was going through, rather than being just an impersonation.”
The movie was called “simply terrific” by Lindsey Bahr of the associated press, and in no short order due to the triumphant acting of Reilly and Coogan.
You can watch Stan & Ollie now on digital download and on DVD on June 3, 2019.
*The clip used is from the extra bonus features you from the iTunes director’s commentary exclusive. This bonus footage is not included in the DVD release.
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