THE Scottish film director best known for adapting Irvine Welsh’s novel Filth for the big screen has chosen to tell the story of Laurel and Hardy for his next project.
Jon S Baird, from Peterhead, will direct the as-yet-unnamed film by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Jeff Pope, based around the comic duo’s farewell tour of Britain in 1953.
“It’s really a love story between two guys who come to realise they can’t live without each other. It’s a really, really beautiful tale,” Baird told Scotland on Sunday.
“It also tells the story of their off-screen personas, which were quite different to what people would imagine knowing their on-screen ones.
“Stan was very much the driving force, Ollie was more relaxed, he just loved golfing and betting on the horses. Once he’d finish for the day, he’d be off, and though he would be consulted on the script ideas when they were rehearsing, he didn’t write the stuff, Stan wrote everything, I think he was a real tortured genius.
“So, Stan Laurel was particularly different from his on-screen persona, and that was the thing I found really fascinating when I started reading the script.”
The successful UK tour came as Laurel and Hardy were losing their big screen appeal, and was a bid to revive their careers. But it ended when Hardy had a heart attack.
Baird was speaking ahead of the Bafta Scotland awards tonight at which he will find out how his latest film Filth fares.
Based on the Irvine Welsh novel of the same name, and starring Scots star James McAvoy as a corrupt cop, Filth has received three nominations in Best Film, Best Actor and Best Director categories.
Baird and McAvoy will be attending the event at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Glasgow tonight.
Baird said that going from the hard-edged, black satire of Filth to the sepia-tinted world of Laurel and Hardy was a deliberate decision. “I never ever wanted to get pigeon-holed as the guy who just does Irvine Welsh movies, though I am looking at working with him again definitely,” he said.
Though they were at the peak of their popularity before the television era, Laurel and Hardy remain one of the best known comedy acts of the 20th century, with fan clubs around the world devoted to them to this day
Baird has just returned from talks in Los Angeles with two “very high level” Hollywood stars to take the lead roles in the new film. Though he declined to name them, he said: “We’re talking to our first choices. Put it like this: it’s not Cannon and Ball.”
The director also insisted he would be looking to film north of the Border. “I would love to shoot it in Scotland, because the experience I had while shooting Filth,” he said.
Laurel and Hardy’s connection to Scotland has been well-documented. Laurel moved to Rutherglen as a boy and began his theatrical career, working in the box office of Glasgow’s Metropole Theatre, of which his father, Arthur Jefferson, was the manager.
Laurel gave his first professional performance on stage at the Panopticon on Glasgow’s High Street. The theatre still exists to this day and hosts regular gatherings of the local Sons of the Desert Laurel and Hardy fan club.