SCOTTISH film-maker Jon S Baird is to team up with comedy favourite Steve Coogan and Hollywood star John C Reilly to make a biopic of the legendary double act Laurel and Hardy.
The Aberdeenshire-born director, who won widespread plaudits for bringing Irvine Welsh’s novel Filth to the big screen, will tell the story of the final troubled variety hall tour of the UK together in 1953.
The script for “Stan & Ollie” is to be penned by Jeff Pope, who won an Oscar nomination with Coogan for the screenplay of Philomena and produced by Faye Ward, who was behind the recent hit film Suffragette, which starred Carey Mulligan and Meryl Streep.
It will be Baird’s first major film since Filth, which saw James McAvoy play a crooked Edinburgh detective whose life spirals out of control.
His new feature will explore the relationship between Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy as they face dwindling audiences and problems with ill-health.
Reilly’s previous films include Boogie Nights, Magnolia, The Good Girl, Gangs of New York and Chicago.
Coogan first came to prominence as a voice artist on the satirical puppet show Spitting Image before winning the Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. He is arguably best known for comedy creation Alan Partridge, but has also starred in a number of films, including 24 Hour Party People, Around the World in 80 Days, The Look of Love and Philomena, which also earned him Bafta and Golden Globe nominations.
Baird, who along with Welsh is also attached to a new adaptation of Walter Scott’s novel Ivanhoe, said of Stan & Ollie: “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
Pope said: “Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are my heroes. 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.”
When the film was first announced in 2014, Baird said of the proposed story: “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.
“It also tells the story of their off-screen personas, which were quite different to what people would imagine knowing their on-screen ones.
The BBC is co-producing the film, which is being backed by national arts agency Creative Scotland, the BFI and Film4.
Christine Langan, head of BBC Films, said: “John C Reilly and SteveCoogan 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.
“With Faye Ward producing and Jon Baird at the helm, BBC Films is extremely excited to crank up production of this gem in 2016.”