Today in perfect casting news, Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly will take on legendary comedy duo Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy in a new biopic. An item from Deadline indicates that the pair will star in Stan & Ollie, a chronicle of a late-phase tour undertaken by the reedy Brit and corpulent American. With Filth director Jon S. Baird on board at the helm and a script from Philomena writer Jeff Pope, the film would take an atypical approach to the traditional biopic form; instead of running through the greatest hits of early cinema’s comedic titans, perhaps showing how they found their signature bowler hats and came up with their classic “Cuckoo Song,” the film follows the men as they grapple with their own decline into irrelevance. The plot summary included with the Deadline piece marries wistful sadness with the comedy for which they are known:
The film will focus on the now-legendary 1953 tour embarked on by the aging duo. Once the world’s favorite 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. As they set out, crisscrossing the country, attendances are disappointingly low. 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 vague outline of the film brings up memories of Mike Leigh’s Topsy-Turvy, a Gilbert and Sullivan biopic more interested in the tricky dynamics of creative collaboration than tracking the men’s individual lives. Coogan and Reilly have both given complexly prickly performances in the past, and they could capture the fraught relationship between the men with believable maturity. With any luck, we’d have another End of the Tour on our hands.