“Stan & Ollie” is about the late period in comedians Laurel and Hardy’s lives when they learned to love each other not just as performers, but as people. While filming the duo’s journey, stars John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan similarly became much closer.
“Off screen, he and I really developed a great friendship. And I’ll love Steve the rest of my life for going through this experience,” Reilly told TheWrap. “Going into the project, we were both very nervous and both felt under the gun. So he was my brother in this endeavor. Any accolades that I personally get, I of course, by definition, share with Steve because he was my partner in crime. My partner in clown!”
Reilly was just nominated for a Golden Globe for his work as Oliver Hardy in “Stan & Ollie.” In the film, he and Coogan portray the vaudeville comedians at a late point in their careers when they decided to embark on a stage tour to boost their reputation, despite Hardy’s failing health.
“It’s when they became really close as people as opposed to performers,” Reilly said. “They had been working together their whole lives. But it was those theatrical tours they did when they learned to really love each other as human beings.”
But while Laurel and Hardy had many short and feature films, both talkies and silents, this period of stage performances were not recorded. So Reilly and Coogan developed something of their own stage act based on the reports and documents about what those shows were like.
“It was very intimidating and those were some big shoes to fill, but I was like, this is what Stan and Ollie had to do,” Reilly said. “They didn’t know each other. They were thrown together, they had to create an act and they had to work really hard to make something look easy. So that’s what Steve and I did.”
While you might know Laurel and Hardy’s black-and-white visage of a skinny guy and fat man standing back to back, Reilly hopes his nomination spurs younger generations to look past the still image and actually rediscover their comedy.
“They deserve a place in the history of film. They have it, but hopefully young people will go back and check it out because it’s still funny.” Reilly said. “Not because I love their work or because I’m nostalgic for the 1930s, but because it’s still funny. It’s still laugh-out-loud funny, their work. They really figured out some secret to comedy, and if you spoke to anyone in the comedy world, they would all give major props to Laurel and Hardy, because they were so special and unique.”
“Stan & Ollie” opens in limited release on Dec. 28.