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Steve Coogan and John C Reilly to play Laurel & Hardy

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In news that might have Rob Brydon feeling a pang of jealousy, Steve Coogan is to star as Stan Laurel alongside John C Reilly as Oliver Hardy for a new BBC film.

Directed by Jon S Baird (Filth), Stan & Ollie, focusing on the slapstick duo's final tour in 1953, which saw them play a series of UK variety halls, shines a light on the duo’s sometimes fractious off-stage relationship as they come to terms with ill-health, poor ticket sales and looming fact their careers were almost over.

Aptly, Laurel, like Coogan, was a Lancashire lad, born in Ulverston before emigrating to the US and famously joining forces with Hardy to become one of the world’s most beloved slapstick acts. Hardy eventually died four years after that twilight tour at the age of 65, and Laurel died four years after that aged 74.

Speaking of the project, writer Jeff Pope, who worked with Coogan on Oscar-nominated Philomena, said:

"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. The research into this story threw up so many details and facts that I had no idea about. But everything I have done has come from a place of love and more than anything else I hope this shines through.”

Echoing those sentiments, Head of BBC Films Christine Langan said Coogan and Reilly were "dream casting" to portray the "genius creative marriage" of the pair.

Shame we won't hear either man doing Michael Caine impressions over a trifle. But then you can't have everything.

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