'Stan & Ollie,' an intimate portrait of comedic genius
NEW YORK - AFP
They hung up their bowler hats decades ago, but Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy remain cinema's most iconic comic duo, with a unique chemistry explored in a new feature centered on their careers' tricky end.
"Stan and Ollie," released in the US Dec. 28, marks the first time a feature filmmaker has tackled the slapstick comedy geniuses, known for films including "Sons of the Desert" (1933) and "Way Out West" (1937).
The emergence of "talkies" -- films with sound -- then propelled them to world stardom by the mid-1930s. But instead of documenting the stratospheric heights of their success, in "Stan and Ollie," director Jon S. Baird introduces two worn-out heroes clambering for one last hurrah.
"It wasn't replicating their movies because those exist," John C. Reilly, who portrays Hardy, told a New York panel discussion in early December.
"It wasn't telling anything you can find out on Wikipedia right now on your phone in ten seconds about their lives. It was going to be about something that no one would know except them." With a highly convincing performance, Reilly and Steve Coogan bring new life to the duo: the British Stan Laurel, a workaholic, and American Oliver Hardy, a hedonist frustrated by his husky physique.
The pair were united by their unrestrained taste for comedy, and also for women with seven marriages between them.
"Chemistry is one of these things people talk about like this mysterious rain that falls on some people. But in fact you can earn it with each other," Reilly said.
"It was for this man who I really want to honor," he said. "That's a big part of why we made this film, both of us. To honor these guys who didn't quite get their due when they were alive."