Oliver Hardy was terrifying, inspiring for John C. Reilly

Oliver Hardy was terrifying, inspiring for John C. Reilly

LOS ANGELES — Playing Oliver Hardy, the large comic with the even larger persona, was a burden that became a mission for John C. Reilly.

The actor had early misgivings about becoming the man whose legendary partnership with Stan Laurel is explored in “Stan & Ollie,” which will be released Friday in the United States by Sony Pictures Classics.

“It was a pretty terrifying prospect,” Reilly told The Associated Press in an interview earlier this month after learning the role had earned him a Golden Globe nomination. “Those are some very big shoes to fill, no pun intended. I didn’t know that it was going to work out so well. It was really an act of faith.”

At the beginning of the process, Reilly developed a deep affection for Hardy through books, through Hardy’s letters to his wife and through the more than 100 screen appearances he made with Laurel, played by Steve Coogan.

It was on finding out how neglected Hardy and his partner were late in their lives and careers — the period explored in the film, which documents a trying tour through the United Kingdom in the early 1950s when the men were in their early 60s — that Reilly felt not only a compulsion but also a duty to do it.

“I just didn’t feel I was worthy at first,” Reilly said. “But when you learn about Laurel and Hardy, and how the world kind of forgot them at the end of their life, I realized I had to do this for Oliver. I would just keep saying, ‘do it for Oliver.’”

He took on the entirety of Hardy for the part, mentally and physically, spending four hours in the makeup chair on shooting days and taking on the full feeling of his body.

“I had weights built into the fat suit so that I could always feel that, you know, the heft of it, so I wouldn’t just feel like this light foam suit,” Reilly said. “And I think I started to rue that decision by the end because the weight was just like — it was a lot every day to carry.”

Other aspects of Hardy were easier to imitate.

“Ollie really loved good times, and was always after wine, women and song. I can relate to that,” Reilly said with a laugh. “I mean, I work a lot too, but I can relate to that.”

Reilly, 53, has made a specialty of playing sidekicks, from his breakout role behind Mark Wahlberg in 1997’s “Boogie Nights” through several second-fiddle roles alongside Will Ferrell, most recently in the newly released “Holmes & Watson.”

But with Coogan, he has the equal billing and true partnership of the men they’re playing.

“Steve and I not only got to know each other and found a working relationship through all the rehearsals and the singing and dancing, but we also found the guys themselves,” Reilly said. “That’s what they did all day. So, we started to feel like them after a while.”

“We knuckled down,” Coogan told the AP at a screening of the film in New York early in this month. “We had a long rehearsal period. We learned the dance routines. We learned the sketches, and we devised some of our own in the style of Laurel and Hardy.”

As the two men embodied the characters, they came to see their calling as returning them to the cultural memory.

“It was like this mission to bring back the legacy of Laurel and Hardy,” Reilly said. “The film is really just, it’s just a signpost pointing to their work. We’re hoping this make people re-discover Laurel and Hardy again. It still stands up. It’s still funny.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Alberta declines Ontario’s request to send health-care workers

Alberta is “not in a position” to send health-care workers out of… Continue reading

The Red Deer Rebels allowed four straight goals from the Medicine Hat Tigers Friday night on the road. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers hand Red Deer Rebels 10th straight loss

Tigers 4 Rebels 2 Through 17 games in the shortened WHL season,… Continue reading

Meghan Huizing has been selected by Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools as a finalist for the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) 2021 Edwin Parr Award. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Regional Catholic Schools)
Red Deer Catholic names finalist for Edwin Parr Award

Meghan Huizing from St. Gregory the Great Catholic School in Blackfalds has… Continue reading

GrammaLink-Africa members are participating in the Stride to Turn the Tide campaign until June 30. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer group walking to raise money for African grandmothers

A group of central Albertans will be walking every day until the… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

Montreal Canadiens' Tyler Toffoli celebrates his goal past Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom during second-period NHL hockey action in Montreal on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Toffoli scores twice, Canadiens put some distance on Flames with 2-1 win

Toffoli scores twice, Canadiens put some distance on Flames with 2-1 win

Canadian prop Jake Ilnicki savouring life in Seattle, looks forward to facing Arrows

Canadian prop Jake Ilnicki savouring life in Seattle, looks forward to facing Arrows

Corey Conners, of Canada, hits out of a bunker on the seventh hole during the final round of the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga., Sunday, April 11, 2021. Conners notched six birdies on his back nine to take the lead after his second round of the RBC Heritage on Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Matt Slocum
Canadian Corey Conners surges into lead at PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage

Canadian Corey Conners surges into lead at PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage

Patrick Marleau poised to break Gordie Howe’s games record

Patrick Marleau poised to break Gordie Howe’s games record

Leylah Annie Fernandez of Canada serves to Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic in round 1 of the Rogers Cup women's tennis tournament in Toronto, Monday August 5, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch
Rebecca Marino propels Canada into 2-0 lead over Serbia at Billie Jean King Cup

Rebecca Marino propels Canada into 2-0 lead over Serbia at Billie Jean King Cup

Dalton Kellett pulls out of the pits during a practice session for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, in Indianapolis, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. Dalton Kellett is pleased his second career season in IndyCar will be different than his first, which started on an elaborate iRacing rig in his home office in Indianapolis because of COVID-19 restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Darron Cummings
Canada’s Dalton Kellett set for a more stable season as an IndyCar driver

Canada’s Dalton Kellett set for a more stable season as an IndyCar driver

Canada head coach Bev Priestman reacts during the women's international friendly soccer match between England and Canada at Bet365 stadium in Stoke on Trent, England, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Rui Vieira
Canadian women get peek at their possible road at Olympic soccer tournament

Canadian women get peek at their possible road at Olympic soccer tournament

Head coach John Tait talks to his team as Canada takes on Japan in women's sevens rugby action at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Rugby Canada says probe into complaint from members of women’s 7s team is complete

Rugby Canada says probe into complaint from members of women’s 7s team is complete

Most Read