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STAN & OLLIE

About The Production (Cont'd)
"20 different types of hat"- DRESSING STAN & OLLIE

For STAN & OLLIE, costume designer Guy Speranza and his team created just under 2000 costumes to represent both '30s Hollywood and '50s Britain. But there were two elements that took absolute precedence - the hats and suits that form the unmistakeable and iconic silhouette of Laurel and Hardy.

"Poor Guy," says John C. Reilly. "He must have manufactured 20 different types of bowler hat to get the height of the crown or the width of the brim just right because we couldn't afford to get that wrong. The image is so iconic."

Speranza's research ensured no detail went unnoticed. Laurel would unstitch the brim of his hat - a cross between a bowler and a derby - then cut the brim and re-stitch it to give it the appearance of being much taller and thinner. Speranza fashioned a dark suit with a Norfolk fabric for Ollie, who wore the jacket with one button done up to accentuate his stomach. The designer put Laurel in a light three-piece suit with lots of pockets with shoes without a heel - Laurel would remove the heels from his shoes to give him a comedy gait which meant the trousers were too long. Speranza was also keen to demonstrate the distinction between fictional and real-life appearances.

"On stage, Stan in particular was scruffy," he observes. "Ollie was the smarter one. In real life they were quite dapper. The biggest thing was trying to give an American feel to their costume because their fabrics were much nicer. There's lots of images of them in real life wearing these berets and looking quite silly. It was nice to show them in normal life but still with an element of comedy about it."

There was also the conundrum of using colour in creating the world of the two actors who so many only know in black and white

Speranza says "Well the big thing was just seeing them initially, just seeing them not in black and white. And introducing color into two very iconic people, comedians that you've mostly seen in black and white - trying to get the audience used to seeing them in color. I spoke to JP at the beginning, he showed me all the sets and then we worked together with Jon. There's just so much information about Stan and Ollie, there are tons and tons of reference, which really helps. And then with the locations trying and trying to get their American feel about them, trying to make them stick out in an English environment. So, it's a work in progress. I like to do lots of mood boards of colors, then for example we tried to keep color for this scene in Worthing very Technicolour, and then more green in Ireland, just trying to make certain areas more specific" Speranza's personal most memorable moment is the Way Out West dance "When they did the dance, the 'Way Out West' dance on stage because I've watched it on film so many times. Stop, pause, stop, pause, stop, pause all the time, trying to see all the little details of what they wore I actually burst into tears when I saw them do it, I got very emotional. It was just lovely to see them doing that dance, I've seen it so many times, seen the actual Stan and Ollie doing it, and the way they recreated it was just brilliant, that was one of my favorite moments"

"It really got people's Laurel and Hardy juices flowing"- DESIGNING STAN & OLLIE The story of STAN & OLLIE not only covers two distinct time periods but also two completely different worlds: the glamour of '30s Hollywood and the somewhat dreary gloom of '50s Britain. It was an exciting challenge for BAFTA award-winning production designer JP Kelly to bring these contrasting landscapes visually to life.

"There's a colour palette from the grandeur of '30s Hollywood to the dark dankness of a rainy day in Newcastle to London in all its post war recovery splendour. Then there is the simplicity of arriving in Ireland, which is like a group hug for the film at the end. Each of those have to have a different quality that was really the design brief for how we balanced all those different looks together and how we showed progression in their journey, and to contrast it of course with the 1930s and this Hollywood lifestyle which they had which was sunny and shiny and exactly the opposite to a rainy day in Scunthorpe"

To realise the exteriors of Hal Roach studios in its heyday, the production knew there was only one location in the UK that fit the bill: Pinewood Studios. The team researched the films being made at the Roach Studios during that period - children's franchise THE LITTLE RASCALS - and augmented this with roman centurions and Egyptian pharaohs, phasing in cowboys and saloon girls as Laurel and Hardy approach the WAY OUT WEST stage.

A busy bustling studio, supervising location manager Camilla Stephenson knew finding a window at Pinewood to mount the complex scene would be challenging.

"We had to come on Sunday because we would literally have Stormtroopers walking past," she laughs. "We still had to change a lot of things to make Pinewood work. A lot of productions helped us out by hiding their equipment. We asked JURASSIC WORLD if they would move a container and they said, 'It's not a container, it's a raptor cage!'"

Kelly elaborates on the challenges of the scene "We really wanted to create a world that showed Laurel and Hardy's success but also the excitement and contrast with the world we end up in for most of the film, which is in England. Pinewood Studios has very little to do with Hollywood but was built around the same time, so architecturally a lot of the buildings are able to just about pass as Hollywood studios. We then made set extensions at the end of streets, so you can see Hollywood hills in the background and so on. And then the characters arrive at the Way Out West stage, which was in Twickenham, where we're meticulously recreating the scene from Way Out West, which is where they arrive at the saloon and they do their famous dance. This was a really fun set to create. There are really two aspects to it: a saloon bar where we'll have the Avalon brothers sitting outside singing and then amazingly at the time, which most people won't have realised when they watch the film, that the Way Out West scene of them dancing was shot with a back projection. And if you look at it, very carefully you can see a definite line between where they're standing and projection behind them"

The exciting thing about that backdrop was that the team managed to track down the very one that was used in the original shoot! Researcher James Hunt tracked down the original archive that held Laurel and Hardy material and was put in touch with Jeff Goodman who works at the Producer's Library. Jeff was incredibly helpful, and it turned out that he had been the archivist who had put the material into store way back in the day! He knew exactly what we were looking for sent two pieces of the original backdrop to ensure the piece could work.

For the studio interiors, a staffroom at the grandiose Eltham Palace in Greenwich doubled for Stan and Ollie's dressing room while the WAY OUT WEST set was painstakingly recreated at Twickenham Studios right down to the mule. "It was tough because we wanted to get it pinpoint accurate," explains Baird. "If you step back far enough and play them both together, you would struggle to see which one was which - that's how we wanted it to be." Also, at Twickenham, the team created a set for a fantasy sequence depicting Stan & Ollie's never made Robin Hood comedy ROB 'EM GOOD.

"We purposefully recreated a strange looking Sherwood Forest in keeping with the Laurel and Hardy one," laughs Kelly. "It had a river running through it and a huge amount of greenery, all completely inappropriate for a forest in the Midlands. As soon as you put actors in Robin Hood costumes in the middle of it, it looks like you are in the middle of a Technicolor epic. It was funny. We built loads of lovely and elaborate sets, but everyone raved about that set the most. It really got people's Laurel and Hardy juices flowing."

When the action switches to Britain, STAN & OLLIE becomes a road movie with the American legends travelling the length and breadth of Britain. Similarly, Kelly and Stephenson combed the country looking for theatres that were both period-accurate and fit the needs of the story. Theatres used included the Old Rep in Birmingham, The Fortune Theatre in London, building to the Hackney Empire, which doubled for the Lyceum, the venue for Laurel and Hardy's triumphant London show. As the pair moved around the country, they discovered a similar pattern.

"We'd go to a theatre and they'd say, 'Laurel and Hardy performed here, we've even got a poster'" says Stephenson. "They were absolutely across all these rep theatres."

The Britain that Laurel & Hardy tour is a landscape of run-down boarding houses, and cheap-and-cheerful lidos. Kelly wanted to accentuate the contrast of two Hollywood legends amidst the postwar austerity, especially in the North of England. But the team were wary of straying too far into traditional British film territory.

"There is a certain expectation with British film for it to be grimy, for the pace to be a bit slower and for it to be real," says Baird. "It had to be true to the 50s but it had to match up tonally to the whole film. We've not overly designed anything. Things are rubbed down a little bit but it doesn't come out like social realism. We wanted it to make it feel like Britain but also not to depart too much from the tone of the film."

When the action reaches London, much of the drama unfolds in the Savoy Hotel. The production utilised the hotel exteriors but recreated the foyer and restaurant at the Park Lane and the rooms at West London Studios. Although not completely historically accurate, Kelly carried the Art Deco stylings of the Park Lane into the interior rooms to add a touch of opulence that demonstrated Laurel and Hardy were on the up.

"What was grand in the fifties isn't so grand by today's standards," says Kelly. "In reality the Savoy's rooms were modest compared to today. There is a balance between historical accuracy and contemporary audience expectations of what a big hotel looks and feels like. At the end of the day, we are storytellers so that has to be the key consideration."

Faye Ward recalls "One of the most memorable days was when we recreated Cobh Harbor in Ireland. We couldn't actually go to Cobh Harbor, so we cheated it in Bristol Harbor, which was fantastic. It was a sunny day and we had this incredible vintage ship there and had about 350 extras, all dressed in Irish textures along with authentic reproduced banners and we recreated that wonderful arrival. The Irish church at Cobh Harbor played the Cuckoo Waltz, through the bells, for their arrival, which was really wonderful. And it was their journey from England to Ireland at the last moment of their tour. It was such a special day and JP and Guy did an exemplary job, it was a very special day and I am sure that will come across in the film"

This moment of Laurel and Hardy receiving the warmest welcome in Ireland also resonated with the Dublin born Kelly.

"My uncle had seen them in Dublin in the 1950s," says the Ireland-born designer. "I've always known that story. He's in his '90s. He's delighted about that."

'Delight' is a notion that comes up a lot discussing STAN & OLLIE. For Jeff Pope, it is the heart of the WAY OUT WEST, the simple scene of two men dancing just for the joy of it, that inspired the project.

"You just sit there and laugh about how much they love being together and how they can take enjoyment in such simple things. I think that is why they are still so loved. We can look at them and think: 'You know what? It doesn't take a lot to get happy.' We complicate it too much now. If you look back at them, they can get happy so easily."

It is this bright innocence that resonates with Faye Ward. For her, it is one of the reasons STAN & OLLIE, a film about legends from the golden age of Hollywood, is a film for right now.

"We are in a place and time where people are pretty scared of life," she says. "Watching their routines is just so heartwarming. There is a pure joy, an innocence to what they bring which I think is really great and fun for audiences today. Half the audience are crying and then laughing just because it is incredibly clever but simple at the same time. It's so lovely and actually I think we really need a bit of that at the minute."

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