Having already followed his scurrilous Irvine Welsh adaptation Filth (2013) with some episodes of Danny Boyle's Babylon, Jon S. Baird has something very different lined up for his next project. News arrives via The Scotsman that he is set to direct a currently unnamed project focusing on the twilight years of Laurel And Hardy. Specifically the film will centre on Stan and Ollie's farewell tour of Britain in 1953.
The comedy duo's star was on the wane by the time the tour took place. Their films for 20th Century Fox and post-war careers hadn't recaptured the magic of their earlier days with producer Hal Roach, and they had filmed their ill-fated final film Utopia (also known as Atoll K) in 1952, though it was yet to be released. They were met by adoring crowds everywhere they went on their music hall tour, however. But sadly the jollity had to be cut short when Hardy became seriously ill with heart problems.
Jeff Pope (Philomena) wrote the screenplay for the film, which Baird describes as "a really really, beautiful tale: a love story between two guys who come to realise they can't live without each other".
"It also tells the story of their off-screen personas," he told The Scotsman, "which were quite different to what people would imagine knowing their on-screen ones. Stan Laurel was particularly different from his on-screen persona, and that was the thing I found really fascinating when I started reading the script. Stan was very much the driving force, Ollie was more relaxed, he just loved golfing and betting on the horses. Once he'd finish for the day, he'd be off, and though he would be consulted on the script ideas when they were rehearsing, he didn't write the stuff, Stan wrote everything, I think he was a real tortured genius."
The project was first announced by the BBC as a potential TV movie for BBC 1 last year, but it's unclear from The Scotsman's story whether that remains the case, or whether the film has grown in the development. The latter is sounding more likely, since Baird says he has been in LA having talks with two "very high level" Hollywood stars to play the comedy duo. "We're talking to our first choices," he promises.
Who might they be? As always, watch this space.