Stan & Ollie filmed Pinewood as California
Stan & Ollie filmed Pinewood Studios in the UK as California’s Hal Roach Studios for scenes showcasing Stan Laurel and Ollie Hardy at the height of their fame in the 1930s.
Jon S Baird directs Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel and John C Reilly as Oliver Hardy in the movie that focuses on the legendary comedy duo’s tour of the UK in 1953.
Baird establishes their stardom with an opening scene tracking a lengthy walk-through of Hal Roach Studios in Culver City in west Los Angeles in the mid-1930s.
Pinewood Studios stood in for exterior views of the California facility. Although Baird and his team were not filming on Pinewood’s actual stages, the production faced a challenge finding appropriate times to film, with the Star Wars and Jurassic World franchises both on site at the time.
“Pinewood Studios is not really used as a filming location in that way – productions shooting the facilities from the outside,” says Camilla Stephenson, supervising location manager on Stan & Ollie, in comments to The Knowledge.
“Mary Poppins Returns had shot in the gardens as they wanted the privacy, but we had to approach our shoot differently, treating it like a normal exterior location and making sure all the visuals fitted with our period setting.
“That involved meeting with the production teams from Star Wars and Jurassic World, who were using pretty much all the stages between them at the time – we needed to make sure that cables, props and other elements from their shoots were out of sight when we were filming our walk-through.”
Interiors of the Hal Roach Studios were shot at different locations across London. Scenes showing Stan and Ollie making their 1937 film Way Out West were shot at Twickenham Studios, while the stars’ Hollywood dressing room was found at Eltham Palace in Greenwich.
For the UK tour elements of the story, around a dozen period-appropriate theatres across the country stood in for six distinct theatres. These included the Old Rep in Birmingham and The Fortune Theatre in London, while the Hackney Empire stood in for the Lyceum.
“We contacted theatres across the country during the panto season to see when they might have availability to host us,” Stephenson tells The Knowledge. “We usually had a shortlist of five or six to visit in each area and then we actually had the time to see one or two of them. Then there were decisions to be made about what theatres would work in terms of travel time.”
Baird and his team also shot exteriors of the real Savoy Hotel, a key story setting for the film’s London-set scenes, but the foyer and restaurant were shot at the Park Lane Hotel while the rooms themselves were recreated on stages at West London Studios.
In the story, Stan and Ollie’s tour travels to Ireland, but the team was only able to visit the country for a small selection of visual effects plate shots.
Bristol Harbour stood in for Cobh Harbour near Cork as the city offered a rare vintage ship – the Balmoral, dating to 1949 – that was required for the story. Baird filmed the ship in dock but his team had to return at a later date to shoot footage of the vessel at sea.
The Bristol Film Office assisted the producers with the local shoot that involved 350 extras.
“The co-operation of the film office, the M Shed [a local museum about the history of Bristol] and The Balmoral meant that we could help bring the large crowd scenes that the script required to life, in an authentic and visually stunning setting,” says the film office’s Natalie Moore.
Cast image: Sony Pictures Classics/Entertainment One. Balmoral image: Bristol Film Office
Also on The Knowledge
Hartlepool Borough Council has approved the development of new production facility The Northern Studios.
Armando Iannucci’s new HBO production Avenue 5 has started filming in the UK.
Hydraulic sets were designed to simulate the impact of digital elephants in Tim Burton’s version of Dumbo.
Cardiff-based production company Bad Wolf has made an agreement to use vacant space at Pinewood Studio Wales the next 12 months.
Biographical film Tolkien shot at Tatton Studios near Manchester in Cheshire and built sets including First World War trenches.
A new TV adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula story has started filming for the BBC and Netflix, with Danish actor Claes Bang in the title role.