Bristol’s shipshape locations help bring Laurel & Hardy biopic to life

January 9, 2019

Stan & Ollie, the highly anticipated new biopic starring Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly as the legendary movie comedy duo Laurel & Hardy, opened in UK cinemas today after filming in Bristol two years ago.

The production team behind the movie – one of a string of feature films to be shot in the city in recent years – made extensive use of Bristol’s historic Harbourside, including along Princes Wharf, to the bring the story to life. 

Pictured: Stan & Ollie filming aboard The Balmoral (© EOne)

Already a popular location for film and TV shoots, Princes Wharf in front of M Shed doubled for the Irish docks that the world’s favourite comedy double act arrived at as part of their variety hall tour in 1953.

The Balmoral – the vintage excursion ship that was then moored at the wharf – stars as the vessel the pair alight from, greeted by crowds of cheering fans.

Other locations in Bristol – which in 2017 became a UNESCO City of Film – included the Hippodrome, which features as the exterior of a variety hall on the tour.

Bristol City Council’s Film Office facilitated filming, working with Stan & Ollie’s production team to secure locations and set up a unit base at Lloyds Amphitheatre on Harbourside.

The production contributed to the £15.2m brought into the city by the office in 2017-18 by the Film Office from a total of more than 1,140 location filming days – a 10% increase on the previous year.

Stan & Ollie producer Faye Ward said: “One of the most memorable days [of the shoot] was when we recreated Cobh Harbour in Ireland. We couldn’t actually go to Cobh Harbour, so we cheated it in Bristol, which was fantastic.  

Pictured: Stan & Ollie films on Princes Wharf aboard The Balmoral (Photo: Bristol Film Office)

“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 Harbour played the Cuckoo Waltz [Laurel & Hardy’s theme tune], 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 a very special day and I am sure that will come across in the film.

“The Balmoral was a gem of a find. Its conserved beauty was the perfect setting for a crucial moment in the film and we couldn’t have done it without the wonderful support of Bristol.”

M Shed senior collections officer – industrial & maritime history – Andy King said: “Bristol made a brave and, at the time, controversial decision in the 1990s to conserve Princes Wharf as a working quayside. With the museum’s operational cranes, steam railway and transit shed, it now makes an ideal and animated backdrop for film productions like this, and one that is unique in the UK.” 

Bristol Film Office manager Natalie Moore added: “Stan & Ollie was one of four films that Bristol welcomed last year, in what was a busy year for feature film shoots in the city.

Pictured: John C. Reilly films Stan & Ollie in Bristol (Photo: @Anth0ny_Ward)

“The cooperation of the Film Office, the M Shed 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. Stan & Ollie is set to be a hit with audiences the world over and we’re really proud that Bristol, UNESCO City of Film, played a part in its production.”

Stan & Ollie is penned by award-winning screenwriter Jeff Pope (Philomena, Mrs Biggs), directed by Jon S. Baird (Vinyl, Filth) and stars Steve Coogan (Philomena, Alan Partridge) as Stan Laurel and John C. Reilly (Chicago, We Need to Talk About Kevin) as Oliver Hardy.

Inspired by actual events, the film concentrates on the heart-warming story of what would become the much-loved movie legends’ triumphant farewell tour.

With their golden era long behind them, Laurel & Hardy embarked on a variety hall tour of Britain and Ireland.

Pictured: Stan & Ollie filming in Bristol in April. (Photo by @Anth0ny_Ward)

Despite the pressures of a hectic schedule, and with the support of their wives Lucille (Shirley Henderson) and Ida (Nina Arianda) – a formidable double act in their own right – the pair’s love of performing, as well as for each other, endured as they secured their place in the hearts of their adoring public.

Stan & Ollie is a Fable Pictures and Sonesta Films production, developed with BBC Films. It is executive produced by Christine Langan and Gabrielle Tana for Baby Cow Productions, Jeff Pope for Sonesta Films and Joe Oppenheimer for BBC Films.

It is in UK cinemas from today. For more information visit


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