Actors Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly went through major transformations to play beloved comedy duo Laurel & Hardy.
The two stars teamed up to play the silver screen icons on what became their final theatre tour of the U.K. and Ireland in Stan & Ollie, and Oscar-winning makeup artists Jeremy Woodhead and Mark Coulier were brought in to turn the leading men into the comedy kings.
To portray Laurel, Coogan opted for a false chin, teeth, and customised tips to make his ears stick out, while Reilly spent at least four hours in the makeup chair every morning, so he could be transformed into Oliver Hardy, who weighed close to 400 pounds (181.4 kilograms) at the end of his life.
In a strange coincidence, Coogan has brown eyes and needed blue, and Reilly had blue eyes and needed brown, so both men wore coloured contact lenses.
“Steve uses his own hair, but it is coloured to match Stan Laurel’s,” Woodhead explains. “Stan was actually a redhead. We toyed with the idea of going red, but it gets distracting. It becomes a surprise that his hair was red. By the end of his life, he was colouring his hair anyway.”
Meanwhile, to make Chicago star Reilly look eerily just like Hardy, Coulier and Woodhead tested four different fat suits made out of reticulated foam. To get the look right, the team, which included costume designer Guy Speranza, drew inspiration from Hardy’s own life.
“Oliver Hardy’s nickname was Babe because he had the shape and proportions of an overgrown baby,” Reilly explains. “I started sending baby pictures to Guy and Mark and it started to click.”
Reilly was encased in the different suits for the various stages in Hardy’s life, which made keeping his cool difficult – he had to be plugged into an ice machine in between takes, but the actor insists the discomfort was worth it.
“Only my face and the flats of my hands were exposed. The rest was encased in prosthetics or a fat suit,” he tells WENN. “So, in a way it was like wearing a mask on your whole body. The mask was so convincing it made me believe from the outside in that I could play this character.”
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