Hollywood hits the Black Country as Steve Coogan and John C Reilly shoot Stan and Ollie in Dudley
It was lights, camera, action as Hollywood rolled into the Black Country for the filming of Stan and Ollie, the new Laurel and Hardy movie.
Crowds stopped and stared as funnyman Steve Coogan and Hollywood star John C Reilly mingled with filming crew and cast members at the Black Country Living Museum on Friday.
Tight security surrounded the 1930s street, where children and costumed police officers were marched up and down the street as directors placed Coogan in different positions on set.
Coogan - known for his alter-ego Alan Partridge and recent series The Trip - plays Laurel, while American Reilly - who was Oscar nominated for his role in Chicago and has starred in countless blockbusters like Gangs of New York, Boogie Nights and Anchorman - takes the role of Oliver Hardy.
The pair, both aged 51, were seen relaxing between scenes for the movie, which is directed by Jon Baird. Visitors were able to enter the museum, but were unable to go in to the 1930s street.
One onlooker said: “It’s been fascinating – it’s not every day that you see Steve Coogan out and about in Dudley.”
She added: “It was amazing watching him and John C Reilly perform. It was a real treat.”
Wearing a grey waistcoat and purple tie with his hair slicked back, Coogan joined Reilly to film a short scene on a fictional zebra crossing.
White strips were laid down on the road surface as two Morris Minors were position nearby.
The comedy duo held up crossing patrol plaques reading ‘Stop! Children Crossing’ as directors shouted ‘action’.
Both burst into character, as they rehearsed the scene with crew members acting as children.
Reilly huffed and puffed as Hardy, while Coogan ducked down and plodded along the crossing with the others.
Wearing braces and a colourful tie, Reilly squinted and pulled funny faces as he remained in character for the duration of the two minute scene.
Onlookers watched in awe as a normal day out at the Tipton Road attraction turned into a Hollywood spectacular.
“I can’t believe it, I didn’t expect to see Steve Coogan here today, this is fascinating,” one visitor commented.
Between takes Coogan was escorted in and out of Hobbs Restaurant, as the museum’s shops played the perfect backdrop to the film.
Children dressed in 1930s clothes waited near the railings as Coogan often popped out to share a laugh and a joke with them.
He seemed to be a fan of the museum too, looking around the set and pointing at different buildings while film crew scurried around him.
Black tents and huge lighting props closed off the road, but visitors were still allowed to walk up the steps across the canal.
Crew members were keen to try the famous museum chips and pop in for a drink at The Bottle and Glass Inn too.
As rain descended, lunch was called as Coogan made his way to the filming vans on the car park. A grey Morris Minor 8 was driven back onto the set along with the museums trolley bus.
“Our museum cars are perfect for days like this,” a staff member said.
“Not only do they look good on set but they get to be hired out to be used in films like this, which is a real honour.”
The story has been written by Jeff Pope, who worked with Coogan on Oscar-nominated Philomena, and chronicles the duo’s final tour in 1953, during which Hardy suffered a heart attack.
Laurel and Hardy burst onto the scene in the 1920s, appearing in more than 100 films together. By the time of their final tour, they had been performing for more than 30 years.
Filming will also take place in Birmingham, where the duo appeared in the year of their final tour, and Bristol.
The comedy duo appeared in the pages of the Express & Star following their appearance at Dudley Hippodrome in 1947, in which they were said to have ‘rocked the packed house’ and stayed at The Station Hotel opposite.
They also performed at the Hippodrome in 1952. They were also patrons of the Birmingham pub The Bartons Arms, and would rest at the pub in between shows at the now demolished Aston Hippodrome.
It is not the first time the museum has been chosen to appear on screen. It is also a favourite setting for the makers of hit BBC show Peaky Blinders.