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John C. Reilly's impressive Stan and Ollie transformation 'floored' co-star Steve Coogan

Actor John C. Reilly says that wearing a fat suit was essential in helping him to fill the “big shoes” of iconic comedian Oliver Hardy for the new biopic Stan and Ollie.

The film focuses on the profound bond between Hardy and his comedy partner Stan Laurel, played by Steve Coogan, in the twilight of their career, as they embark on one final tour of Britain’s music halls.

Reilly revealed that the fat suit helped him master Hardy’s unique brand of physical comedy, telling Standard Online: “I had the fat suit and the prosthetic make-up, and once that’s on you are forced to walk a certain way.”

“You put on the suit and the clothes […] You do slowly start to transform your body and your mind into thinking and acting like that person – it’s just osmosis after a while,” he said. “You start with the smallest gestures and then it eventually transforms your physical presence.”

Co-stars: Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly (Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)
Co-stars: Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly (Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)

The impressive transformation, which “floored” co-star Coogan on its first unveiling, required Reilly to sit in the make-up chair for “three hours in the morning,” with an additional “hour at the end of the day to get it off,” he said.

“People don’t remember that it’s [held with] surgical glue, you can’t just tear it off and run out there!” he added.

Reilly’s intricate makeover was recognised with a BAFTA nomination for Best Make-Up and Hair on Wednesday, when Stan and Ollie also picked up nods in the Outstanding British Film and Best Actor category (for Coogan).

The actor, who is himself one half of a beloved Hollywood double act with Will Ferrell, said his extensive experience of working as a duo also helped bring his performance to life.

“As an actor, you transfer feelings that you’ve had with other people to this relationship,” he explained. “I’ve been in a lot of partnerships and the echoes of those conversations are what informed this relationship.”

Stan and Ollie is out in cinemas now.