STEVE Coogan has been nominated for a best leading actor Bafta ahead of tomorrow's release of biopic Stan & Ollie.

The 53-year-old donned Stan Laurel's trademark bowler hat to play the Ulverston-born comedy legend, alongside John C Reilly as sidekick Oliver Hardy.

Eagerly awaited by fans, the film tells the story of what happened on the slapstick duo's farewell tour.

Director Jon S Baird has described it as "a love story" between two friends in the twilight of their careers.

Stan & Ollie has earned three nominations at the Bafta Film Awards 2019 - best leading actor, outstanding British film, and hair and make-up - putting it on a par with Mary Poppins Returns and Mary Queen of Scots.

Winners will be announced at the Royal Albert Hall, London, on February 10.

Meanwhile, Stan & Ollie's director has revealed he was a fan of the pair since he was eight.

The 46-year-old, from Aberdeenshire, said he wanted to show how two very different men became even closer as they realised their best years were behind them.

In an effort to reconnect with their audience, they embarked on a variety hall tour of the UK and Ireland in 1953.

The film shows how, despite the pressures of a hectic schedule, their love of performing - and each other - endured.

"In a nutshell, it’s a love story between these two old friends who just happen to be Laurel and Hardy - two of the most iconic comedians the world has ever seen," said Baird.

Stan Laurel was born Arthur Stanley Jefferson on June 16, 1890, at his grandparents' house on a small terrace called Foundry Cottages, in Ulverston - later Argyll Street.

He was the second of five children to theatre owner Arthur Jefferson and actress Margaret Jefferson (née Metcalf)

Laurel played the clumsy, childlike friend of the pompous Hardy, who was born Norvell Hardy in 1892 in Harlem, Georgia.

The biopic depicts on screen for the first time the story of how they were facing financial struggles and a loss of audience enthusiasm.

Baird said he hoped the combination of a tale of friendship and a fresh look at the pair’s issues would provide something for those who know their work and those who do not.

He added: “By the time their last tour came around, hardly anyone came to see them - they were yesterday’s men.

“There was a new type of comedy that had replaced them. The film is about them trying to win back a big audience. They did struggle.

“It’s a story I didn’t know about and I have been a Laurel and Hardy fan for a long time.

“It’s going to certainly tell a tale that people had no idea about. They were penniless, with ill health and doing this at the end of their careers.”

Laurel is played by Steve Coogan, who has said he wanted to "do justice" to the comic actor and he was drawn to the intimidating task by the wish to tackle challenging work.

Coogan said criticism has fuelled his ambition in the past. "One of my favourite things is to be underestimated, because it's like petrol in my tank."

The Alan Partridge star described the Stan Laurel role as challenging and emotional, and said the film's pathos moved him.

"It does make me sad, I get quite choked up watching it, and I think it's quite moving," said the actor.

"There's a trepidation about doing something like this, but again, to try and do work that you want to be proud of almost always involves the risk of failure. And this is one of those things.

"It sounds a bit indulgent, [but] if you can see yourself on screen as someone else and it touches you, then you've done something well."