A LIFELONG Laurel and Hardy fan was given a 'first look' at the new blockbuster movie about his movie heroes.

Former film projectionist Willie McIntyre had exclusive access to a preview screening of Stan and Ollie before the film went on general release.

His love affair with the famous comedy duo goes back over 40 years and he even brought a Laurel and Hardy convention to Barrfields Theatre in 1981.

Willie also had a book published about the legendary comedy duo and says he was thrilled to get the place at the big preview.

He said: "The film was excellent.

"Through my connections I knew one of the advisors on the film and he invited me along. I thoroughly enjoyed myself."

Willie says the movie provides a fascinating look at how the much-loved actors fell on tough times when their own film careers ended and were forced to embark on a UK and European theatre tour to make ends meat.

He said: "Steve Coogan and John C Reilly did a tremendous job of portraying Laurel and Hardy - so much so that most of the time I thought I was watching Laurel and Hardy themselves.

"They are right up for a host of awards. "It has some quite moving moments, and some people were crying. Even if you don't like Laurel and Hardy I would still recommend it as a great watch."

Willie has been heavily involved in the Sons of the Desert - the Laurel and Hardy Appreciation Society - going back to 1976.

Aficionados who made the journey to Largs for his 1981 convention included Jimmy Murphy, who was valet to the two global stars, and Martin Hatley, who composed much of the music for the duo's films. Stan’s daughter Lois also attended.

The Largs event included a Laurel and Hardy fancy dress competition, movie showings at The Queen’s Hotel and Barrfields, a hypnotist and a wellie-throwing contest. A dinner dance also took place at the Nordic Suite of the Royal Hotel.

Other guests included American Jim McGeorge, who provided the voices for the pair's cartoon incarnations, and fans from as far afield as Australia.

Willie still travels to conventions all around Europe, as well as events throughout the UK.

The 74-year-old said: "My own passion started when I was four years old - it was the 'Music Box' with the duo's efforts in pushing a grand piano up the stairs before ending in calamity!

"When I was a child I was brought up on the island of Jura and my dad used to show films in the village hall and I used to give him a hand.

"I remember as soon as I watched them I was hooked - and have been a huge fan ever since."