Posted July 4, 2011 by Marcia Degia - Publisher in Features

Director Ben Miller

FilmJuice Features Editor Heidi Vella caught up with one half of successful comedy duo

FilmJuice Features Editor Heidi Vella caught up with one half of successful comedy duo
Armstrong and Miller, Ben Miller, to discuss his first feature length
directional debut, Huge, out now on theatrical release.

HV: Huge is about a comedy double act’s struggle to
break into the notoriously difficult industry of stand up comedy, where does
the story come from?
Is it largely autobiographical?

BM: Actually it’s based on a play that was written
before I got together with Xander [Alexander Armstrong]. So it’s weird, in a
way, that I was in a play about a double act before I was actually in a double
act. [Miller performed Huge back in 1993 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival]

When did you decide you wanted to turn your hand to feature
film making?

I’ve always loved films and directing is something
I’ve wanted to do for a very long time, ever since I got into acting in fact.

Was it a difficult transition after only having
directed a few times? (A short film and an episode of Saxondale). Or do you
feel you have a natural knack for directing?

I don’t think I’d be very good at directing
something I hadn’t had a hand in writing. But with Huge, having been in the
original play and always been fascinated with the world of stand up comedy I
felt I might have something to offer.

Huge is hard to categorise, people expect it to
be a comedy but it isn’t exactly – how would you categorise it?

Huge isn’t actually a comedy. That’s one of the
problems I’ve had. Everyone expects that I’d have made a comedy, but Huge is a
drama which explores comedy’s dark side. So it’s about comedy, but it’s not a
comedy itself.

We heard you found one of your leading men, Noel
Clarke, after being stuck in a lift with him. That’s rather unusual…

Yes, I was in a lift and I heard him talking to his
mates, cracking them up. And I thought, “that’s interesting”. I’m a
big fan of Noel’s films — there’s a certain amount of crossover between
Kidulthood and the way our RAF Pilots speak, let’s put it that way — and I
also thought he would look great in a ‘fro.

Why did you choose to cast Johnny Harris in the
other leading part? Noel and Johnny seem like unusual choices because they have
little comedic experience…

I saw Johnny in Paul Andrew William’s film London
To Brighton and thought he was extraordinary. And because the story is about
two outsiders desperately trying to make it as comedians, it seemed like it
would work best to cast two actors who weren’t necessarily known for comedy.

You’re very briefly in the film…

I say one word, “no”, when Noel and
Johnny ask me for a gig. Weirdly I was very nervous.

Can you tell us any funny anecdotes or dramas
from the set?

We had one day of filming where nearly every famous
comedian in Britain was there, to film a scene where our two heroes break in to
the comedy awards. At one point we did a reaction shot with all of them in, and
it was a masterclass of scene-stealing.

you could liken your film to any other what would it be? If you liked this
you’ll probably like Huge, type of thing?

To me it’s like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,
but where Noel is Paul Newman and Johnny is Robert Redford, but that’s just me.

you nervous unleashing your first movie to the critics?

Of course. I do read reviews and bad ones cut me to
the quick.

What film has most influenced you? What is you
all time favourite movie and why?

I don’t really have one all-time favourite movie;
they are too important for that. I have various films that I’ll go to at
certain times. One day that might be Wild Strawberries, another day it might be
Total Recall.

Which director’s career do you most admire?

I think Michael Haneke is up there. And Woody
Allen’s no slouch.

Finally, where can our readers see you next on
the big or small screen? And will you be directing again?

I’m shooting a detective series called “Death
In Paradise” in Guadeloupe in the Lesser Antilles. I think it’s going to
be on in October. Directing wise i’ve got other stuff that I’m working on, so
hopefully yes.

Marcia Degia - Publisher

Marcia Degia has worked in the media industry for more than 10 years. She was previously Acting Managing Editor of Homes and Gardens magazine, Publishing Editor at Macmillan Publishers and Editor of Pride Magazine. Marcia, who has a Masters degree in Screenwriting, has also been involved in many broadcast projects. Among other things, she was the devisor of the documentary series Secret Suburbia for Living TV.