Lil’ Rhody is no Hollywood—just don’t tell Ben Hague that.
On the surface, Ben Hague looks like just another comedian trying to make it big in Manhattan—and it looks like he just might. He presents topical comedy effortlessly, stands before massive audiences with ease, and is confident in a way that almost makes you jealous. Although the RI-based comedian is beginning to make his mark in New York City, he’s not quite through with his work back home.
In Rhode Island, Hague leapfrogged from morning television, to drive-time radio, to headlining on the state’s comedy scene before taking his talents to the big city. Many in the Ocean State wondered if they’d ever see him again. But Ben made sure not to let his comedy career get in the way of his latest Rhode Island-based project. Getting Home is Hague’s first film, one that he not only wrote, but also starred in.
Because the short film follows a pair of soldiers on their last few days of service in Afghanistan as they fight to return to their base, Hague took the opportunity to extend the movie’s scope beyond the big screen. Operation Stand Down, a RI-based charity committed to supplying veterans with local housing, will see a portion of the Getting Home’s proceeds. So far, the movie has a bright future, debuting before a sold-out crowd in Newport in late September—all of which makes Hague question swapping his future in comedy for a future in filmmaking.
You’ve been a standup comedian for a while. What sparked the transition from that to executive producer and actor?
As a comic, you’re technically a writer, and I’ve always been fascinated with the drama side of stuff, and I went to school for that. But I honestly, personally, just needed a break from comedy. I was not in a really good place with my comedy at the time. I was sick of writing jokes every day and was just frustrated a little bit and needed something totally the opposite.
So you wrote a drama.
It opened up a part of my brain that I don’t use very often doing comedy. It was a challenge and it was just exciting—I was really excited to get up everyday and work on it.
What was the inspiration for the film?
Well I’m a big supporter of the military and both my grandfathers served, my cousins and uncles have served and to be honest, I always said to myself if I do a movie, I’d love to do a war movie.
Did you want the audience to leave the theater with a certain mentality?
I wanted them to leave with a thought of, “Wow, there are so many untold stories about our soldiers that are probably similar to this one that happen every single day.” Not every story is a Black Hawk Down or a Saving Private Ryan, sometimes it’s just like what I wrote: these two guys are just these young kids who talk about war and also the people that they left behind: the parents, their wives, their kids. The soldiers aren’t the only ones who go to war.
I agree. My father served in Desert Storm.
Yeah, so you know how it is, man. There are so many aspects of what happens when a soldier goes away. I really wanted to capture the isolation that these guys go through a story that’s truly believable.
When you were playing SGT Justin Carrier, did you learn anything from your character that took you by surprise?
No matter how tough these guys are, these guys are vulnerable. These guys have feelings. They do open up to their buddies. They do talk about their hopes and their dreams and seeing where they want to be when they get home, as opposed to just being these robots that are stuck out there to do their job. These are human beings.
Getting Home pairs up with Rhode Island’s own Operation Stand Down. How did that pairing come to fruition?
When I started writing the movie, I said we’d do some sort of premiere or something like that, and I wanted to team up with a charity. I decided to go with Operation Stand Down because it directly benefits soldiers from Rhode Island. 90% of the movie was shot in Rhode Island, a lot of the funds that we raised came from Rhode Island, and so I kind of wanted to keep it there.
You mentioned that you’d be pitching the film to festivals. Which ones exactly?
All the big ones. We’re going to send it to Sundance, Tribeca and see what happens. I think we’re going to do really well in some smaller ones, local festivals, whether it’s Newport, or Cape Cod, or smaller ones across the country. What we were able to do on our budget, you just don’t see in independent films. You watch any short and it’s two people sitting around chatting and it cost them $20,000 whereas for about $9,000-10,000, maybe $12,000 max, our film has helicopters in our movie, explosions, a cast and crew of twenty people—you just don’t see that.
I had ten or fifteen friends who came out to Quonset Air Base on a Sunday morning in the cold to put on shorts and a t-shirt to run army drills to be guys in the background. If they all said, “Eh screw this, I’m hungover, I’m staying in bed,” guess what? None of those scenes look as spectacular or as real or as believable.
On Facebook, you reached out to your followers to help find props, filming locations, even various crew positions. What was it like having that support?
People knew from the beginning, they could just tell how passionate I was about this project. People wanted to be involved. Rhode Island is unique like that where it’s so beyond supportive. If I were born anywhere else, this film would never have been made. That’s the bottom line.
What’s next for Ben Hague?
Standup will always be my first love and I will always use my standup to pay the bills and make a living. I took so much time away from that because this movie was just so time consuming, so I’m looking forward to getting out and writing a new hour of material.
But that being said, this film opened my eyes to what I want to college for, which was acting and writing. As much as I love doing standup, and I’ll always do standup, this opened my eyes to like, “Man, this is what you should be doing.” Every day was so exciting on set—I loved every minute of it.