That Guy Dick Miller…. After This Obituary, You’ll Know Dick
Some actors are known for just one film or one genre or one character, and Dick Miller isn’t one of them. Dick played those peripheral characters that play an integral part of a film but aren’t listed as a lead or even a supporting cast member. He’s been in blockbuster and indie films and television.
Born in The Bronx, New York, on Christmas Day, 1928, to Jewish Russian parents, Dick enlisted in the US Navy and earned a prize title as a middleweight boxer. After the Navy, Dick studied at the New York University gaining a PhD in Psychology, he also performed on Broadway but relocated to Los Angeles in 1952 to try and become a writer. His first documented role, according to IMDb, is in the film Apache Woman in 1955 where he played two parts, one of a member of the townspeople and of an Indian. He has the weird accolade of his townsperson character shooting his Indian character.
I could list off the films that he’s appeared in, but I’ll mention a select few, Terminator where he played a Pawn Shop Clerk. Innerspace as a Taxi Driver, The Howling as Walter Paisley, of which he has portrayed a different character called Walter Paisley in different productions six times. Small Soldiers, The Little Shop of Horrors, Night of The Creeps, he’s even appeared in Pulp Fiction although his part was cut from the final edit, but it’s as the likeable Murray Futterman from the two Gremlins films that he will be remembered. His character named the Mogwai, Gremlins, and they made his life hell in the first film but he obtained closure in the sequel, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, where he wrestled one into freshly laid concrete for it to fly off (yes, this one had wings) and become a Gargoyle on a church as the concrete set.
On the small screen, his roles have been so diverse, he’s been in two Star trek series, The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, as well as a bartender, a series regular, in the TV series Fame. The Flash, the 90’s series not the latest one, V: The Final Battle as Dan Pascal and in the comedy series Taxi where he played two characters in two separate episodes. He was even in an episode of Miami Vice.
The versatile career of Dick Miller was documented in a documentary titled “That Guy Dick Miller” with interviews of colleagues and directors that he’s worked with throughout his career.
He’s worked with Scorsese, Spielberg, Zemeckis and Cameron but his career is speckled with collaborations with Joe Dante and Roger Corman, in fact he’s appeared in every Joe Dante production right up until his death.
Dick Miller had a career spanning six decades in film and his career started in his late 20’s. He was the Character Actor’s Actor. He had some other jobs outside of movies and television, he has played drums for Bobby Sherwood and been a radio DJ too. He died on January 30th, 2019 at the age of 90.