R.I.P Dick Miller. And thank you for bringing us such joy and wonderment with your work over the years.
Sad news has hit the wires overnight. The legendary character actor Dick Miller has passed away at the age of 90. Mr Miller appeared in over 100 films including many directed by the great Roger Corman. In later years, he was a mainstay in every Joe Dante movie. He also had a cameo in the original Terminator film, appearing as the gun shop owner murdered by Arnold Schwarzenegger as the T-800 gained his arsenal of weapons upon his arrival in Los Angeles. Miller’s other films included Gremlins, Gremlins 2, Explorers, Piranha (1978), The Howling, A Bucket Of Blood, The Little Shop Of Horrors (1960), Chopping Mall, Night Of The Creeps, The ‘Burbs, Innerspace and Small Soldiers.
Dick Miller was born on Christmas Day 1928, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants. He served a tour of duty in the United States Navy before gaining a PhD in psychology. He performed on Broadway and gained employment at the Bellevue Hospital mental hygiene clinic and also the psychiatric department at Queens General Hospital. However, in 1952 he moved to California seeking work as a writer. One of his very first screen appearances came in 1955 in the film Apache Woman in which he strangely played a dual role as both one member of the townspeople and a separate role as an Indian. In a weird twist of events in the film, his townsperson character shoots and kills his Indian character.
After this breakthrough, Miller became almost exclusively a part of Roger Corman’s stable of performers who were used in all of his films. From 1956 until 1963, he acted on screen in only Corman films. In 1978, his association with director Joe Dante began with his performance as Buck Gardiner in Piranha, a not so subtle rip off of Jaws. This led to Miller becoming a Hollywood mainstay. An appearance in Steven Spielberg‘s underwhelming comedy 1941 released in 1979 slowly started to cement his reputation as one of the most reliable and employable actors around. He once again worked with Dante on the 1980 black comedy/horror film, The Howling and continued the association with his role as Walter the bartender in Dante’s segment for The Twilight Zone movie.
Perhaps the role he is best remembered for came in 1984 when he again teamed up with Dante for the classic film Gremlins. His role as Murray Futterman wasn’t supposed to be so enjoyable and memorable. In fact, his character was supposed to die, alongside his screen wife, killed by the rampaging creatures, crushed to death by his own snow plough. However, audiences loved his character and didn’t want to see him killed off. That led to Dante bringing back his character in the 1990 sequel Gremlins 2: The New Batch. The highlight of the film was seeing Futterman again attacked by the gremlins only for him to finally snap, lose his fear of them and to kill his tormentors. The audience loved it.
Miller wasn’t only an actor on film but in 1992, he became a voice actor when he was cast as Mob boss Chuckie Sol in the fantastic Warner Bros. animation film, Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm. Although the role was a brief voice-over, a year later Miller was again heard in the animated Batman series for two episodes as the character of Boxcars ‘Boxy’ Bennett. He did appear in Quentin Tarantino’s Oscar-winning film Pulp Fiction as the character Monster Joe but his part was cut from the finished film and his character only referenced. A role in Tales From The Crypt: Demon Knight as Uncle Willy came his way in 1995. From 1998 until 2003, Miller appeared on screen only three times and each time it was in films by Joe Dante. The Warlord: Battle For The Galaxy and Small Soldiers in 1998 and in Looney Tunes: Back In Action in 2003. He returned to voice acting in 2005 with the role of Oberon in the Justice League Unlimited show. He reteamed again with Dante with an uncredited role as a Pizza delivery guy in The Hole in 2009 and worked with him a final time in 2014 film Burying The Ex. The same year, he appeared as himself in the documentary ‘That Dick Miller Guy’. His final screen roles came in 2015 with his role as the same character, Walther in The Adventures Of Biffle And Shooster and Schmo Boat, a collection of fake 1930’s comedy shorts.
His Television credits included Police Squad!, V: The Final Battle, three seasons of appearing as Lou Mackie, the Bartender on Fame, a prison guard in Soap and appearances in Star Trek: The Next Generation as a newspaper stand man in the season 1 episode ‘The Big Goodbye’ and in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in the episode ‘Past Tense’. He also directed episodes of various TV shows including an episode of 1980’s cop drama ‘Miami Vice’. In addition, he made an appearance in the music video for the Rod Stewart song ‘Infatuation’ in 1984.
He married his wife, Lainie in 1959, a union that has lasted almost 60 years.
We at The Future Of The Force extended our heartfelt condolences to Mr Millers wife and family at this sad time. It is truly sad to have to say goodbye to such a legendary and respected actor, writer and director. He leaves us with a rich body of work that will stand the test of time and carry his name forward for future generations.
R.I.P Dick Miller. And thank you for bringing us such joy and wonderment with your work over the years. May you sleep in peace now, knowing that we, the audience will never ever forget you. And your body of work will ensure your name will live on in our hearts.
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Carl Roberts is a Senior Entertainment/Books and Literature Correspondent for The Future of the Force. Aside from being our horror genre aficionado, he is also passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and the Indiana Jones movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force frequently!