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Don’t know the name Dick Miller? That’s very possible, though you definitely know his face, and likely love many of the movies that Dick Miller appeared in. His resume stretches back 60 years, and he continued to work right up until he passed – though recently, his short films and features were obscure, even by Dick Miller standards.
But in his heyday, few could touch Miller in terms of the coolness factor of his efforts. He’s probably best recognized for playing Murray Futterman in Joe Dante’s Gremlins.
That same year, Dick Miller played the pawn shop owner in James Cameron’s seminal sci-fi thriller The Terminator.
But over the years, Dick Miller stayed busy in genre and horror classics where you’d instantly recognize his face, even if you didn’t know his name. He would steal scenes in movies such as The ‘Burbs, Innerspace, Night of the Creeps and Chopping Mall. He’d be cast by the likes of Martin Scorsese in the hilariously dark After Hours.
But primarily, Dick Miller loved working with both Roger Corman and, later on, Joe Dante, and the two created an identity for the character actor named Walter Paisley, a part Miller played in multiple Dante films. In fact, he recently reprised the role for his final time in the movie Hanukkah, written and directed by Eben McGarr. The film is finished shooting, but doesn’t yet have a release date.
The funny thing about Dick Miller is that he fully embraced his identity as “that guy you know from that movie, but can’t quite figure out his name.” So much so that there was a documentary made in 2014 called That Guy Dick Miller, by director Elijah Drenner, that covered Miller’s illustrious career while also acknowledging that he lived on the fringe, holding down roles in spectacular movies without ever starring in them.
Dick Miller will be missed by a legion of fans who knew that every time he showed up in a movie that they were watching and enjoying, the picture would get a little bit better for the small amount of time he was on screen. That you, sir, for your contributions to our cinematic enjoyment.