With a career spanning more than 60 years, Miller has made hundreds of on screen appearances, beginning in the 1950s with legendary director and producer Roger Corman. It was then that he starred as Walter Paisley – a character the actor would reprise throughout his career – in the cult classic “A Bucket of Blood,” before going on to land roles on projects such as “The ‘Burbs,” “Fame” and “The Terminator.”
Miller also boasts a long history of high-profile director partnerships, working with the likes of James Cameron, Ernest Dickerson, Martin Scorsese, John Sayles and, perhaps most notably, Joe Dante, who used Miller in almost every project he helmed.
In one of Dante’s earlier films, “Piranha,” Miller played Buck Gardner, a small-time real estate agent opening up a new resort on Lost River Lake. The only catch? A large school of genetically altered piranha have accidentally been released into the resort’s nearby rivers. Next up was a police chief role in the 1979 film “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” before reprising the Walter Paisley mantle as an occult bookshop owner in Dante’s 1981 horror film “The Howling.”
Other notable appearances include the 1986 cult favorite “Night of the Creeps,” where he shared the screen with Tom Atkins as a police ammunitions officer named Walt – he supplies Atkins with some necessary firepower in the face of an alien worm-zombie invasion – and a pawnshop owner in James Cameron’s 1984 hit “The Terminator; the same year he appeared in yet another of Dante’s films, “Gremlins.”
Most recently, Miller reprised the role of Walter Paisley for a final time as a rabbi in Eben McGarr’s horror film “Hanukkah.”
Miller is survived by his wife Lainie, daughter Barbara and granddaughter Autumn.
Dante called him “one of his most treasured collaborators,” writing, “I ‘grew up’ (kinda) watching Dick Miller in movies from the 50s on and was thrilled to have him in my first movie for Roger Corman.”
…We hit it off and every script thereafter I always looked for a role for Dick–not just because he was my friend but because I loved watching him act! But he leaves behind over 100 performances, a bio & a doc–not bad for a guy who hardly ever enjoyed a starring role. (2/2) pic.twitter.com/sqXgMIZb6k
— Joe Dante (@joe_dante) January 31, 2019
Director Edgar Wright remembered him as “the king of character actors.”
RIP Dick Miller, surely the king of character actors. A friendly, funny face in Gremlins (1&2), Piranha, the original Little Shop Of Horrors, Not Of This Earth, After Hours & my personal beatnik fav, Walter Paisley in 'A Bucket Of Blood'. Any role of his was cult movie nirvana. pic.twitter.com/StRqrWHgBS
— edgarwright (@edgarwright) January 31, 2019