Famed character actor Dick Miller, who appeared in classic '80s movies like Gremlins and The Terminator, has passed away at the age of 90. With almost 200 acting credits to his name, Miller's career spanned more than half a century and he continued working well into his 80s.
Even if you don't know Miller by name, you'll definitely know his face. He began his acting career in the 1950s and became a mainstay of Roger Corman movies like It Conquered The World, The Little Shop of Horrors, and Rock All Night (pictured above). Miller is perhaps best known for playing Billy Peltzer's neighbor, Murray Futterman, in Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The New Batch, and he also played a doomed gun store owner opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator.
Variety reports that Miller passed away on Wednesday, January 30, having recently passed his 90th birthday. He is survived by his wife, Lainie Miller, who worked as a script supervisor for many years before her retirement, and who also co-produced the documentary That Guy Dick Miller. Miller is also survived by his daughter, Barbara, and his granddaughter, Autumn. Gremlins director Joe Dante, who worked on many movies with Miller (including Toy Soldiers, Twilight Zone: The Movie, and Explorers) paid tribute to the actor on social media:
I'm devastated to report that one of my best friends and most treasured collaborators has passed away. I "grew up" (kinda) watching Dick Miller in movies from the 50s on and was thrilled to have him in my first movie for @RogerCorman... (1/2)https://t.co/TEsacH8SUW— Joe Dante (@joe_dante) January 31, 2019
...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
Over the course of several decades, Miller played various characters who were all called Walter Paisley, a name that popped up in movies like A Bucket of Blood and The Howling. Miller recalled the history of the "Walter Paisley" name in a 2012 interview with The AV Club:
“When it first happened, or when it second happened, I didn’t think much of it. [Director Joe Dante] says, “You’re Walter Paisley!” I say, “Again?” He says, “It’s just a name, it’s not the character.” I said, “All right, fine.” I didn’t think about it. And then the third time it came up, he said, “You’re Walter Paisley!” I said, “Oh yeah?” It started to build, it was an inside joke. And by the fourth time he says, “You’re Walter Paisley,” I’m saying, “What is this? Every time there’s no name for the character, I become Walter Paisley.” He says, “So what, it’s an inside joke.”
In 2014, Miller was the subject of a documentary called That Guy Dick Miller, directed by Elijah Drenner, which explored the long history of his work in Hollywood and featured interviews with various actors and directors who worked with him over the years. If you'd like to learn more about Miller's prolific career, That Guy Dick Miller is currently available to watch on Amazon Prime.
R.I.P. Dick Miller: December 25, 1928 – January 30, 2019