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Friday, March 27, 2015

Sean Kelly

Doc Thoughts: That Guy Dick Miller

TGDMQuintessential character actor Dick Miller is the subject of Elijah Drenner’s documentary That Guy Dick Miller.  With a career that spans six decades, Dick Miller began his acting career in 1955, playing both a cowboy and Indian in Roger Corman’s Apache Woman.  Miller would become one of Corman’s regular actors, with his breakout being his starring role in 1959’s A Bucket of Blood.  Miller would later be cast by Cormon disciples, such as Joe Dante, as well as appearing in character roles in films, such as The Terminator and Demon Night.  This helped to give Dick Miller the reputation for being “that guy, who’s in everything.”

That Guy Dick Miller has the perfect title for a film about the career of one of the hardest working character actors of the last sixty years.  Throughout his long career, Dick Miller has appeared in at least 300 films, ranging from his starring roles in the films by Roger Cormon to his later supporting roles, which includes appearing in every film by Joe Dante.  In fact, it’s Miller’s work with Dante, which includes Murray Futterman in Gremlins and one of the garbage men in The Burbs, which many people are most likely to know him for.  Miller actually began his career as an aspiring screenwriter, but that career eventually subsided once he got into acting, with him only getting a few writing credits in the 1970s.

For the most part, That Guy Dick Miller is a full retrospective of Miller’s career, featuring interviews with Miller and his wife Lainie, along with Roger Cormon, Joe Dante, and other people who Miller has worked with.  The film also delves a bit into Miller’s personal life, featuring interviews with his brothers and detailing the poor relationship Miller had with his father.

The role that more or less defined Dick Miller’s career was his role as Walter Paisley in Roger Cormon’s A Bucket of Blood.  The character was so iconic that Miller would play characters also named Walter Paisley in other movies, most of which were directed by Joe Dante.  Ironically, even though many would equate Dick Miller with the role, the character of Walter Paisley is probably the farthest from Miller’s real personality, which some would describe as having a hipster quality.

Like many people of my generation, I personally knew Dick Miller primarily from his work in Joe Dante’s films. As such, the biggest thing that I learned from That Guy Dick Miller is how long Miller’s career truly is, with me previously being unaware of the entire first half of his six decade long career.  Dick Miller is now in his mid-80s and is more or less retired from acting, with his final proper film credit being a cameo in Joe Dante’s The Hole.  However, the documentary shows that Dick Miller is still willing to come out of retirement for small roles, with the film depicting the shooting of a 2013 short film by artist Agnieszka Kurant entitled Cutaways.

Since he has had such a long career, it would probably be hard to find anyone who hasn’t seen Dick Miller in something and it is definitely a great thing that he is getting such an in-depth career retrospective like this one.  Altogether, That Guy Dick Miller is a well done look back at the career of one of the hardest working character actors ever.

★ ★ ★ ★ | LIKED IT

That Guy Dick Miller opens today at the Carlton Cinema

Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).