Large and muscular at an early age, American actor Dick Miller entered the Navy during World War II while still a teenager, distinguishing himself as a boxer. He attended CCNY, Columbia University and New York University, supporting himself with semi-pro football jobs, radio DJ gigs and as a psychological assistant at Bellevue. At age 22, he was host of a Manhattan-based TV chat show, Midnight Snack. Stage and movie work followed, and Miller joined the stock company/entourage of low-budget auteur Roger Corman. His first great Corman role was as the hyperthyroid salesman in Not of this Earth (1956); a handful of rock-and-roll quickies followed before Miller received his first sci-fi lead in War of the Satellites (1958). In Corman's Bucket of Blood (1959), Miller originated the role of Walter Paisley, the nebbishy sociopath who "creates" avant-garde sculpture by murdering his subjects and dipping them in plaster. He was then cast in the immortal Little Shop of Horrors (1960); Miller not only makes a terrific entrance by buying a bouquet of flowers and then eating them, but also narrates the picture. Miller stayed with Corman into the 1970s, at which time the director was in charge of New World Pictures. Seldom making a liveable income in films, Miller remained an unknown entity so far as the "big" studios were concerned -- but his teenaged fans were legion, and he was besieged on the streets and in public places for autographs. When the adolescent science-fiction fans of the 1950s became the directors of the 1980s, Miller began receiving some of the best roles of his career. In Joe Dante's Gremlins (1984), Miller was paired with his Little Shop costar Jackie Joseph, as a rural couple whose house is bulldozed by a group of hostile gremlins. Miller and Joseph returned in the sequel Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1989), in which the actor heroically helped squash the gremlins' invasion of New York. Miller's most Pirandellian role was as the "decency league" activist in Matinee (1993) who is actually an actor in the employ of William Castle-like showman John Goodman. Directed again by longtime Miller fan Dante, Matinee contains a wonderful "in" joke wherein Miller is identified as a fraud via his photograph in a Famous Monsters of Filmland-type fanzine -- the very sort of publication which canonized Miller throughout the 1970s.
by Hal Erickson biography