When Dick Miller Got Into the Movies

Dick Miller didn’t want to be an actor. His sights were set on writing, and when he moved to Hollywood, he hoped one of his science fiction ideas would take off. But that all changed thanks to a friend.

Miller remembered, “A friend of mine was working for Roger Corman, and he had to drop something off. So I said, ‘Can I go with you?’”

Miller was ready to pitch his ideas, but Corman wasn’t looking for a writer. He needed actors.

“I’m an actor!” Miller quickly told him.

Their first film together – which was also Dick’s film debut – was Apache Woman. His big moment came in 1959 with A Bucket of Blood, where he played an unstable artist.

Bucket of Blood was probably Dick’s best role,” Corman said. “And he’s been known for it in a sort of cult way.”

In fact, five other films which featured Miller referenced the movie by naming his character “Walter Paisley.”

“That’s the one that I like the best,” said Dick about A Bucket of Blood.

Little Shop of Horrors came next, and Miller had a chance to play the lead again. However, this time, he said no, feeling that the part was too similar. Turning it down also gave him a chance to repay the friend who introduced him to Corman: Jonathan Haze. 

Little Shop proved to be another cult classic and just like the previous movie, it was made at breakneck speed – two days!

“We had to shoot it fast, and a lot of times we had to ad-lib because we’d lose ourselves. We didn’t know where we were in the script,” Haze remembered.

“The only way Roger did a second take was if the camera fell over,” Miller said.

Dick continued to work with Corman, collaborating with the director on over 50 projects, but also branched out to work on other movies with talented individuals like Jack Nicholson, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, and James Cameron.

“My thrill of a lifetime was working with Boris Karloff. I think Karloff, Gable, and Cagney were the three giants I met in the business. You meet actors today, but they’re not giants,” Miller said.

No matter the role or the film, the consistent remark from his peers was that Dick Miller gave each part his everything, including that magical touch.

“He’s so himself. He’s so completely authentic. You’re never gonna steal a scene from him because how can you steal a scene from someone who’s so real? You’re never gonna steal a scene from reality,” Zach Galligan said, remembering his time with Miller in Gremlins.

“Dick was one of my favorite actors,” Corman said.