Q&A: Dick and Lainie Miller

Subject and co-producer, That Guy Dick Miller

You’ve seen Dick Miller in all sorts of movies. He’s the crusty, capable guy in literally dozens of films, standing out because of his no-nonsense attitude and distinctive Bronx rhythms. And now he’s being celebrated in That Guy Dick Miller, a documentary tracing his path through half a century of American genre cinema. And you know what? The guy deserves it.

I spoke to Miller and his wife, Lainie (who co-produced the doc), in advance of this week’s Toronto premiere.

I can’t tell you how great a pleasure it is to talk to you. I grew up watching you in Roger Corman’s movies.

DICK MILLER The past seems to live forever. These pictures, the stories hold up, even if they show a lack of money and production values. But they manage to hold up over 60 years, so it’s quite a thrill.

Well, as the documentary points out, it’s not like the actors were phoning it in. Everybody’s doing their best to sell the story, whether it’s biker gangs or ghosts or man-eating plants.

DM I always thought Roger Corman did his best work in casting a picture and then letting the people go [at it]. The performances hold up.

And you did so many of them.

DM We did a check for the AFI, and I found out there were 49 projects that I worked on with Roger. It just went on and on and on. He cast them quick, he shot ’em quick, they were out – and in two months they were [gone]. But fortunately they came back. It seems like almost all of ’em have some kind of second life.

Is there anything you’re chasing now? Or are you really thinking of retirement, as you suggest in the documentary?

LAINIE MILLER When someone calls here, if he answers the phone he says, “I’m retired,” and hangs down the phone. If I answer the phone I say, “Send us a script, we’ll look at it and we’ll let you know.” I seriously think he’s better off working than not working, because he still cares very much, and I think it’s good for him.

Now you’ve become an icon for a new generation of film geeks thanks to your appearances in movies like The Howling, The Terminator and Gremlins.

DM Yeah. Well, they know who I am now, but for years and years and years nobody knew anything about me.

LM I always knew.

DM Well, you’re sweet [laughter].

The Millers will be at the Carlton Cinemas for Q&As after Friday and Saturday nights’ screenings and will stick around for special presentations of A Bucket Of Blood on Friday and The Little Shop Of Horrors Saturday.

Interview Clips

Dick Miller (and Lainie Miller) on being the guy who had to explain the plot of Roger Corman’s famously incoherent The Terror.

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