Gremlins Actor Dick Miller Dies At 90

Veteran character actor Dick Miller, whose screen career covered six decades and who is perhaps best known for his role as the crotchety World War II vet Murray Futterman in the 1984 Joe Dante classic Gremlins, has died (via Variety). He was 90.

Born and raised in the Bronx, Miller served a stint in the Navy before moving to L.A. in the mid-'50s, where he caught the attention of notorious B-movie machine Roger Corman. The director and producer cast Miller in bit parts in a variety of low-budget '50s shockers with titles like It Conquered the World and Not of This Earth, culminating with a starring role as a mentally unstable sculptor in the 1959 cult classic A Bucket of Blood and a prominent supporting part in 1960's Little Shop of Horrors

He worked consistently in television throughout the '60s and '70s while continuing to appear in Corman's productions, which put him in the orbit of Joe Dante. Miller was cast in Dante's 1978 sophomore feature Piranha (which Corman produced), the beginning of an association which would see Dante subsequently cast the actor in virtually every film he directed.

Dante arguably hit his commercial peak with Gremlins, which boasted Steven Spielberg as an executive producer and was a smash hit, grossing nearly $150 million dollars (roughly $360 million in today's dollars) at the box office. Miller had a slight but memorable role; his Murray Futterman gave the film its title (warning Zach Galligan's Billy and Phoebe Cates' Kate about gremlins that could be hiding in foreign-bought products) and seemingly meeting his end along with his wife Sheila when actual gremlins drive a snow plow through his house. Ol' Murray proved to be pretty durable, however — MIller would reprise the role in 1990's Gremlins: The New Batch.

He had a streak of such memorable bit parts in the '80s, including as the gun shop owner in The Terminator who happens to be all out of phased plasma rifles ("Hey, just what you see, pal!"). He also appeared in Martin Scorsese's After Hours, the insane horror gem Chopping Mall, and Dante's sci-fi/comedy Innerspace during the decade.

His steady work in TV and film continued through the '90s, '00s, and right on in to this decade; his final role was in the Eben McGarr horror flick Hanukkah, which was completed just last year and is currently awaiting release. 

Dante took to social media in the wake of the news to pay homage to his friend with a series of tweets. "I'm devastated to report that one of my best friends and most treasured collaborators has passed away," the director said. 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... 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."

Director Edgar Wright also pitched in on Twitter, saying, "RIP Dick Miller, surely the king of character actors. A friendly, funny face in Gremlins (1&2), Piranha, the original Little Shop Of Horrors, Not Of This Earth, After Hours & my personal beatnik fav, Walter Paisley in 'A Bucket Of Blood'. Any role of his was cult movie nirvana."

Miller leaves behind his wife Lainie, daughter Barbara, and granddaughter Autumn; he'll be fondly remembered.