Jason Miller (playwright)

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Jason Miller
Born John Anthony Miller
(1939-04-22)April 22, 1939
Queens, New York, U.S.
Died May 13, 2001(2001-05-13) (aged 62)
Scranton, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Occupation Actor, playwright
Spouse(s) Linda Gleason (1963-73; divorced); 1 child
Susan Bernard (1974-83; divorced); 1 child
Ruth Josem (1984-90; divorced)

Jason Miller (April 22, 1939 – May 13, 2001) was an American actor and playwright. He received the 1973 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play That Championship Season, and was widely recognized for his role as Father Damien Karras in the 1973 horror film The Exorcist, a role he reprised briefly in The Exorcist III. He later became Artistic Director of the Scranton Public Theatre in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where That Championship Season was set.

Early years[edit]

Miller was born John Anthony Miller in Queens, New York[1] to Mary Claire (née Collins), a teacher, and John A. Miller, an electrician.[2][3] His ancestry included Irish Catholic "with some admixture of German."[4]

His family moved to Scranton, Pennsylvania in 1941, where Miller was educated at St. Patrick's High School and the Jesuit-run University of Scranton. He attended The Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, D.C. At CUA, he taught drama and English at nearby Archbishop Carroll High School.

Career[edit]

Miller was launched into stardom in 1973 by winning a Pulitzer Prize for his play, That Championship Season. The original Broadway cast featured Charles Durning, Richard Dysart, and Paul Sorvino. That same year, he was offered the role of the troubled priest, Father Damien Karras, in William Friedkin's horror film The Exorcist (1973), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. After his nomination for The Exorcist, he was offered the lead role in Taxi Driver but turned it down to do Robert Mulligan's The Nickel Ride.

In 1982 Miller directed the screen version of That Championship Season. Featured in the cast were Robert Mitchum (replacing William Holden, who died before filming began), Paul Sorvino, Martin Sheen, Stacy Keach, and Bruce Dern. His own film career was sporadic, as he preferred to work in regional theater.[5] He starred as Henry Drummond, opposite Malachy McCourt as Matthew Brady, in the Philadelphia production of Inherit The Wind.[6]

Miller co-founded the Scranton Public Theatre. With SPT, Miller directed and starred in various productions including Blithe Spirit, Harvey, California Suite, Crimes of the Heart, and The Lion in Winter. He acted occasionally in feature films, including The Devil's Advocate (1977), The Dain Curse (1978), The Ninth Configuration (1980), Toy Soldiers (1984), The Exorcist III (1990) and Rudy (1993), playing Notre Dame football coach Ara Parseghian.[5]

In 1998, he toured the country in his one-man play Barrymore's Ghost, ending the tour with a four-month run off-Broadway. In October 2000 he performed "Barrymore's Ghost" in a hugely successful and critically acclaimed production directed by Michael Leland at Theatre Double main stage, in Philadelphia. His last project was a 2001 revival of The Odd Couple for the Pennsylvania Summer Theatre Festival, in which he was to appear in the role of Oscar Madison, but he died before the production opened.[6]

Personal life[edit]

Miller was the father of actors Jason Patric (by first wife Linda Gleason, daughter of Jackie Gleason) and Joshua John Miller (by second wife Susan Bernard). In 1982 Miller returned to Scranton to become artistic director of the Scranton Public Theatre, a new regional theatre company founded the year before.

On May 13, 2001, Miller died of a heart attack in Scranton, Pennsylvania, twenty-one days after he had reached the age of 62.[7]

In 2004, actor Paul Sorvino, a longtime friend of Miller and a cast member of all three versions of That Championship Season, was commissioned by Scranton to create a bronze bust of the late playwright and actor. The statue was unveiled in December 2008. In March 2011, the first Broadway revival of That Championship Season opened. The cast comprised Brian Cox, Kiefer Sutherland, Jim Gaffigan, and Miller's elder son, actor Jason Patric.[8] The urn containing Miller's ashes was placed on the set by his son, who played the role Miller had based on himself.

Pop culture[edit]

  • Andy Richter played Father Harris in Scary Movie 2 (2001), in a scene parodying of Miller's Father Karras role in The Exorcist
  • In 2011, Rebecca Marshall Ferris's documentary Miller's Tale, about Miller's life and career, premiered on PBS.

Filmography[edit]

Year Film Role Notes
1973 The Exorcist Father Damien Karras Nominated — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
1974 The Nickel Ride Cooper
1975 A Home of Our Own Father William Wasson TV
1976 F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood F. Scott Fitzgerald TV
El Perro Aristides Ungria aka The Dog
aka Vengeance (USA Video Title)
1977 The Devil's Advocate (West Germany)
1978 The Dain Curse Owen Fitzstephan TV mini-series
1979 Vampire John Rawlins TV
1980 Marilyn: The Untold Story Arthur Miller TV
The Ninth Configuration Lt. Frankie Reno aka Twinkle, Twinkle, Killer Kane
The Henderson Monster Dr. Tom Henderson TV
1981 The Best Little Girl in the World Clay Orlovsky TV
1982 That Championship Season Screenwriter/Director
Nominated - Golden Berlin Bear at the 33rd Berlin International Film Festival.[9]
Monsignor Don Vito Appolini
1984 A Touch of Scandal Garrett Locke TV
Toy Soldiers Sarge
Terror in the Aisles archival footage
1987 Deadly Care Dr. Miles Keefer TV
Light of Day Benjamin Rasnick
1990 The Exorcist III Patient X (Father Damien Karras)
1992 Small Kill Mikie
1993 Rudy Ara Parseghian
1995 Mommy Lieutenant March
Murdered Innocence Detective Rollins
1998 Trance The Doctor aka The Eternal
1999 That Championship Season TV
Screenwriter
2000 Slice
2002 Paradox Lake
2003 Finding Home Lester Bownlow

Bibliography[edit]

  • Nobody Hears a Broken Drum (1970)
  • Lou Gehrig Did Not Die Of Cancer (1971)
  • That Championship Season (1972)
  • Barrymore's Ghost (2000)
  • Three One-Act Plays (1973, drama)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Obituary citing birth name of John Anthony Miller
  2. ^ Staff writers (May 14, 2001). "Jason Miller's Storied Career". Scranton Times Tribune. Retrieved 2008-12-19. 
  3. ^ "Jason Miller Biography". filmreference. 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-25. 
  4. ^ Ethnic background of Jason Miller
  5. ^ a b Jason Miller at the Internet Movie Database
  6. ^ a b Jason Miller profile, lortel.org; accessed June 23, 2014.
  7. ^ Jennifer Henn (May 24, 2001). "Jason Miller dies". Scranton Times Tribune. Retrieved 2008-12-19. 
  8. ^ "Cox, Gaffigan, Noth, Patric & Sutherland to Star in THE CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON 2010/11/02", Broadwayworld.com; November 2, 2010; accessed November 8, 2010.
  9. ^ "Berlinale: 1983 Programme". berlinale.de. Retrieved 2010-11-20. 

External links[edit]