Randall Miller Biography
Randall Miller (born July 24, 1962) is an American film director, producer, screenwriter, editor, occasional actor, and convict having served time for involuntary manslaughter.
At the American Film Ins*ute (AFI), Miller received acclaim for his 1990 short film Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School. This led to a career directing films in Hollywood in the 1990s, including the comedies Cl* Act (1992), Houseguest (1995), and The 6th Man (1997).
In his 40s, Miller ventured into independent film, taking money out of his house to direct and produce Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing and Charm School (2005), an expansion of his 1990 short into a full-length feature. Miller followed this with the indie films Nobel Son (2007), Bottle Shock (2008), and CBGB (2013), all starring Alan Rickman in the lead role. Miller self-distributed and raised the money for Bottle Shock, his greatest critical success.
Miller has closely collaborated with his wife Jody Savin on many of his projects, writing and producing multiple films together.
In 2015, Miller pled guilty for accidentally killing film crew member Sarah Jones when she was struck by a train on a trestle bridge he ordered her onto despite not having legal permission to shoot on it, to keep his wife out of jail. The film was Midnight Rider, which he was directing and producing. Miller served one year in jail and is completing nine years of probation. Miller is the only film director in history to have been convicted in the U.S. for killing a cast or crew member.
Early life and education
Miller grew up in Pasadena, California. His mother, Leona Miller, was an internist and professor at USC County Medical Center and President of the Diabetes *ociation.:His father, Alexander Miller, was a professor of microbiology at UCLA after completing his graduate studies at Cal Tech in Pasadena.
Miller attended UC Davis, where he played football and studied biochemistry, inspired by his own parents' careers in medicine. After getting interested in acting, he transferred to UCLA, but dropped out to pursue his acting career, landing television roles in Cheers, Highway to Heaven, and in commercials. During that time, Miller met director Bob Zemeckis of Back to The Future fame while acting in a play with Zemeckis' wife. At Zemeckis' encouragement, Miller completed his undergraduate degree at the USC film school. He then received a master's degree in film from the American Film Ins*ute (AFI). Miller met his future wife Jody Savin at AFI, where he was a director fellow and she was a writing fellow.
In 1990, Miller directed an award-winning 35-minute thesis film at AFI, Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School. Set in 1962, the short featured a cast of children attending a cotillion. The film was based on Miller's own experience going to cotillion as a child in Pasadena. Miller was nominated for CableACE Awards for his writing and direction of Marilyn Hotchkiss.
Miller made his Hollywood directorial debut in 1992 with Cl* Act, is a modern-day comedic take on The Prince and the Pauper about a pair of teenagers with switched iden*ies.
In 1995, Miller helmed Houseguest, another movie about mistaken iden*ies. The Los Angeles Times said "Houseguest, a rowdy fish-out-of-water comedy, is as good-natured as its big, beefy star, comedian Sinbad." The film debuted at No.3 and went on to gross $26 million in North America, making it a modest commercial success considering its $10.5 million budget.
Miller then directed the 1997 American sports comedy film The 6th Man, starring Marlon Wayans and Kadeem Hardison. A film review in Variety said Miller "gets so much out of his cast and screenplay."
Miller directed the 1999 Wonderful World of Disney made-for-television comedy film H-E Double Hockey Sticks, for which he was nominated for a Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Children's Programs.
2005–2013: Indie films
In 2005, Miller expanded his 1990 short Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing and Charm School into a full-length feature, incorporating material from the short in the form of flashbacks. The film starred Marisa Tomei, John Goodman, and Robert Carlyle.
It was Miller's first foray into independent film. Following the death of Miller's father and Savin's mother, the couple risked pursuing their dream of making serious films by taking money out of their Pasadena home to finance the movie. The film premiered at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival.
Miller then directed three indie films starring Alan Rickman in the lead role. Rickman said, "This is the Randy and Jody part of my life... It's a unique thing that Randy and Jody have -- a totally unique and independent energy."
The first was the 2007 American black comedy Nobel Son about a dysfunctional family dealing with the kidnapping of their son for ransom following the father's winning of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. In addition to Rickman, the film starred Bill Pullman, Eliza Dushku, and Danny DeVito. In Rickman's character of an egomaniacal genius, Miller was writing about his own professor father. Nobel Son premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.
In 2008 Alan Rickman returned in a leading role in Miller's movie Bottle Shock, a dramedy based on the 1976 "Judgement of Paris" wine compe*ion in which a California wine shockingly defeats a French one in a blind taste test. Miller and his wife, Jody, were introduced to Marc and Brenda Lhormer, the founders of the Sonoma Valley Film Festival, in 2006 at the opening night of Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing and Charm School. In 2008, the Lhormers presented a screenplay on the "Judgement of Paris" to Miller and his wife. The story interested Miller and Jody and they took it on board. They ended up writing, directing and producing Bottle Shock. The film also starred Chris Pine and Bill Pullman.
Bottle Shock premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Without much interest from major distribution houses, Miller opted for the "maverick route" of self-distribution. While the upsides included retaining the DVD and other rights to the film and controlling how the film was rolled out and marketed, Miller said the downsides were "an enormous amount of work, an enormous amount of stress, no sleep". Miller managed to raise some $10 million from private investors for the film and *ociated costs.
In his third film with Miller, Rickman played Hilly Kristal in CBGB, a 2013 historical film about the former New York music venue of the same name. Miller wrote the screenplay, produced and directed the film revolving around the life of Kristal, musician and owner of the CBGB club. The film also starred Malin Akerman, Justin Bartha, Richard de Klerk, and Johnny Galecki.
Midnight Rider manslaughter convictionSee also: Safety for Sarah movement and Midnight Rider (film)
In 2014, on the first day of production of Midnight Rider, camera *istant Sarah Jones was killed during the filming of a scene. The film was never completed. A police investigation in the town of Jesup, Georgia, concluded that Miller and his crew were tresp*ing on an operating railway line and that the train was unscheduled. Charges for criminal tresp*ing and involuntary manslaughter were eventually brought against Miller, his wife, producer Jody Savin, producer/UPM Jay Sedrish, and 1st *istant director Hillary Schwartz for Jones's death.
On March 9, 2015, Miller agreed to a plea deal in exchange for having charges dropped against his wife. He was sentenced to ten years, the first two to be served in jail, followed by probation, along with a $20,000 fine and 360 hours of community service. Sedrish and Schwartz were sentenced to 10 years' probation with no jail time and ordered to pay fines. The terms of Miller's probation stipulated that he would be "prohibited from serving as director, first *istant director or supervisor" with responsibility for safety on any film production until his sentence was completed. Sedrish's and Schwartz's sentences contained similar provisions. Miller's conviction marked the first time a director was sent to prison for the death of a cast or crew member.
Miller was released from jail on March 23, 2016, after serving slightly more than one year owing to a two-for-one deal made during negotiations for the original plea agreement with Georgia *istant District Attorney John Johnson requiring the court to revise the original sentence, as it was deemed improper. Sarah Jones's father Richard Jones said in his statement to the court, "When Elizabeth and I agreed to this plea, it was our understanding that he would be serving two years in jail. If had we understood that it would have been one year, we would not have agreed" and stated, "I want to be clear that we don’t want to inflict—we don't mean to inflict more pain to Mr. Miller's family. We understand that... it's been quite a lot of pain for their family, but this is, in our view, about a bigger purpose. It's about making the film industry a better, safer place. And in order to do so, we feel very strongly that this is an important element that Mr. Miller be held fully accountable for what he did."
In July 2017, Sarah Jones's family was awarded $11.2 million in civil damages. As reported in the Los Angeles Times, "he jury found that CSX (the train's operator) was primarily liable for the accident and should pay 35% of the total judgment... Miller was found responsible for 28% of the amount of the latest ruling. Rayonier Performance Fibers, owners of the land where the accident occurred, are responsible for 18% and the rest of the liability is divided between individual members of the film's production company."
Higher Grounds controversy
In 2019, Miller directed a film en*led Higher Grounds in Serbia, London, and Colombia, during his probation. After being made aware of this early in 2020, the Jones family alerted Georgia's district attorney's office that Miller was directing a film, in apparent violation of his probation. Former Georgia *istant District Attorney John Johnson said that Miller had violated the terms of his probation and requested a warrant for his arrest.
Miller and his attorneys have said that they believed that he was allowed to direct a film, so long as he was not responsible for safety. Miller said that the first *istant director, Jason Allen, was designated as the person in charge of safety.At the hearing, the defense called several witnesses, including Miller's California parole officer, his sister, and his father-in-law, who each testified that was also their understanding. Miller also testified that that was how he understood the term. Attorney Mike Smith had told the film crew of Higher Grounds that Miller was able to direct as long as he did not oversee safety, with the film's first *istant director reportedly tasked with safety compliance; however, Johnson noted that Smith likely has a conflict of interest as he is also the movie's executive producer.
A hearing was held on February 17, 2021, in which Miller said that he "misunderstood" the wording of the probation agreement, in particular claiming ambiguity over whether the phrase "responsibility for safety in any film production" allowed him to work as a director provided he did not have authority in safety compliance. At the close of the hearing, Judge Anthony L. Harrison ruled that Miller had not knowingly broken his probation, but said that the agreement should be understood to forbid him from directing any more films for the duration of his sentence.
Miller has been married to Jody Savin since March 13, 1999. They have two children together.
Actress Rhea Perlman is Miller's cousin.
- Randall Miller at IMDb