Jason Miller (playwright)

Jason Miller
Born John Anthony Miller, Jr.
(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
Years active 19722001
Linda Gleason
(m. 1963; div. 1973)

Susan Bernard
(m. 1974; div. 1983)

Ruth Josem
(m. 1984; div. 1990)
Children 4; including Jason Patric and Joshua John Miller

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 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

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

His family moved to Scranton in 1941, where Miller was educated at St. Patrick's High School and the Jesuit-run University of Scranton, where he received a degree in English and philosophy. He then attended the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. as a graduate student in the speech and drama department; although the Associated Press reported upon his passing that he earned a master's degree there, Miller had claimed that he was asked to leave the school before taking a degree "for never attending classes, never taking tests and never getting the girls back to their dormitory by 10 o'clock."[5] During this period, he taught drama and English at nearby Archbishop Carroll High School.


Miller was launched into stardom in 1972 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.[6] He starred as Henry Drummond, opposite Malachy McCourt as Matthew Brady, in the Philadelphia production of Inherit The Wind.[7]

Miller worked as artistic director with 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.[6]

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 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.[7]

Personal life

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.

As of 1972, Miller was a resident of Neponsit, Queens, New York.[8] On May 13, 2001, Miller died of a heart attack in his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania.[9]

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.[10] 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

  • Andy Richter played Father Harris in Scary Movie 2 (2001), in a scene parodying 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.

TV and filmography

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 a.k.a. The Dog
aka Vengeance (USA Video Title)
1977 The Devil's Advocate Dr. Meyer (West Germany)
1978 The Dain Curse Owen Fitzstephan TV mini-series
1979 Vampire John Rawlins TV
1980 The Ninth Configuration Lt. Frankie Reno a.k.a. Twinkle, Twinkle, Killer Kane
The Henderson Monster Dr. Tom Henderson TV
Marilyn: The Untold Story Arthur Miller 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.[11]
Monsignor Don Vito Appolini
1984 Toy Soldiers Sarge
A Touch of Scandal Garrett Locke TV
Terror in the Aisles archival footage
1987 Light of Day Benjamin Rasnick
Deadly Care Dr. Miles Keefer TV
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 a.k.a. The Eternal
1999 That Championship Season TV
2000 Slice
2002 Paradox Lake
2003 Finding Home Lester Bownlow (final film role)


  • 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)


  1. "News | thetimes-tribune.com". Scranton Times-Tribune. Retrieved 2016-08-27.
  2. Staff writers (May 14, 2001). "Jason Miller's Storied Career". Scranton Times Tribune. Archived from the original on January 14, 2009. Retrieved 2008-12-19.
  3. "Jason Miller Biography". filmreference. 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-25.
  4. "Current Biography Yearbook". Books.google.com. Retrieved 2016-08-27.
  5. Pogrebin, Robin (2001-05-15). "Jason Miller, Playwright and Actor, Dies at 62". NYTimes.com. Retrieved 2016-08-27.
  6. 1 2 Jason Miller on IMDb
  7. 1 2 "Search – Lortel Archives". Lortel.org. Retrieved 2016-08-27.
  8. "Drama/comedy Awards, 1917–1996: From Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams ..." Books.google.com. Retrieved 2016-08-27.
  9. Jennifer Henn (May 24, 2001). "Jason Miller dies". Scranton Times Tribune. Archived from the original on January 14, 2009. Retrieved 2008-12-19.
  10. "Cox, Gaffigan, Noth, Patric & Sutherland to Star in THE CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON 2010/11/02", Broadwayworld.com; November 2, 2010; accessed November 8, 2010.
  11. "Berlinale: 1983 Programme". berlinale.de. Retrieved 2010-11-20.
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