Family & Companions
Evoking the aura of classic film stars, while clearly imbued with modern sensibilities, actress Penelope Ann Miller was one of the most sought-after leading ladies of the 1990s. After gaining notice on television and Broadway, she reprised her breakthrough stage role in the film version of Neil Simon's "Biloxi Blues" (1988) opposite star Matthew Broderick. Following screen appearances alongside such diverse leading men as Paul Reubens and Richard Gere, Miller inundated screens with a stream of high-profile projects that included the mob comedy "The Freshman" (1990), the inspirational fact-based drama "Awakenings" (1990), and the comedic action romp "Kindergarten Cop" (1990). A Golden Globe-nominated performance opposite Al Pacino in the crime drama "Carlito's Way" (1993) preceded the less revered pulp hero adventure "The Shadow" (1994) and the monster movie "The Relic" (1997). Leading lady roles in feature films gradually gave way to more television work in efforts such as "Mary Kay Letourneau: All-American Girl" (USA: 2000) and episodes of "A Nero Wolfe Mystery" (A&E, 2001-02). An exceptionally difficult accomplishment, Miller successfully transitioned from sparkling newcomer to seasoned supporting player over the course of an impressively consistent career, marked by frequent collaboration with some of film and television's most respected creative forces. Miller matured into an impressively varied character actress in the 21st century, with roles in films ranging from the Oscar-winning silent comedy "The Artist" to racially-charged drama "Birth of a Nation" (2016), along with TV work on series including middle-aged dramedy "Men of a Certain Age" ((TNT 2009-2011) and "American Crime" (ABC 2015-17).
Born Penelope Andrea Miller on Jan. 13, 1964 in Los Angeles, she was the daughter of actor-writer Mark Miller and Beatrice, a publicist and journalist, who worked as an editor at Harper's Bazaar magazine for a time. Miller was bitten by the acting bug early when she participated in an ambitious theater program at L.A.'s Paul Revere Junior High School, and further cultivated her interest at University High School. After graduation she briefly attended nearby Menlo College before moving to New York at the age of 18 in order to pursue her acting professionally. There, she studied at the prestigious HB Studio under the tutelage of Herbert Berghof. Soon, Miller began picking up sporadic work in commercials and on daytime soaps before making her primetime TV debut on the horror anthology series "Tales from the Darkside" (syndicated, 1983-88) in 1985. That same year, she landed her breakthrough stage role on Broadway opposite Matthew Broderick in Neil Simon's nostalgic comedy "Biloxi Blues." Miller's first stab at being a series regular came when she was cast as a highly intellectual teen on "The Popcorn Kid" (CBS, 1987), a short-lived sitcom set at a local movie theater. She was, however, seen as a guest star on several other popular series of the time, including a 1987 episode of "Miami Vice" (NBC, 1984-89). That same year, an increasingly busy Miller played the geeky runaway friend of Elisabeth Shue in the teen comedy "Adventures in Babysitting" (1987).
With her career gaining traction, Miller reprised the role she had originated on Broadway in the film adaptation of "Biloxi Blues" (1988), with Broderick also retaining his lead status. She had supporting roles in such diverse films as Paul Reubens' "Big Top Pee Wee" (1988), a sequel to the cult classic bizarro comedy based on his character of Pee Wee Herman, and joined the cast of the Richard Gere farmland drama "Miles From Home" (1988), directed by actor Gary Sinise. Miller returned to Broadway the following year with a well-received portrayal of Emily Webb in the taped-for-television revival of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" (PBS, 1989), an installment of the long-running theatrical series "Great Performances" (PBS, 1971- ). In film, she reteamed with "Miami Vice" star Don Johnson in the John Frankenheimer-directed cop thriller "Dead Bang" (1989). Miller then broke out with an exceptionally prolific year, first appearing in "Downtown" (1990), a buddy cop movie starring Anthony Edwards and Forest Whitaker, followed by a turn alongside screen legend Marlon Brando and her old stage pal Matthew Broderick in the crime comedy "The Freshman" (1990). Not yet done for the year, she also turned in a performance in the Robin Williams/Robert De Niro medical drama "Awakenings" (1990), which competed on screens almost simultaneously with her work in the Arnold Schwarzenegger kiddie action comedy "Kindergarten Cop" (1990).
Miller next took on the role of a determined lawyer attempting to help Gregory Peck's character (his final performance) stave off corporate raider Danny De Vito in "Other People's Money" (1991), a comedy-drama directed by Norman Jewison. That year she also enjoyed a romance with Tim Daly while pursuing the world's most valuable bottle of wine in the comedy adventure "Year of the Comet" (1992). She played an attention-starved librarian as the title character in the comedy "The Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag" (1992), then essayed silent film star Edna Purviance in the biopic "Chaplin" (1992), starring Robert Downey, Jr. as the iconic film tramp. Miller received critical acclaim for her portrayal of Al Pacino's loyal girlfriend in director Brian De Palma's crime drama "Carlito's Way" (1993), and art imitated life when she and the much older veteran actor briefly became a couple during and after filming. Her follow-up project was the less-than enthusiastically received action-adventure "The Shadow" (1994), starring Alec Baldwin as the eponymous pulp crime fighter. After her relationship with Pacino, Miller became involved with future comedic star Will Arnett, who she married in 1994. The union, however, was a brief one, and the couple separated one year later. She then headlined her first bona fide creature feature in director Peter Hyams' "The Relic" (1997), a horror tale about a murderous monstrosity lurking in the halls of the Chicago Natural History Museum. Miller ventured back onto TV that same year, co-starring as Joe Mantegna's showgirl wife in the mob miniseries "Mario Puzo's 'The Last Don'" (CBS, 1997), and played a widowed rural doctor who employs an escort in order to keep well-meaning suitors at bay in "The Hired Heart" (Lifetime, 1997).
The following year, Miller co-starred opposite Jon Bon Jovi and Josh Charles in the light romantic drama "Little City" (1998), but returned to television for a recurring role on the Tom Selleck sitcom "The Closer" (CBS, 1998). Perhaps sensing trouble on the horizon, the actress left the soon-to-be-cancelled show after only five appearances, claiming she was unhappy with the direction her character was taking. Significantly more challenging and creatively satisfying was her work as the title character in the docudrama "Mary Kay Letourneau: All-American Girl" (USA: 2000), based on the infamous case of a high school teacher who fell in love with, and became pregnant by, a 13-year-old student. With her personal life on much more solid ground than that of her recent character, Miller wed investment counselor James Patrick Huggins in 2000. Although feature film roles had become less prevalent for the actress, she reappeared on screen in the mystery thriller "Along Came a Spider" (2001), starring Morgan Freeman as detective and forensic scientist Alex Cross. In a similar vein, she appeared in two episodes of the highly-regarded vintage detective series "A Nero Wolfe Mystery" (A&E, 2001-02), starring Maury Chaykin as the titular sleuth and Timothy Hutton as his streetwise sidekick, Archie Goodwin.
Less successful television projects included "A Minute with Stan Hooper" (FOX, 2003), a short-lived comedy starring Norm MacDonald, and the equally brief thriller series "Vanished" (FOX, 2006), in which Miller played the ex-wife of a U.S. senator whose current wife has disappeared under mysterious circumstances. The following year she co-starred with Kristen Stewart and Dylan McDermott in the horror film "The Messengers" (2007), as the matriarch of a farming family plagued by a malevolent darkness. Miller went on to play the supportive mother of a son with dreams of motocross stardom in the high-flying family feature "Free Style" (2008). Two years later came a turn in Rob Reiner's critically acclaimed, youthful romantic comedy "Flipped" (2010), in addition to a recurring role in the comedy drama series "Men of a Certain Age" (TNT, 2009-2011), starring Ray Romano, Scott Bakula, and Andre Braugher, beginning in 2010. The following year, Miller co-starred in the French silent comedy "The Artist" (2011), which went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture. After co-starring as Mary Todd Lincoln in the biopic "Saving Lincoln" (2013), Miller joined the cast of the drama "Mistresses" (ABC 2013-16) in a recurring role. Miller next reunited with Timothy Hutton on the drama series "American Crime" (ABC 2015-17) before appearing in Nate Parker's "The Birth of a Nation" (2016) and boxing drama "The Bronx Bull" (2016). The following year, Miller was cast in the title role of the true crime television movie "NY Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell" (Lifetime 2018).
Cast (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Appeared in three episodes of the CBS daytime drama "Guiding Light"
Made Broadway debut opposite Matthew Broderick in Neil Simon's "Biloxi Blues"
Made TV series debut as Gwen Stottlemeyer on the short-lived CBS sitcom "The Popcorn Kid"
Made feature acting debut in "Adventures in Babysitting"
Reprised stage role for Mike Nichols' film version of "Biloxi Blues"
Played Emily Webb in a Broadway revival of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town"; earned a Tony nomination (aired on PBS as part of the "Great Performances" series)
Played Marlon Brando's daughter in "The Freshman"; also re-teamed with Matthew Broderick
Co-starred with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Ivan Reitman comedy "Kindergarten Cop"
Co-starred with Robert De Niro and Robin Williams in the Oscar-nominated film "Awakenings"
Portrayed silent-screen actress Edna Purviance opposite Robert Downey Jr. in the title role of "Chaplin"
Played the female lead opposite Al Pacino in Brian DePalma's "Carlito's Way"
Cast opposite Alec Baldwin in "The Shadow"
Had featured role in the CBS miniseries "Mario Puzo's 'The Last Don'"
Played the leading role in the big-budget "The Relic"
Portrayed scandalous teacher Mary Kay Letourneau in the USA TV-movie, "All-American Girl: The Mary Kay Letourneau Story"
Co-starred with Angus Macfadyen in "A Woman's a Helluva Thing"
Cast in the TNT movie "Dead in a Heartbeat"
Appeared in a two-part episode of the A&E series "A Nero Wolfe Mystery"
Cast in the Fox drama "Vanished" as the senator's ex-wife
Appeared in the supernatural thriller "The Messengers"
Co-starred in the film adaptation of "Funny Money" with Chevy Chase
Was cast in a recurring role on TNT drama "Men of a Certain Age"
Appeared in the coming-of-age drama "Flipped," based on Wendelin Van Draanen's novel of the same name
Cast in the critically acclaimed black-and-white, nearly silent film "The Artist"
Was cast as Elizabeth Grey on "Mistresses"
Played Mary Todd Lincoln in "Saving Lincoln"
Played Eve Carlin on "American Crime"
Co-starred in Nate Parker's "The Birth of a Nation"
Had the lead role in "New York Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell"
Played Vera in adventure drama "American Dresser"