City Beat: Acting roles keep coming for '42' umpire Gary Miller

Gary Miller is shown on the set of "42" with actor Lucas Black at Engel Stadium. Miller auditioned to be an extra on a whim and has now been an extra in almost a dozen films and one television show.
photo Barry Courter

Gary Miller is one of those people you can't help but like - and be happy for.

I first met him at Engel Stadium on the set of "42," the Jackie Robinson biopic about the first black man to break into Major League Baseball. Like a lot of Chattanoogans, Miller, who had zero film experience at the time, went to the stadium in hopes of being used as an extra. He also went out of curiosity and because he was proud that his hometown and its historic ballpark was being used in the feature film starring Harrison Ford.

Miller only got a part as an extra, he got a talking part as one of the umpires. He made a couple of friends while on the set, including casting director Victoria Thomas, who got him another small part in "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues."

The parts have kept coming, as Miller has now been an extra in 11 films and one television show. He's only had one speaking role, that being "42," but he's been a featured extra in the others. That means he's likely to be seen on camera in some capacity, as opposed to being just an extra, which carries no promise that you will appear on screen in the finished film.

Since doing "42" and "Anchorman 2," Miller has worked on "Hunger Games," "Insurgent," "Powers" and "The Phenom," again as an umpire, which he does in real life locally. He's also worked on "Captain America: Civil War" starring Robert Downey Jr., and "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk," a film about an Iraqi War veteran, starring Steve Martin and Chris Tucker and directed by Ang Lee.

"He really pays attention to detail," Miller says of Lee.

Among Miller's more recent projects are "Sully," directed by Clint Eastwood, and "Dog Years," starring Burt Reynolds. That was shot last week in Knoxville.

"It was very hot," Miller says. "We were in this dive bar on the strip with no air-conditioning. Burt still has his sense of humor."

Miller says he has no delusions about a career in movies and for now can only guess that he possesses a look that Hollywood likes.

"Tall, thin, old and ugly," he laughs.

"Actually, I've never messed up a scene where they had to do a retake. I'm low-maintenance. I show up, do my job and head home," he says.

"And literally every time I finish a project, I assume it is my last. I don't take anything for granted. My family and friends love hearing the stories I tell from the experiences. That probably brings as much joy to me as anything."

Contact Barry Courter at or 423-757-6354.