Jason (born John) Miller was the only child of John Miller, an electrician, and Mary Claire Miller, a special education teacher. When Jason was still an infant, the family moved from New York to Scranton, Pennsylvania. His education was exclusively Catholic. Following parochial school, he attended St. Patrick’s High School, where he came under the strong influence of Sister Celine, a nun of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who taught Jason public speaking, debating, and rhetoric. Years later he told an interviewer, “She gave me encouragement at a time when I might have stolen cars.” Miller went to the Jesuit University of Scranton on an athletic scholarship and earned his B.A. in 1961. While in college, he garnered a first-place prize in a Jesuit Play Contest for his one-act piece titled The Winners, his first playwriting effort. He then went to graduate school at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., in 1962 to 1963 and, in spite of his absenteeism and breaking of rules, earned his master’s degree.
In 1963, Miller married Linda Gleason, a fellow Catholic University drama student and daughter of comedian Jackie Gleason. The Millers moved to Flushing and Neponsit, Queens, in New York City. They had three children before their divorce in 1973. Afterward, Miller moved to Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. At one point, he married model Ruth Josem. He also fathered a fourth child with girlfriend Susan Bernard.
In New York, Miller had found occasional work in television commercials and soap operas. However, beginning with Off-Off Broadway and Off-Broadway appearances, he eventually became a significant actor and director in stage, film, and television productions. Between acting assignments, Miller worked as a messenger, a truck loader and driver, and a welfare investigator. When desperate enough, he sold his blood on New York’s Bowery and collected unemployment compensation. He constantly talked of his love for New York, which he described as “the capital of my imagination, the El Dorado of my mind.”
Miller’s first exposure to the theater had been at High Mass, with all its pomp and circumstance. He felt...
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