Bennett Miller

Bennett Miller

Born in New York City, Miller grew up in the suburbs where he met future actor and "Capote" collaborator Dan Futterman in the library of Hommocks Middle School in Larchmont when both were 12. At the time, he harbored dreams of becoming a filmmaker and ran around making his own movies with an 8mm camera. While attending Mamaroneck High School, the duo took theater and participated in the school's Performing Arts Curriculum Experience program. At 16, both attended a summer theater camp in Saratoga Springs where they met future star Philip Seymour Hoffman. The trio remained friends after camp ended. Miller moved on to the theater program at New York University, but switched over to film after realizing he was not learning anything of interest. But his stint in the film program lasted only a couple of years and Miller dropped out because he spent more time playing chess with homeless people in Washington Square Park than attending class.For the next few years, Miller worked on other people's films and took various odd jobs to make ends meet. Eventually, he cobbled together enough money to make his first movie, "The Cruise," a documentary portrait of Timothy "Speed" Levitch, an eccentric, quasi-homeless New York City tour guide who would rather sleep on a friend's couch than pay rent. Having known Levitch through his younger brother, Miller spent two years following him around with a camera. The film made the festival rounds in 1998 with stops in Newport, Toronto, Denver and Los Angeles, while the following year it was broadcast, after a brief theatrical release, as part of the Cinemax series, ""Cinemax Reel Life." Miller parlayed his cult success into a lucrative career as a commercial director for frozen dinner company Hungry Man, where he helmed spots with major advertising agencies across the country. While directing ads, Miller was on the hunt for a script he could make for his first feature. That script came when childhood pal Futterman gave him his first draft of "Capote."Miller knew right away that he had the right script for his first feature. The only problem was finding a studio to back a first-time director and a first-time writer. Luckily, they had their old friend, the now-famous Hoffman, attached to the project - the only actor Miller and Futterman considered for the role of Truman Capote. The completed film was shown to raves at Telluride, Toronto and the New York Film Festival. Based in part on Gerald Clarke's Capote, A Biography, the story told of the author's journey to Kansas in 1959 to cover the grisly shotgun murders of the upstanding Clutter family. An outsider from New York in a small rural town, Capote spent six years interviewing friends, neighbors and the two itinerant murders, Richard Hickock (Mark Pellegrino) and Perry Smith (Clifton Collins, Jr.), for his seminal true-crime novel, In Cold Blood. Capote developed a strange bond with the artistic Smith that ultimately caused his mental collapse when Smith was eventually put to death. Hoffman received the vast majority of accolades for his performance, but Miller also earned his share of recognition with an Academy Award nomination for Best Director. After making more commercials, Miller returned to features with "Moneyball" (2011), a biopic of pioneering Major League Baseball general manager, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), who managed to turn the hapless small-market Oakland As into playoff contenders using a new form of statistical analysis. Miller's next film, another true story set in a peculiar outpost of the sports world, was "Foxcatcher" (2014), starring Steve Carell as eccentric millionaire John E. du Pont, who developed a passion for Olympic wrestling that took an unexpected turn.By Shawn Dwyer