Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News
At BYU, actor Denny Miller discusses the importance of education and preparation for those pursuing careers in the movies and TV.

PROVO — Veteran actor Denny Miller, who was MGM Studios' last Tarzan, Thursday gave Brigham Young University acting students tips on how not to get lost in the Hollywood jungle.

Miller has appeared in more than 21 feature films, 234 television shows and 138 commercials over 50 years worth of acting experience, after being discovered while working for a moving company during his schooling at UCLA.

Miller played basketball for legendary head coach John Wooden while in college but was approached by a talent agent who liked his hairline and 6-foot-4-inch stature.

"It's a strange way to make a living for a devout coward," Miller told a large number of BYU acting and fine arts students, after watching a montage of action clips from years past. "I was frightened for the first 10 years of my career. I considered myself a misplaced basketball player, and I was."

Soon after signing with the agent, Miller signed a contract with MGM and it opened the door for his first movie and television appearances. While a lucky break led him to a successful career, Miller told students their preparation at BYU is vital to their future success.

"Accidents do happen, but my advice to you is to get all the knowledge from your teachers and deans that you can," Miller said. "I have seen their resumes; they are very experienced."

Miller is best known for his work on the TV show "Wagon Train," and for playing Tarzan in 1959's "Tarzan, the Ape Man."

"There have been 22 (Tarzans), counting the cartoon made by Disney," said Miller. "And there are four fictional characters known around the world — Batman, Superman, Mickey Mouse and Tarzan. I have always been proud to be a monkey man."

He gave insight about how and where to select agents, warning signs of bad opportunities and about the struggles that face many actors who are getting into the business.

"It has been interesting to see how little has changed over the years," said Kevin Goertzen, a 25-year-old acting major at BYU. "So much of this industry depends on luck and being in the right place at the right time."

But Miller's emphasis on education was encouraging to many students attending the meeting.

"It's great knowing that having an education can make a difference between any guy off the street and someone that has background in the field," said 21-year-old acting major Andrew Veenstra.

Miller was typecast as a bad guy for a long time during his career, and joked about being beat up, on screen, by nearly every actor in Hollywood.

But Miller finished by telling the aspiring actors they have an important role in society.

"We are storytellers, and every culture has storytellers," he said. "(Acting) is the way we pass on our culture's history, values and practical knowledge to the next generation. So the writers, directors and actors around you have a very big part in storytelling."


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