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October 9, 2015

Jonny Lee Miller: In the Limelight

by Allison Waldman, posted Mar 21st 2008 2:43PM
Jonny Lee MillerWhen I first saw the commercials for ABC's Eli Stone, I didn't recognize Jonny Lee Miller. Then, after watching the first episode and liking him, I decided to find out who he was. Imagine my surprise when I learned that I had seen him, multiple times, in a variety of roles. And he was British! I was duly impressed and intrigued. Jonny Lee Miller was a helluva an actor, a chameleon who could be as convincing as a junkie named Sick Boy in Trainspotting as he was a San Francisco lawyer named Eli.

Jonny Lee Miller, who's real name is Jonathan (without the H if you want to precise). In an Empire magazine feature, he explained, "My name's actually Jonathan, but there's already a Dr. Jonathan Miller, and Jonathan Lee Miller was too close, so I decided to go for a country and western feel. Then I can do what Laurence Fishburne did and change it back." (You know, from Larry to Laurence).

Anyway, JLM was born November 15, 1972, in Surrey, England to a theatrical family. His father is a stage actor and his grandfather is Bernard Lee. If that name sounds familiar, you're probably a James Bond fan. Bernard Lee was the original M, 007's boss. He insulted Sean Connery and Roger Moore until 1979.

As a kid, Jonny would tag along with his father to the television studio at Television Centre, watching shows like Top of the Pops being filmed. He got the acting bug and quit school at 17. He was working on UK TV right away, doing many episodic shows and eventually landing a part on EastEnders (as Jonathan Hewitt). He even did a Prime Suspect with Helen Mirren, but it was the one-two punch of the feature films Hackers (1995) and Trainspotting (1996) that really changed his career -- and his life.

While making Hackers, Jonny met his co-star, actress Angelina Jolie, and they hit it off immediately. They fell in love and were married in March 1996. Their relationship was complex, and they separated a year later, before divorcing in 1999. Jonny has said of his marriage to Angelina, "For a while, it was very intense relationship, very passionate, and you can never regret being involved in something like that. It was sad that it ended, but I wouldn't change a thing about it. Well, except maybe my haircut."

Angelina told BMagazine, "Divorcing Jonny was probably the dumbest thing I've ever done, but I don't dwell on it," she admits. "I was so lucky to have met the most amazing man, who I wanted to marry. It comes down to timing. I think he's the greatest husband a girl could ask for. I'll always love him, we were simply too young."

Professionally, Jonny had a big success with Trainspotting. He was teamed with Ewan McGregor (who suggested him for the part), Robert Carlyle and Ewen Bremner, all under the direction of Danny Boyle. The picture was a breakout hit, and as a druggie named Sick Boy who spouts James Bond trivia, Jonny made a strong impression. His thick Scottish accent was so authentic that some critics thought he must be from Scotland.

Trainspotting wasn't the last connection between Jonny Lee Miller and James Bond. Before Daniel Craig was cast in Casino Royale, Jonny was among a few actors considered for Bond. Would he have been a good 007? Perhaps, he certainly would have brought his own unique spin to the role, as he did other parts like Woodrow F. Call in the US miniseries, Dead Man's Walk, the prequel to Lonesome Dove, and as the inventive, real life cyclist Graeme Obree in The Flying Scotsman.

Before taking on Eli Stone, Jonny co-starred with Ray Liotta in the CBS crime/heist drama Smith. That high profile series, by ER/West Wing writer John Wells, was a colossal bomb and nearly turned Miller off to doing a series. He reconsidered after reading the script for Eli Stone. "I just thought this part was too good, and it would have been a ridiculous opportunity not to try to follow up on," he said in a Los Angeles Times interview. What does he think of his new character? "He's quite selfish, [but] it's about him trying to be a better person. I like that aspect of it. I like the fact that he's not such a great guy, in my opinion. And the strange things that start happening to him give the story a lot of scope."

No word yet on if ABC will pick up Eli Stone for next season, but I hope they do. It'll be interesting to see what Jonny Lee Miller has in store for this very imperfect, and yet compelling, character.

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i was watching this show last night, and trying to figure out where i saw him before... he was on "mindhunters". it was a pretty good movie.

March 21 2008 at 3:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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