The Look: Penelope Ann Miller

Penelope Ann Miller is late. The photo shoot's already been moved back an hour, and she's--well, she's still not here. The photographer's assistants exchange brief, worried looks. Penny was up till 6:3O this morning finishing her next film (Kindergarten Cop, an Arnold Schwarzenegger comedy), says her publicist. Well, I figure anyone who's been up all night with Arnle making a movie can be a little late, because that must be draining. Meanwhile, the photographer next door is shooting David Lynch, so everyone wanders outside to see Lynch posing on Melrose.


"Look," someone says, "David Lynch drives a Honda. That's so encouraging." And Penny Miller drives a BMW--a bright red one, and here she is now. "Do you have coffee?" she asks, in the way people ask when they really want coffee. She finds the pot and pours a cup.

Penny Miller has been transforming herself into a wide range of characters over the last few years: an urban mafia daughter in The Freshman, and before that an apple-cheeked schoolmarm in Big Top Pee-wee and a '40s teen in Biloxi Blues. She's an actress who's not yet a celebrity.

"It's true," says Penny, "that a lot of people I meet have seen my films--and didn't know I was in them." Her leading men know/, though, and it's an impressive list:

Robert De Niro and Robin Williams (in the upcoming drama Awakenings), Richard Gere (in 1988's Miles From Home), Pee-wee Herman, Brando, Matthew Broderick, Schwarzenegger, and Don Johnson (in 1989's Dead Bang).

Her next two films could shatter her anonymity for good. In Awakenings, Willliams is a neurologist whose patient, De Niro, wakes up after being in a coma for 30 years and falls in love with Penny. "But it's an innocent love," says Penny, "since the only woman he really can remember is his mother." In Kindergarten Cop, an action comedy, Penny's a woman who's on the run with her daughter from her drug-dealing husband. Schwarzenegger's cop has to figure out if she's innocent or guilty. "Arnold's really cute with the kids," says Penny. She's been working without a break for six months. Now, if she can stay awake long enough, she can get everything else done and head off to Martha's Vineyard for a holiday. And Penny stays better than awake. The photo shoot lasts for hours, but Penny is a trooper and glamorous to boot. Coffee alone can't explain why every outfit she puts on turns her into a different woman, though. That's acting.


Josh Mooney