Inside the epic self-destruction of T.J. Miller
Last summer, T.J. Miller joked in an interview that he wanted to occupy the “Lindsay Lohan train-wreck-but-not-quite” persona currently missing from Hollywood.
Looks like he’s hit his goal.
On April 9, the former “Silicon Valley” star was arrested after calling in a bogus bomb threat while traveling aboard an Amtrak train headed to NYC from Washington, DC.
According to the Department of Justice, Miller called 911 on March 18 stating that a female passenger had a “bomb in her bag.” A Miller insider said the comedian “genuinely believed that the bomb threat was true. That’s why he left his name and number.”
No explosives were found. An attendant in the first-class car told officials that Miller was intoxicated when he boarded the train and downed two glasses of wine and two double scotch-and-sodas while on board. Miller started a “hostile exchange” with a woman sitting a few rows away, according to court papers, after she rebuffed his flirtatious advances, and it is believed he called in the false bomb threat to retaliate. He was kicked off the train for drunken misconduct before the bomb squad arrived. (Miller was released on $100,000 bail and is now awaiting trial.)
It’s just the latest weird behavior that makes no sense for a star on the rise. In 2016, Miller was arrested for allegedly assaulting an Uber driver in Los Angeles over a disagreement about Donald Trump. The following year, he and his wife, artist and actress Kate Gorney, were kicked out of a casino in Monte Carlo. Seven months later, he went on a hateful tirade after a transgender acquaintance, Danielle Solzman, pointed out a transphobic joke on his Web site; Miller called Solzman a “weird, strange, terrible man,” among other insults.
And then there were the stories about him showing up drunk and high to the “Silicon Valley” set, which Miller has denied. Nonetheless, fans were shocked in May 2017 when he announced he was walking away from the buzzy HBO show — and his popular character, Erlich. Miller then publicly attacked show producers, stars and Hollywood execs in a series of scathing interviews, stating that he doesn’t like executive producer Alec Berg: “I don’t know how smart [Alec] is,” and that William Morris Endeavor honcho Ari Emanuel, “only cares about money, collecting chips.”
One common denominator in Miller’s escapades seems to be substance use.
“He has substance-abuse issues,” said a source close to Miller. “He has a good heart and is sort of a sad guy who does things that make you shake your head.”
(Miller’s representative had no comment on the allegations in this story.)
But sources also tell The Post that Miller loves to shock people.
“Basically he’s someone who embraces the contrarian perspective so tightly that he actually starves his career of the oxygen it needs,” said the source close to him. “It’s ridiculous.”
Now, as the 36-year-old comic faces up to five years in jail, friends and colleagues are wondering: Has Miller finally taken the joke too far?
In the beginning of his career, sources said, the actor’s outlandish antics worked in his favor.
Having grown up in Denver — one of two children of a lawyer father and psychologist mother — Miller graduated from George Washington University in 2003 and moved to Chicago, where he became an integral member of the city’s stand-up comedy scene.
“The more wild he was, the more his agents and managers applauded his behavior,” said Miller’s ex-girlfriend, comedian JC Coccoli, who cites the time he parachuted into “The Emoji Movie” premiere in Cannes last May as a prime example.
Coccoli, who dated Miller in 2009 when the wacky stand-up comedian was just gaining traction in Hollywood, recalls him showing up at her magazine job in Los Angeles “hammered and really f – – ked up and in blue face,” straight from what he said was a Blue Man Group audition.
“He did a wild audition for ‘Yogi Bear’ [with a live bear from the Hollywood Animals ranch] and then got it,” Coccoli added. “So he was on this string of: ‘If I do really wild and crazy things, this is how I’m booking things.’ He was noticing a trend of what he could get away with.
“Agents loved it. They would never invite an artist like TJ to their wedding, but they wanted to make money off of him.”
Miller’s career was on a roll. In 2008 he made his film debut in “Cloverfield” and soon landed roles in movies including “She’s Out of My League” and the fourth “Transformers” flick, as well as a Comedy Central special.
But, colleagues said, you never knew what you were going to get with Miller.
“We always thought he was kind of doing a character,” said a former staff member of “Chelsea Lately,” the E! show hosted by Chelsea Handler on which Miller often appeared. “Did [it] ever feel like you were having a straight, real conversation with him? No. But . . . it was just what I accepted about T.J. He was very friendly and supportive and complimentary.”
Coccoli recalls a trip she and Miller took to what she terms his family’s “mansion” in Denver for his father’s annual Ferrari rally.
“We show up for this big dinner and there are name tags on the table,” said Coccoli. “My name is written in and another girl’s name is scratched out.” Coccoli recalls being humiliated that Miller had originally invited another date.
“It was almost a game to him,” she said of how Miller approached romantic relationships — and just about everything else in his life.
He even hired a bodyguard, she said, to get a rise out of people.
“It was performance art,” said the source close to Miller. “That’s a big part of who he is.”
According to Coccoli, Miller thrives on drama.
“He didn’t care if he was arrested or whatever. He just wants to constantly be creating and have no rules,” she said. “If he showed up late or didn’t show up at all or was a mess on set . . . he got off on that stuff.”
But while people like Coccoli could forgive Miller’s less serious offenses, his substance- abuse issues were becoming harder to ignore.
“He had cabinets filled with whip-its in his Hollywood apartment,” she said of the nitrous-oxide dispensers used to get a euphoric high. “There were no plates.
“This is a guy who would drink so much that he would fall asleep in my car in my garage and I would leave him there overnight because I couldn’t get him back in my bed,” said Coccoli.
Still, Miller’s career wasn’t suffering — at first.
“He would be up [on] three hours of sleep and go to audition and book it — nail it,” Coccoli recalled.
But things caught up with Miller as he landed more work, including roles in “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” “Big Hero 6” and “Office Christmas Party.” A couple years into “Silicon Valley,” insiders said, he was burning the candle at both ends.
“He screwed himself a little bit with the show,” said the source close to the comedian. “He would do stand-up too late the night before, and then would have to shoot the next day and would be hungover and/or exhausted and then be a total a – – hole.
“He’s a hard-working guy who wants to do everything, and then ended up undercutting himself with his own behavior. And that’s the tragedy. He’s a guy who is unnecessarily making his life more difficult.”
Top honchos began to take notice — and worry.
“He thinks drinking and comedy are intricately connected,” one HBO exec told The Post. “It was funny at first when this wacky guy was sneaking gin onto a set. Until it wasn’t funny anymore. He couldn’t stay in character, couldn’t remember lines, fell asleep. It was just costing HBO too much money.”
One day, an insider said, Miller just didn’t show up to set. “You could tell things were deteriorating,” said a “Silicon Valley” writer, who added that producers were wary of building Miller a three-season arc in case he quit at any moment.
Miller told the Hollywood Reporter in March that “I’m not high when I work because it gets in the way of the comedy. I also am not a guy who’s blackout-drunk, bumping into things on set. . . . What was occurring [on the set of ‘Silicon Valley’] was I was out doing stand-up all the time, even if it meant I only got three hours of sleep. So, the thing I have a problem with? It’s pushing myself to do too much.”
Part of the issue, noted one comedy-club booker, is that it seems like Miller feels compelled to live up to the wild-man reputation he has created for himself. “If you think about it, 99 percent of his humor’s based on booze. He drinks onstage during stand-up sets, he’s even made a bunch of short films about being drunk — one of them was called ‘Successful Alcoholics.’ ”
When Miller shot a commercial teasing his gig hosting the 2016 Critics Choice Awards, he based it around a drinking game, “so he got to shoot with a glass in his hand at a bar for an hour,” said a source who worked for A&E Networks (which aired the show). “I don’t think it was water.”
With the Uber incident, Miller was arrested in December 2016 after a physical altercation with driver Wilson Deon Thomas III. According to TMZ, Thomas claims Miller became violent after an argument regarding President Trump and struck Thomas on his head and shoulder while he was driving. Thomas also claimed that Miller was inhaling nitrous oxide out of whip-its throughout the ride and even called his assistant to bring him more when he ran out. (A settlement was eventually reached between Miller and Thomas.)
Some close to Miller wonder whether Kate Gorney — his wife of three years — is facilitating the bad behavior.
In May 2017, the two were kicked out of a casino in Monte Carlo while Miller was at the Cannes Film Festival promoting “The Emoji Movie.”
“[The casino] told us to get the hell out of there and they felt we were acting a little bit ‘aggressive!’ ” Miller told Page Six at the time.
“I would just say that [Kate’s] not always going to do the best thing for him,” said the source close to Miller. “I think she cares. She’s not a bad person but there’s a part of her that’s a little bit wanting to have more visibility.”
Someone who knows the couple told The Post, “[Kate] doesn’t know how to deal with him but loves him very much. She has made [concerned] middle-of-the-night calls to friends. Their life has just been turned upside down by his behavior.”
Miller and Gorney, who dated in college, were again embroiled in controversy last December when a woman told the Daily Beast of alleged sexual abuse by Miller while he was an undergrad at George Washington, including him choking and shaking her and punching her in the mouth during sex. Another time, she said, Miller penetrated her with a beer bottle without her consent. Her housemate and friends corroborated the account.
Miller and his wife issued a joint statement, writing that the accuser was jealous and “became fixated on our relationship” in college and was “using the current [#MeToo] climate to bandwagon.”
The same day the Daily Beast article was published, Miller’s Comedy Central series, “The Gorburger Show,” was canceled after only one season. Also, Mucinex — for which the comedian had been a spokesman since 2014 — dropped him.
Fellow comedians are genuinely concerned about Miller.
“There are some people at the Comedy Cellar who said he drinks too much, and they are worried about him,” said comedian Artie Lange, who has infamously battled drug and alcohol addictions.
“It’s hard. My issue with showbiz [is that] it enabled me,” said Lange. “It’s flattering and also enabling. I hope that doesn’t happen to him.”
Insiders don’t think it’s too late for Miller — who is in “Deadpool 2,” out May 18 — to turn things around.
“People genuinely like the guy and think he’s funny, but he also unnecessarily antagonizes,” said the source close to him.
The comedy-club booker even has an idea for Miller’s future: “Maybe he’ll do rehab humor for his comeback.”
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