HFPA: Member’s Suicide Unrelated to Group (update)

EXCLUSIVE: Max B. Miller, a 73-year-old photographer, was said to be depressed and suffering money problems

Last Updated: January 21, 2011 @ 9:42 AM

(Updated, 7:55 a.m. PST) The suicide of a longtime member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is the latest blow to the scandal-plagued organization, but a spokeswoman says the death of Max B. Miller had nothing to do with his role in the group.

Miller, 73, was a photographer with financial problems, according to colleagues. His body was found on Monday night by his friend Claire Brunel, a day after the group's annual show, the Golden Globe Awards. Brunel told a friend that she discovered Miller lying down on his bed with a gun in his hand.

In an email to TheWrap, HFPA spokeswoman Keleigh Thomas said the site's coverage of the death was "sensationalizing" a personal tragedy.

"His passing is a terribly sad story and his family is hurting. Any personal problems he may have had, however, have nothing to do with the HFPA and to characterize it as another 'scandal' for them is really inappropriate and an insult to his memory. These connections are ridiculous," she wrote.

Tammie Arroyo shot photos for Miller on the night of the Golden Globes, she told TheWrap, but didn't see or speak to him that night. "I personally did not see him," she said. Arroyo provided Miller with photos for his syndicate in exchange for the spot on the red carpet, rather than getting paid.

The Los Angeles County Coroner's Office told TheWrap that the body of a Max B. Miller had arrived and has been deemed a suicide. Because next of kin had not been notified, officials declined to provide any additional information.

Miller was said to be depressed over a divorce and financial problems. 

"He never really recovered from his divorce, his business was going down, he barely had any income the passed [sic] few months, everybody was taking advantage of his generosity, and last but not least he was so worried about his son's future," an individual close to Miller wrote in an email obtained by TheWrap. 

The HFPA extended its condolences to Miller's family after news of his death broke. 

"Max Miller was a beloved member of the HFPA for over 40 years. A gentle man, he was an accomplished journalist, photographer and producer and we considered him family. Our most sincere condolences go out to his family. We ask that you respect the their privacy at this time," the HFPA said in a statement. 

This marks the second high-profile suicide of an HFPA member in the past five years.

In 2005, HFPA member Nick Douglas hanged himself four days before Golden Globe nominations were announced. Douglas had been suspended by the organization after selling a photograph of himself with the actor Tom Selleck to a tabloid newspaper and then lying about it.

When Douglas was suspended, he lost access to press junkets and other perks of HFPA membership and could not find other journalistic work. He worked in a thrift shop in his hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland and killed himself in that shop.

On the eve of this year's Globes, long-time publicist Michael Russell sued the association for $2 million, accusing the HFPA of fraud and corrupt practices. Among the allegations that Russell made was that HFPA members had sold red carpet access and accepted junkets and gifts in exchange for awards votes. 

At the same time, the HFPA is engaged in a legal battle with Golden Globes producer Dick Clark Productions over television rights to the high-rated broadcast.

According to the HFPA's official statement, Miller was also active in numerous industry organizations including the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, American Cinematheque, and the American Film Institute. 

Despite being a member of the foreign press association, Miller was born in Los Angeles. He is survived by his son Maximus.