Les Miles is back on the sidelines at Kansas. But during the former LSU head coach’s two-plus seasons away from college football, he aggressively pursued an acting career he’d sort of started a few years earlier. Miles auditioned for roles from New York to Los Angeles, got some of them, and now has an IMDb page to go with his Sports Reference page.
I have decided to personally review every role Miles has played.
When The Game Stands Tall, 2014
Character played: an Oklahoma State coach/scout, perhaps himself
What happens: The Game Stands Tall, starring Jim Caviezel and Laura Dern, is about a coach. It follows football coach Bob Ladouceur as he takes De La Salle High School in California from a losing program to a 151-game winning streak from 1992 to 2004. It also remembers Terrance Kelly, a star safety who was to attend Oregon before his murder in 2004.
Miles isn’t as prominent a character as in some of of the other films he’s featured in, but he has a solid minute or two of screen time. The Game Stands Tall’s opening scene features a football game, where Miles plays an Oklahoma State scout. There, he talks shop with another Pokes scout:
His lone line in the film is: “Terrance Kelly is the best prospect on the field.” He’s seen briefly talking with another player’s father about a different player, but that’s pretty much it.
Miles was Oklahoma State’s head coach from 2001-04, before heading to Baton Rogue, so he doesn’t look that out of place in OSU gear. More than that, he might just be playing himself. It’d be consistent with the time period. If not, he plays a very convincing scout here, even if he has just one line.
Camera Obscura, 2017
Character played: uniformed police officer
What happens: Camera Obscura is a horror film about a veteran, Jack Zeller, who suffers from PTSD and can see people’s imminent deaths through photographs he finds. Yes, it is pretty strange.
Miles plays a police officer, and his lone line in the movie is “Sir, I’m going to need you to step back” after Zeller and his wife watch a man fall from a parking garage.
I believe Miles is also seen walking in the background of a different scene later in the movie, but it’s hard to tell. Here’s the tape:
And a better look at the uniform:
As in When The Game Stands Tall, Miles has just one line. But if he were dressed as a policeman and told me to back up, I would absolutely back up, so another quality role here.
The Challenger Disaster, 2019
Character played: Nelson, a NASA employee
What happens: This is Miles’ most prominent role of his acting career. He’s on screen for about 15 minutes total, and he plays a guy named Nelson who works for NASA.
Here he is sounding all official and asking a room of people, “Why aren’t they in the problem assessment system documents we have here?”
The movie is primarily about some NASA engineers’ push not to launch the Challenger space shuttle in the mid-’80s. The main concern is about the rocket’s seals being compromised.
Miles’ character’s main involvement is the night before the launch. He (AKA Nelson) holds a conference call with the engineering team and the rocket’s contractor so the engineers can make their case to postpone the launch. Miles has some very football-like and Miles-like lines:
3. “It says that the launch went off at 75 degrees and you got blow-by. I just don’t understand how you can determine temperature is the deciding factor.”
Weather talk from Miles is to be expected. Previously in his meteorological career: “It would be far from me to say that it ever rained Saturday night in Tiger Stadium. But it was very close to rain, if not a very stiff dew.”
4. “It doesn’t seem to matter what temperature it is.”
Yet it does. His 2014 LSU team played the coldest game in school history (31 degrees) in 2014 at Arkansas. They got shutout 17-0 in a game in which the Hogs broke a 17-game SEC losing streak.
5. “If the seals are a problem, then why aren’t they in the problem assessment system documents we have here?”
At LSU, Miles’ notoriously retrograde (astronomy term) offensive strategies depended on a physical running game. To do so, it was imperative that the edge be sealed properly.
In the end, as in real life, the mission is a go. The space shuttle explodes, and everyone onboard dies as the nation watches in horror. Later, Nelson appears before an investigatory panel appointed by President Ronald Reagan.
Nelson isn’t exactly forthright about how the pre-launch meeting went down. Then, some of the engineers interrupt the hearing to explain how they were against launching.
At one point before the launch, Nelson had told the engineers: “Quantify your results!” This is important, because at the hearing, Adam leans into Nelson and asks, “Can you quantify how poorly this is going for you?” Nelson responds, “Not as poorly as that’s gonna go for the guy that throws his own company under the bus.”
“It was so fun,” Miles said in an interview with The Advocate. “The engineers came to the chief and to the other contracting companies and said, ‘Wait to launch.’ They said, ‘We’re not going to.’ The engineers were right.”
In this film, Miles shows tremendous growth from his previous one-liner roles. He acts with passion and conviction while portraying a NASA chief and asking demanding (if ultimately insufficient) questions. Although he’s portrayed as the bad guy at the end during his testimony, his character is still is able to draw you in. This is his finest on-screen work.
The Last Whistle, 2019
Character played: Billy, who turns the town against a high school football coach following a star player’s death during a workout. This one hasn’t been released yet, but Miles looks like this in character:
Here’s a summary of The Last Whistle, via IMDB:
When the all-star player of the local high school football team collapses during practice, all eyes turn to the storied head coach. Instead of mollifying the situation, the coach tries to maintain the team’s winning streak. The town turns against him, leading to a lawsuit from the player’s mother.
If this one wins an Oscar, it will be for Miles’ costume alone.
Various Dr. Pepper commercials, 2018
Character played: a store attendant and a trophy thief
What happens: Miles shows up in an ad about “Fansville,” a town made up of college football fans:
Miles doesn’t have any lines, but there’s a look in his eye that suggests he’s hiding something. An impressive no-line performance, but not Oscar-worthy.
The “Fansville” ads continued as a series throughout the 2018 season, and they culminated by revealing who stole the College Football Playoff trophy. Spoiler alert: it was Miles. (Also spoiler alert: the Playoff trophy got stolen.) See the climactic moment for yourself:
Apparently Kansas’ police department was not involved with Miles’ arrest or electrocution:
In one of Miles’ more comedic roles, he shows off a diverse skillset while projecting his voice from the top of a building and leading viewers to believe he was actually struck by lightning.
Probably good enough to win the Oscar for “outstanding performance in commercial or short film,” or at least “outstanding performance in a Dr. Pepper advertisement.”
Various Dos Equis commercials, 2018
Character played: grass aficionado
What happens: Miles is featured as a grass expert in a couple of Dos Equis ads, and he does a great job as both a grass-waterer...
That Les Miles Dos Equis ad was amazing pic.twitter.com/kQ804x3627— Jack (@Pitt_Is_Lit) January 8, 2019
... and grass-eater!
Sort of enjoy Les Miles doing very Les Miles shit for Dos Equis. pic.twitter.com/pmsrRoZAA0— Chris Kopech (@ckopech) August 30, 2018
That’s just Miles’ staying true to his roots with authenticity:
Miles’ acting career may be over for now, but he’s got a pretty good reel if he ever decides to get back into it.
I, for one, hope we see him on the big screen.