Sylvia Miles is an American film, stage and television actress, twice nominated for an Academy Award.

Early life

Miles was born in New York City and raised in Greenwich Village, where her father worked as a furniture maker.[1] Her birth year has been generally reported as 1932, but Miles insists she was born in 1934. Neither year can be confirmed; some sources place Miles' birth in the 1920s.[2]


Miles played the role of "Sally" in the pilot episode of what would become The Dick Van Dyke Show, which was later taken by Rose Marie for the series.[3] She appeared in two episodes of Naked City, including once as a lovely barfly attempting to communicate with a psychotic Jack Warden.[4]

One of Miles' best-known roles was in Midnight Cowboy as an aging Park Avenue-kept woman who invites Joe Buck (Jon Voight) up to her penthouse apartment for sex. The role earned her an Oscar nomination in 1969 for Best Supporting Actress, despite only appearing on screen for about six minutes.[5] She received a second Oscar nomination for her slightly larger role (eight minutes) as Best Supporting Actress in 1975 for her role in Farewell, My Lovely.[3]

In 1978, she had a cameo role in the Indian suspense film Shalimar. She appeared in the 1982 film version of Agatha Christie's Evil Under the Sun, portraying a Broadway producer, one of her more mainstream film roles. She played a real estate agent in the Michael Douglas-Oliver Stone film Wall Street (1987), a role she would reprise in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.[4]

Over the years, Miles has become a cult figure, both for her ties to avant-garde personalities (including Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey) and her increasingly bizarre appearance over the years and her willingness to attend any public function. Wayland Flowers and his puppet Madame first uttered the widely quoted line "Sylvia Miles and Andy Warhol would attend the opening of a sewer". Another source quotes Flowers as saying, "Sylvia Miles would attend the opening of an envelope", while in 1976, People Magazine repeated the same joke without citing a source.[1][2]

Miles starred in Warhol's 1972 film Heat. She also was featured in mainstream films including 92 in the Shade, Critical Condition, The Great Scout & Cathouse Thursday, Crossing Delancey and the 1989 comedy She-Devil, in which she played the mother of Meryl Streep's character.

In a New York restaurant in 1973 she publicly dumped a plate of food onto critic John Simon's head for his insulting comments about her in a review.[6]

Her most recent acting roles have been on television in Sex and the City and One Life to Live, and in the films Go Go Tales and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (reprising her role from the first film, as a real estate agent).[4]

Health issues

On May 30, 2014, it was reported that Miles had been hospitalized with apparent severe anemia.[7]


  1. ^ a b Judy Kessler. "What Would a Manhattan Party Be Without the Ubiquitous Sylvia Miles?", People Magazine, October 18, 1976, Vol. 6 No. 16
  2. ^ a b Gaines, Steven. "The Envelope Please". Retrieved August 22, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b New York Times profile of Miles
  4. ^ a b c Sylvia Miles at the Internet Movie Database
  5. ^ Miles' profile,; accessed November 20, 2014.
  6. ^ NPR website referencing John Simon-Sylvia Miles altercation,; accessed October 8, 2014.
  7. ^ "Sylvia Miles ailing",, May 30, 2014; accessed October 8, 2014.