Had been a firefighter for 14 years with the Dallas (TX) fire Department when he read in a local newspaper that a Hollywood film company will holding auditions for extras to be in a film starring Ryan O'Neal that was to shoot in the area. He went to the audition jut hoping to make a few extra bucks and, as he put it, "maybe meet some movie stars". The film was Paper Moon (1973) and Gilliam impressed the producers so much that instead of an "extra" part, he was given a featured role as Floyd the Desk Clerk. After finishing the film, he returned to his job in Dallas. Not long afterwards he was contacted by Mel Brooks, who had seen his performance in "Paper Moon" and wanted him for a role in a western comedy he was getting ready to make. The film was Blazing Saddles (1974) and Gilliam got the role he is best remembered for--that of Slim Pickens' dimwitted henchman Lyle.