Michael Parks, a prolific character actor who found early fame in 1960s countercultural roles and later became a favourite of directors such as Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith, passed away at the age of 77. He died on Tuesday in Los Angeles, his agent, Jane Schulman, said on Wednesday. No cause of death has been announced as of now.
In a career that spanned six decades, Parks acted in more than 100 films and TV shows. Many of his earlier roles were in the line of anti-establishment ’60s-era films such as Wild Seed, The Happening also starring Anthony Quinn, and Bus Riley’s Back in Town, alongside Ann-Margret. Parks also starred as a disillusioned, motorcycle-riding newsman in the 1969 series Then Came Bronson. For the series, Parks, who recorded a number of albums throughout his career, sang the popular song, “Long Lonesome Highway”. He played the Canadian drug runner Jean Renault on David Lynch’s Twin Peaks.
Parks found some of his most popular roles in the 1990s thanks to the interest of Tarantino, Smith and Robert Rodriguez, the often connected independent filmmakers. Each turned to Parks again and again for meaty supporting roles. Tarantino cast him in multiple roles in both parts of Kill Bill and Death Proof.
Sometimes, the characters followed Parks from filmmaker to filmmaker. He played Texas Ranger Earl McGraw in Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn, a role he reprised in Kill Bill and Grindhouse. His actor son, James Parks, often joined him, playing McGraw’s son Edgar.
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Smith gave Parks the largest roles of the trio, including his 2014 film Tusk, which paired him with Johnny Depp, and 2011’s Red State, as a preacher. “Michael was, and will likely forever remain, the best actor I’ve ever known,” Smith wrote on Instagram. He added, “I wrote both Red State and `Tusk’ for Parks, I loved his acting so much. He was hands-down the most incredible thespian I ever had the pleasure to watch perform. And Parks brought out the absolute best in me every time he got near my set.”
Parks was briefly married when he was 16 years old to Louise Johnson, with whom he had a daughter. He is survived by his wife, Oriana Parks, whom he married in 1997, and his son.