We’re incredibly sad to report today that actor/singer Michael Parks, who most recently owned the screen in Kevin Smith’s Red State and Tusk, has just passed away at the age of 77.
Younger audiences may remember Michael Parks from his work with Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith, but his acting career dates back all the way to 1960, beginning with two appearances on the TV series “Zane Grey Theater.” Parks popped up in countless TV shows throughout the ’60s, making his film debut as the title character in 1965’s Bus Riley’s Back in Town. On the small screen, he’s perhaps most known for playing the free spirited Jim Bronson in the TV series “Then Came Bronson,” which aired for just one season between 1969 and 1970.
Into the ’70s and ’80s, Michael Parks starred in Between Friends, “Baretta,” “Fantasy Island,” Dial M for Murder and The Return of Josey Wales, and he later played Jean Renault in David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks.” But Parks was introduced to an entirely new generation when he played Texas Ranger Earl McGraw in From Dusk Till Dawn, a memorable role he reprised in both Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Kill Bill Vol. 2, as well as in Grindhouse films Planet Terror and Death Proof – Quentin Tarantino has stated on the record that Parks was the greatest living actor of his time.
Parks’ more recent appearances were in the films The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Argo, We Are What We Are, and the aforementioned Red State and Tusk. Kevin Smith paid tribute to his friend on Facebook today, echoing Tarantino’s sentiments:
I hate to report that my cinematic muse Michael Parks has passed away. Michael was, and will likely forever remain, the best actor I’ve ever known. 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. From the moment I saw him steal the opening scene of From Dusk Till Dawn at an advance screening at the Sunset 5 back in the mid-90’s, I said to Scott Mosier, “Could you imagine what it must be like to work with a Yoda of acting like that guy? I gotta write for him one day.” It took me 15 years but my dream came true on Red State – for which Parks won Best Actor at the Sitges Film Festival – and then again years later with Tusk.
Only Michael Parks could have delivered the line “Is man indeed a walrus at heart?” and make it scary as fuck. My favorite memory of Michael is watching him and Johnny Depp act with and at each other, like a couple of dueling wizards, in their shared scene in Tusk. Parks was in Heaven that day, sharing the screen with another brilliant actor and creating an unforgettable performance. He elevated any flick or TV show he was in and elevated every director he ever acted for. I was so fucking blessed to have worked with this bonafide genius. But really, I was just lucky to have known him at all.
My heart goes out to James (Michael’s son), Oriana (Michael’s wife), Quentin Tarantino (Michael’s biggest fan) and any movie or music lover who was ever dazzled by the talents of Michael Parks. Farewell, old friend. I’ll see you farther along…
All of us here on BD send our deepest condolences to Parks’ family and friends.