Michael Parks, a veteran character actor memorable in a long career of quirky and award-winning films and TV shows, died Tuesday. He was 77.
His death in Los Angeles was confirmed by his agent, Jane Schulman of Vesta Talent Agency. She did not specify the cause of death but answered, “Life,” when asked why he died.
His death also was announced on social media Wednesday by Parks’ Tusk and Red State director, Kevin Smith, who hailed him as his “cinematic muse” and “the best actor I’ve ever known.”
“I wrote both #RedState and @tuskthemovie FOR Parks,” he wrote in an Instagram post. “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 also was a favorite of Quentin Tarantino, appearing in his Kill Bill films, and of Robert Rodriguez, who directed him in 1996’s From Dusk to Dawn.
Parks also appeared in Ben Affleck’s Oscar-winning Argo.
“He was like James Dean,” Affleck told USA TODAY in 2012. “He’s sexy and amazing and a really good actor. I saw him in Kevin Smith’s Red State as this crazy preacher.” Affleck had to trim Parks’ role in the film but struggled to keep as much of his scene as possible. “I couldn’t bear to lose it.”
Parks had movie-star looks but he preferred character roles, especially villains, Schulman said. Smith said Parks “elevated’ any film or TV show he was in and any director he worked for.
“I was so … blessed to have worked with this bonafide genius,” he wrote. “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…”
Schulman said Parks was known as “an actor’s actor by his peers with a breadth of astonishing range that has allowed him to portray stunning contrasts — sometimes in the same film, like in 2014’s Tusk, starring in dual roles as an erudite serial killer opposite Justin Long and as a feeble rube opposite Johnny Depp.”
She said he was in more than 100 films and TV shows over a 50-year career, starting as a contract player in 1961 in the ABC sitcom The Real McCoys. From 1969 to 1970 he starred as a motorcycle-riding hero in Then Came Bronson, and even sang the theme song for the show, Long Lonesome Highway, which was a hit on the Billboard and Hot Country Songs charts, she said.
His other TV series included David Lynch’s Twin Peaks in the 1990s and the Dynasty spinoff The Colbys in the 1980s.
In addition to Kill Bill, Parks worked with Tarantino on 2012’s Django Unchained and 2007’s Death Proof. That same year, he could be seen opposite Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.
At least two of his recent films are in post-production, according to his lengthy IMDb page.
Parks was born in Corona, Calif., on April 24, 1940. According to Schulman, his pre-acting jobs included picking fruit, digging ditches, driving trucks and fighting forest fires. She noted he was a friend to such varied celebrities as Jean Renoir, Johnny Cash and Lenny Bruce, for whom he was a pallbearer.
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