Hollywood is mourning a loss today, as legendary character actor Michael Parks has sadly passed away aged 77. The star has over 100 film credits to his name and frequently collaborated with Kevin Smith in recent years, after having played several roles in Quentin Tarantino’s movies.
Born in California on April 24, 1940, Parks’ early life involved him being a jack of all trades. His first jobs included picking fruit, digging ditches, and even fighting forest fires, before his acting career took off in 1961 – when he portrayed George Mac Michael on ABC’s sitcom The Real McCoys. Parks’ other early acting roles included on the religious drama The Bible: In the Beginning and medical drama The Eleventh Hour.
It was later in his career that Parks had a particular boost to his CV, frequently collaborating with out-there director Kevin Smith on projects like the horror/comedy film Tusk, where Parks portrayed creepy seaman Howard Hower. Smith broke the news with a heartfelt note on social media and left a touching tribute to the late actor (see below). Smith was clearly touched by his time with Parks and notably wrote several roles for him. Other roles created with Parks in mind included the lead in indie horror film Red State, where he played Pastor Abin Cooper – a none too subtle riff off the Westboro Baptist Church and Fred Phelps.
I hate to report that my cinematic muse #michaelparks has passed away. Michael was, and will likely forever remain, the best actor I've ever known. I wrote both #RedState and @tuskthemovie 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 #fromdusktildawn at an advance screening at the Sunset 5 back in the mid-90's, I said to @samosier "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 @sitgesfestival) 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 #johnnydepp 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... #KevinSmith #actor #genius #rip #walrusyes
On the official Kill Bill website, it quotes that Parks is “frequently cited by longtime fan Quentin Tarantino as the world’s greatest living actor.” Parks’ will also be remembered for his role in Kill Bill, where he added some light entertainment as Texas Ranger Earl McGraw. Tarantino fans will know that it was a role that he had previously played in the first two From Dusk till Dawn films and became synonymous with Parks. McGraw also appeared in the Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez collaboration Grindhouse, where he offered yet more comic relief by playing McGraw once again. Away from law enforcement, Parks portrayed played Mexican pimp Esteban Vihaio in Kill Bill Vol. 2.
Outside of the Tarantinoverse, some may also remember Parks as the nefarious French-Canadian drug runner Jean Renault on ABC’s Twin Peaks. He was famously gunned down by Kyle MacLachlan’s Dale Cooper, so he was not due to be part of David Lynch’s upcoming revival series. However, Parks’ Twin Peaks costars are expected to also pay tribute.
People across Twitter and other social media sites are already grieving for the loss of Parks, who became an iconic character actor if ever Hollywood knew one. The actor’s agent reported that Parks had passed away on Tuesday, and is survived by his wife Oriana and son James.
R.I.P. Michael Parks (born Harry Samuel Parks): April 24th, 1940 – May 9th, 2017