Michael Parks, Character Actor on TV and in Movies, Dies at 77


Photo

Michael Parks in the 1960s.

Credit
Rex Features, via Associated Press

Michael Parks, a prolific character actor who found early fame in countercultural roles in the 1960s and later became a favorite of the directors Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith and Robert Rodriguez, died on Tuesday in Los Angeles. He was 77.

His death was announced by his agent, Jane Schulman. She did not specify the cause.

Mr. Parks acted in more than 100 films and television series over six decades. Many of his early starring roles were in movies with anti-establishment themes like “The Happening,” a 1967 comedy about a group of hippies who kidnap a mobster played by Anthony Quinn, and “Bus Riley’s Back in Town,” a 1965 drama with Ann-Margret in which he played a man struggling to readjust to civilian life after three years in the Navy.

Mr. Parks starred as a disillusioned motorcycle-riding ex-reporter in the series “Then Came Bronson,” seen on NBC in the 1969-70 season. He also sang the show’s closing theme song, “Long Lonesome Highway,” a Top 20 hit in 1970. He recorded a number of albums throughout his career.

Mr. Parks found what were perhaps his most famous parts thanks to Mr. Tarantino, Mr. Smith and Mr. Rodriguez, all of whom turned to him again and again for meaty supporting roles.

Mr. Tarantino cast him in both parts of “Kill Bill” (2003 and 2004) and in “Grindhouse” (2007).

In 1990 and 1991, Mr. Parks played a Canadian drug runner in a few episodes of the David Lynch TV series “Twin Peaks.”

Sometimes Mr. Parks’s characters followed him from filmmaker to filmmaker. He played the Texas Ranger Earl McGraw in Mr. Rodriguez’s “From Dusk Till Dawn” (1996) and reprised the role in “Kill Bill” and “Grindhouse.” His son, James Parks, appeared in the “Kill Bill” movies as McGraw’s son, Edgar.

Mr. Parks was born in Corona, Calif., about 45 miles southeast of Los Angeles, on April 24, 1940. Survivors include his wife, Oriana Parks, whom he married in 1997, and his son.

Mr. Smith gave Mr. Parks major roles in his horror comedy “Tusk” (2014), which also starred Justin Long and Johnny Depp, and “Red State” (2011), in which he played a murderous preacher. On Wednesday he called Mr. Parks “my cinematic muse” and “the best actor I’ve ever known.”

“I wrote both ‘Red State’ and ‘Tusk’ for Parks, I loved his acting so much,” Mr. Smith wrote on Instagram, adding that Mr. Parks “brought out the absolute best in me every time he got near my set.”

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