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R.I.P. Michael Parks, legendary character actor and Quentin Tarantino regular has died at 77

on May 10, 2017, 1:40pm

Legendary character actor and musician Michael Parks has passed away at the age of 77. His death was reported on Wednesday by Parks’ frequent collaborator, the director Kevin Smith.

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

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Parks is the kind of grizzled, earthen character actor we don’t see much anyone, the kind of guy who toiled away as a fruit-picker, dig-ditcher, and truck driver before getting into acting in the early ’60s with TV roles on The Untouchables, The Asphalt Jungle, and, most notably, Then Came Bronson, on which he played the lead.

An outspoken attitude didn’t do his career many favors and he spent the ’80s and ’90s often being the best part of mostly subpar films or TV episodes (his turn as the malevolent Jean Renault during Twin Peaks‘ twilight years were especially memorable). His small role in Quentin Tarantino’s From Dusk Till Dawnhowever, came to serve as most memorable turn during the era. He reprised the character in Tarantino’s Kill Bill films and also played a small role in the director’s Django Unchained.

Another ’90s-era auteur that helped bring Parks back into the limelight was Smith. Though the famously nerdy writer-director’s films seem at odds with Parks’ salt-of-the-earth aura, the actor delivered some of his most brave, unhinged performances in otherwise middling movies like Tusk and Red State, the latter of which especially wouldn’t have worked nearly as well without Parks’ mastery.

“He elevated any flick or TV show he was in and elevated every director he ever acted for. I was so f—ing blessed to have worked with this bonafide genius,” Smith wrote Wednesday. “But really, I was just lucky to have known him at all.”

Other notable film appearances include a turn in the underrated The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and his take on comic book artist Jack Kirby in Ben Affleck’s Oscar-winning Argo. Through it all, Parks also dabbled in music, having achieved a Billboard hit in 1969 for providing the theme song for Then Came Bronson. He recorded eight albums between 1969 and 2011.

A cause of death is currently unknown. He is survived by his son and wife.

Actors of his rustic, honest, and inimitable quality are becoming more and more rare. He’ll be missed.

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