RIP Michael Parks: Kill Bill actor dies aged 77

The late Michael Parks in 1996's 'From Dusk Till Dawn' (credit: Dimension Films)
The late Michael Parks in 1996’s ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ (credit: Dimension Films)

The esteemed cult film actor Michael Parks has passed away at the age of 77.

The news was made public by writer-director Kevin Smith, one of the last filmmakers to work with Parks on 2014’s ‘Tusk,’ who described the late actor as “my cinematic muse” and “hands-down, the most incredible thespian I ever had the pleasure to watch perform” in an Instagram post, embedded below (caution: contains strong language).

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

A post shared by Kevin Smith (@thatkevinsmith) on May 10, 2017 at 8:13am PDT

The cause of death has not been announced at present.

Born Harry Samuel Parks on 24 April 1940, Parks’ career as an actor and singer began with a role on TV’s ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ in 1958. He worked solidly in film and television throughout the 1960s, but his career suffered a setback after he was reportedly ‘blacklisted’ by the studios in the early 1970s, after criticising the moral content of his TV series ‘Then Came Bronson.’

Aside from a five-episode run on TV’s ‘Twin Peaks,’ Parks was largely stuck in low-budget exploitation throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. However, he gained a significant comeback role when Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino cast him as Texas Ranger Earl McGraw in 1997’s ‘From Dusk Till Dawn.’

Despite being killed off in the first scene, Tarantino and Rodriguez were sufficiently enamoured with Parks’ performance to bring Earl McGraw back, first in 2004’s ‘Kill Bill,’ then in 2007’s ‘Grindhouse.’ Parks also played a second role in ‘Kill Bill Vol 2,’ as well as appearing in Tarantino’s ‘Django Unchained.’

Michael Parks in 2011's 'Red State' (credit: Lionsgate)
Michael Parks in 2011’s ‘Red State’ (credit: Lionsgate)

This in turn led to Parks being cast by Kevin Smith in ‘Red State’ and ‘Tusk.’ Ben Affleck also cast him as iconic comics artist Jack Kirby in 2012 Oscar-winner ‘Argo.’

Truly a remarkable screen presence, Parks will be very sadly missed. We extend our deepest condolences to all who knew him.

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