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Michael Parks, Beloved Character Actor, Star of ‘Kill Bill’ and ‘Twin Peaks,’ Dead at 77

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

It’s been a rough week (it’s only Wednesday), and things just got a little more upsetting: Michael Parks, the incomparable character actor best known for his roles in Twin Peaks, Kill Bill and From Dusk Till Dawn, has passed away at the age of 77. Kevin Smith broke the news this morning on Instagram, where he shared a tribute to the star of his horror films Tusk and Red State.

The cause of Parks’ death remains unknown, though Smith delivered the news via Instagram this morning. Smith paid tribute to the beloved character actor, rightfully noting, “He elevated any flick or TV show he was in and elevated every director he ever acted for” — including Smith, who featured the actor in two of his recent horror films, both of which benefitted greatly from Parks’ compelling performances.

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

Parks began his career in the ’60s, appearing in classic shows like Gunsmoke and Perry Mason before landing the lead on the short-lived series Then Came Bronson. Parks’ theme song for the series, “Long Lonesome Highway,” rose to the #20 spot on the Billboard Hot 100, and also served as the title of one of three albums he recorded for MGM Records.

But Parks is best remembered for his latter work, including his recurring role as Jean Renault on the David Lynch series Twin Peaks. Parks also starred in Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn as Sheriff Earl McGraw, a role he reprised for Grindhouse and Kill Bill: Volume 1Quentin Tarantino was so fond of the actor that he had him play an entirely different part in Kill Bill: Volume 2, this time as Esteban Vihaio, and later gave Parks a small supporting role in Django Unchained.

Parks’ recent career also included roles in the films The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Argo (in which he played iconic comic book artist and writer Jack Kirby), and the American remake of the Mexican horror film We Are What We Are.

The actor’s last role appears to have been in Hostiles, the upcoming film from director Scott Cooper starring Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike and Jesse Plemons.

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