Michael Parks was an actor you knew well, even if you didn’t spot him immediately. Having worked for decades in movies, TV, and music, Parks was a chameleonic performer who often turned up in eccentric supporting roles, usually as doctors or sheriffs, chewing into exposition with the aplomb of a true Hollywood professional. He was so talented and so devoted to transforming himself, it took me over a dozen films to realize that I was watching the same actor. He was a kindly grandfather, a stern cop, a believable cult leader, and, in what might be his best performance, a scary kook with dark walrus fantasies (yes, that was him in Kevin Smith’s Tusk).
Parks worked frequently with Smith, also having starred in his 2011 horror film Red State as the leader of a violence-minded religious cult that strongly resembled The Westboro Baptist Church, a group that infamously picketed – among other things – Smith’s own Dogma. Parks was also a favorite of Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, having appeared in several of their films, including their famous team-up flick Grindhouse.
Michael Parks, however, had been working for decades before his late-career renaissance. He appeared in many, many TV shows and B-movies as early as the 1960s. His breakout role was 1960’s Wild Seed, a classier-than-most juvenile delinquency film produced by Marlon Brando. He popped up in several notable film roles thereafter. He can be seen rising from the mud as Adam in The Bible: In the Beginning, for instance.
Perhaps most notably, Parks played the title character in the celebrated 1969 cult TV series Then Came Bronson. As he was rising as an actor, Parks also had a notable – and surprisingly prolific – music career. He released seven studio records sporadically from 1969 to 1998.
Michael Parks has sadly passed away at the age of 77. These are the roles we will never forget, even if – due to the transformative acting of Michael Parks – we didn’t know it was him at the time. He was just that good.
The Greatest Roles of Michael Parks
Top Image: Lionsgate
Witney Seibold is a longtime contributor to the CraveOnline Film Channel, and the co-host of The B-Movies Podcast and the TV podcast Canceled Too Soon. He also contributes to Legion of Leia, Nerdist, and Blumhouse. You can follow him on “The Twitter” at @WitneySeibold, where he is slowly losing his mind.