Actor Michael Parks, known for ‘Twin Peaks’ and his work with Quentin Tarantino, dies at 77

Actor Michael Parks in Santa Monica on August 16, 2011.
Actor Michael Parks in Santa Monica on August 16, 2011.
(Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

Michael Parks, a veteran character actor and singer who enjoyed a late-career resurgence on the series “Twin Peaks” and as a go-to for directors such as Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith, died Tuesday at 77.

Parks’ agent confirmed his death. No cause was given.

Smith, who cast Parks as a twisted, fanatical preacher in his 2011 horror movie “Red State” and in dual roles in his 2014 bizarro cult film “Tusk,” paid tribute to the actor on social media, calling him “my cinematic muse” and “hands-down the most incredible thespian I ever had the pleasure to watch perform.”

Born in Corona, Calif., on April 24, 1940, Parks first drew notice as a journeyman actor on television. After appearing on shows like “The Asphalt Jungle” and “Route 66” and in B-movies like “Wild Seed” and “Bus Riley’s Back in Town,” he eventually landed a starring role on the short-lived 1969 series “Then Came Bronson,” for which he also sang the theme song. The song reached No. 20 on the Billboard charts, leading to a side career for Parks as a recording artist.

With his matinee-idol looks and mesmerizing screen presence, Parks was considered by some a potential next James Dean — though, as he told The Times in 2011, that comparison proved a mixed blessing.

“It hurt more than helped,” Parks said. “From what I gather, he was cantankerous.... He could be mean, and people who knew him said [about me], ‘Another James Dean,’ without even knowing me.”

While Parks showed his range in small parts throughout the ’70s and ’80s, he never became the leading man some may have expected him to be. But his profile was boosted considerably in the 1990s when he was cast as French Canadian gunrunner Jean Renault in David Lynch’s TV series “Twin Peaks,” which he followed a few years later with a role as a Texas Ranger in Rodriguez’s vampire action film “From Dusk Till Dawn.”


Tarantino, who co-starred in that film, became enamored with Parks and went on to cast him in two different roles in his films “Kill Bill Vol. 1” and “Kill Bill Vol. 2” as well as in “Django Unchained.”

In recent years, Parks also made appearances in the films “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” and “Argo.”

Parks is survived by his wife, Oriana, and a son, James.

Twitter: @joshrottenberg