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Michael Parks, TV And Movie Character Actor, Dies At 77

Character actor Michael Parks has died after a career that lasted more than 50 years. He was 77.

Parks' agent, Jane Schulman, confirmed his death to news organizations but she did not specify the cause.

Parks, a California native, didn't begin acting until after years of fruit picking, truck driving and firefighting.

In the 1960s, he was on numerous TV shows, and was seen by some in Hollywood as the next James Dean. Most notably, he starred as the brooding ex-newspaperman riding a Harley — a sort of Easy Rider — on the TV series Then Came Bronson.

Park sang the show's theme song, which became a hit on the Billboard and Hot Country songs charts. Parks recorded pop, jazz and gospel albums, too, but mostly stuck to acting. He even starred in the role of Adam in John Huston's 1966 epic The Bible.

Over the decades, he racked up more than a hundred film and TV credits as villains and antiheroes.

He didn't have a major breakthrough until later in his career, when he became a favorite actor of directors Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez and David Lynch, who cast him as a murderous French-Canadian drug runner on Twin Peaks.

Parks played a Texas Ranger in From Dusk Till Dawn — a role he reprised in Tarantino's Kill Bill series.

Parks also played a Mexican pimp in that movie, and Tarantino also directed him in Django Unchained and Grindhouse.

Filmmaker Kevin Smith was also a fan, casting him as the bad guy in two horror films, Red State and Tusk.

Smith says Parks was a genius and called him a "Yoda of acting."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.
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