Michael Parks is known as an actor’s actor by his peers with a breadth of astonishing range that has allowed him to portray stunning contrasts–sometimes in the same film, like in Tusk (2014), starring in dual roles as an erudite serial killer opposite Justin Long, and as a feeble rube opposite Johnny Depp. In Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) and Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004). Parks portrayed spot-on contrasting roles as Texas Ranger Earl McGraw and the heavily accented Esteban Vihaio opposite Uma Thurman. Writers/directors, including Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino, wrote roles specifically for Parks, claiming all they need to do is “turn on the camera” to elicit a masterful performance.
Parks has played in more than 100 films and TV shows over a 50-year career. He started as a contract player in 1961 with the portrayal of the nephew of the character George MacMichael on the ABC sitcom The Real McCoys (1957). He played Adam in John Huston’s 1966 movie The Bible: In the Beginning… (1966). His other early roles includes appearances in two NBC series: Sam Benedict: Too Many Strangers (1962) as “Larry Wilcox” and as “Dr. Mark Reynolds” in The Eleventh Hour: Pressure Breakdown (1963). He also starred in The China Lake Murders (1990) and Stranger by Night (1994), playing a police officer in both.
From 1969-70 he starred in the series Then Came Bronson (1969), in which he was the only recurring character. He sang the theme song for the show, “Long Lonesome Highway”, which became a #20 Billboard Hot 100 and #41 Hot Country Songs hit. Albums he recorded under MGM Records (the label of the studio which produced the series) include “Closing The Gap” (1969),” Long Lonesome Highway” (1970) and “Blue”. He also had various records of songs included on these albums. He played Philip Colby during the second season (1986-87) of ABC’s Dynasty (1981) spin-off series The Colbys (1985). He played the antagonist Irish mob boss Tommy O’Shea in Death Wish V: The Face of Death (1994) (1994), French-Canadian drug runner Jean Renault in the ABC television series Twin Peaks (1990), Dr. Banyard in Deceiver (1997), Texas Ranger Earl McGraw in From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) and Ambrose Bierce in From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter (1999). After playing Earl McGraw in the “Kill Bill” film series he reprised the role in both segments of the film Grindhouse (2007). In Red State (2011) as villain Abin Cooper, quoting the Bible and issuing homicidal directives in the same gently insinuating voice, Parks plays a disturbingly soft-spoken psycho making the talk all the more convincing and scary with his brilliant delivery affecting a folksy “down-home” accent , knowing just how to modulate his remarks for maximum effect; most reviewers agreed with “Hollywood Reporter” writer Todd McCarthy that he is mesmerizing as he spews Cooper’s hate in a way that brooks no argument . In “Tusk” as Howard Howe, a real-life ancient mariner (a role Kevin Smith tailor-made for him), “Parks has such light in his eyes, fire in his belly and a mellifluous purr in his voice” that “Variety” wrote, “it would probably be a pleasure to watch him recite the Manitoba phone book”.
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