Parks is the kind of grizzled, earthen character actor we don’t see much anyone, the kind of guy who toiled away as a fruit-picker, dig-ditcher, and truck driver before getting into acting in the early ’60s with TV roles on The Untouchables, The Asphalt Jungle, and, most notably, Then Came Bronson, on which he played the lead.
An outspoken attitude didn’t do his career many favors and he spent the ’80s and ’90s often being the best part of mostly subpar films or TV episodes (his turn as the malevolent Jean Renault during Twin Peaks‘ twilight years were especially memorable). His small role in Quentin Tarantino’s From Dusk Till Dawn, however, came to serve as most memorable turn during the era. He reprised the character in Tarantino’s Kill Bill films and also played a small role in the director’s Django Unchained.
Another ’90s-era auteur that helped bring Parks back into the limelight was Smith. Though the famously nerdy writer-director’s films seem at odds with Parks’ salt-of-the-earth aura, the actor delivered some of his most brave, unhinged performances in otherwise middling movies like Tusk and Red State, the latter of which especially wouldn’t have worked nearly as well without Parks’ mastery.
“He elevated any flick or TV show he was in and elevated every director he ever acted for. I was so f—ing blessed to have worked with this bonafide genius,” Smith wrote Wednesday. “But really, I was just lucky to have known him at all.”
Other notable film appearances include a turn in the underrated The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and his take on comic book artist Jack Kirby in Ben Affleck’s Oscar-winning Argo. Through it all, Parks also dabbled in music, having achieved a Billboard hit in 1969 for providing the theme song for Then Came Bronson. He recorded eight albums between 1969 and 2011.
A cause of death is currently unknown. He is survived by his son and wife.
Actors of his rustic, honest, and inimitable quality are becoming more and more rare. He’ll be missed.