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Michael Parks: Actor. Writer. Singer. Songwriter.
Michael was what is now known as a multi-hyphenate, and he excelled at each label he was saddled with. Quentin Tarantino once claimed him to be "the world's greatest living actor". He was the only star to ever exercise complete creative control on his own TV series (Then Came Bronson). He released seven albums (four went gold) over the course of his life that ranged from country, to Americana, to jazz, to gospel. He performed music on The Johnny Cash Show and The Ed Sullivan Show. He gave live poetry readings at cafés in San Francisco and on the nationally televised Everly Brothers Show. He was a pall-bearer at Lenny Bruce's funeral, he played catch with Elvis, he read poetry with Jack Kerouac, he jammed with Miles Davis, he knew Martin Luthor King Jr.
The list truly doesn't end.
Michael worked hard and rose through the Hollywood scene where he was given the leading role in the criminally underrated film, Wild Seed. Unfortunately, due to a similar facial structure and disregard for authority, he was saddled with constant comparisons to the legacy of James Dean. After starring in several blockbusters, he eventually butted heads with Lew Wasserman, was labelled a problem, and blacklisted from the industry. He then spent many years jobless until he finally fought his way back into the system, taking any role that "paid the rent".
During this time, he and his son Jimmy lived out of cars, hotels, and friends houses. While living on the road, Michael taught his son the works and wisdom of Dylan Thomas, Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, etc. Eventually, thanks to notable roles from admirers such as Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch, Parks was again granted the spotlight.
Though he was able to make a living, his genius still went largely unheralded until Kevin Smith cast him as the lead in Red State. For the first time ever, Michael was able to properly showcase his unique acting to the populace. Unfortunately, not long after this he encountered a health scare when falling down a set of stairs in New York and damaged his brain.
Though his health was diminished, Kevin cast him as the lead in Tusk and put me on the task of being the "Parks Whisperer" (fancy word for assistant). Casting Michael was a leap of faith on Kevin's part and proved to be exactly what Michael needed to force a nearly-full recovery.
To me, Michael wholly symbolized the American Spirit. Kind, generous, but also filled to the brim with an anti-authoritarian wanderlust. This documentary is designed to show the world what it missed out on, and it begs the question - is it better to sellout and be remembered by everyone, or to live life on your own terms and be remembered as a rebel?
-Josh Roush, Director of Long Lonesome Highway
Projects we did with Michael:
Beyond Tusk, we also had the honor of working with him on several other projects as well. They include the music video Twisted Knives, and the animated short Other Fish.
When Nick Dellaposta contacted Josh Roush that he wrote a song for his band To No End about Josh's life and wanted him to direct the music video, he immediately hired Michael to portray an older version of himself.
The concept is that an old man is dying and as the last synapses of his brain are firing, his life flashes before his eyes.
A freshly divorced mother (Jacqui Duncan) chooses to harness her newly found freedom by swimming a mile long channel of water much to the dismay of her daughter (Harley Quinn Smith) and her father (Michael).
This short was conceived as an anti-parable, demonstrating the dangers of following ones dreams.