Michael Parks, a character actor who enjoyed a career renaissance in recent decades thanks to high profile roles in films by Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez and Kevin Smith, died Wednesday at the age of 77.
Parks made his acting debut in a small role in 1961 on the sitcom The Real McCoys, and, racked up dozens of roles on both television and feature films, most notably as the casino owner and drug runner Jean Renault on the second season of Twin Peaks.
After years playing bit roles in made-for-TV movies, Westerns and slasher films, Parks was cast as Texas Ranger Earl McGraw in Rodriguez’ 1996 vampire flick From Dusk ’til Dawn. Quentin Tarantino, an associate of Rodriguez’, then cast Parks in a dual role for Kill Bill: Volume 1 and Volume 2; in the former, he reprised the McGraw role, while the latter found the actor playing Mexican pimp Esteban Vihaio.
Parks would portray McGraw once more for Tarantino and Rodriguez in the directors’ Grindhouse films. Tarantino also recruited Parks for a small role in Django Unchained.
Parks’ career revival also resulted in roles in Ben Affleck’s Argo, The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford and a pair of Kevin Smith horror flicks, Red State and Tusk.
“Michael was, and will likely forever remain, the best actor I’ve ever known. I wrote both [Red State] and [Tusk] FOR Parks, I loved his acting so much,” Smith posted on Wednesday. “He was, hands-down, the most incredible thespian I ever had the pleasure to watch perform. And Parks brought out the absolute best in me every time he got near my set.”
At the time of his death, Parks was cast in the upcoming Christian Bale film Hostiles.
Check out this trailer for Big Ass Spider, With a special introduction from Director Mike Mendez. This looks better than Transformers…
Harking back to the classic 50’s creature features, Big Ass Spider tells the tale of an exterminator (Greg Grunberg) and his sidekick (Lombardo Boyar) who are caught in an epic battle when a military assault fails to contain a giant alien spider rampaging through the city of Los Angeles…
Robert Anthony Rodríguez (born June 20, 1968) is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, cinematographer, editor and musician. He shoots and produces many of his films in his native Texas and Mexico.
Rodríguez was born in San Antonio, Texas, the son of Mexican-American parents Rebecca (née Villegas), a nurse, and Cecilio G. Rodríguez, a salesman. He began his interest in film at age 11 when his father bought one of the first VCR’s, which came with a camera. Rodríguez grew up shooting action and horror short films on video, and editing on two VCRs. Finally, in the fall of 1990, his entry in a local film contest earned him a spot in the university’s film program where he made the award-winning 16 mm short Bedhead.
This short film attracted enough attention to encourage him to seriously attempt a career as a filmmaker. He went on to shoot the action flick El Mariachi in Spanish. El Mariachi, which was shot for around $7,000 with money raised by his friend Carlos Gallardo and participating in medical research studies, won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival in 1993. The film, originally intended for the Spanish-language low-budget home-video market, was “cleaned up” with several hundred thousand dollars before being distributed by Columbia Pictures, while still being promoted as “the movie made for $7,000”.
His next feature film was Roadracers, a 1994 made-for-television film. The film originally aired on the Showtime Network as part of their Rebel Highway series that took the titles of 1950s-era B-movies and applied them to original films starring up-and-coming actors of the 1990s and directed by established directors such as William Friedkin, Joe Dante, and Ralph Bakshi. Rodriguez was the only young director to participate in the series.
His next film and first major release was Desperado (1995), a sequel to El Mariachi starring Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek in their first American roles. Rodríguez went on to collaborate with Quentin Tarantino on Four Rooms, a 1995 anthology comedy telling four stories set in the fictional Hotel Mon Signor in Los Angeles on New Years Eve. Tim Roth stars as the main character of the frame tale; he also appears to some degree in all four stories. The movie was directed by Allison Anders, Alexandre Rockwell, Rodriguez and Tarantino with each of them directing one “room” of the film.
Rodriguez continued his work with Tarantino, a partnership that thrives to this day, on the vampire thriller, From Dusk Till Dawn (1996). The film was followed by two direct-to-video follow-ups, a sequel, From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money and a prequel, From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter (1999). They were both received poorly by critics. Danny Trejo is the only actor to appear in all three. Rodriguez, Tarantino and Lawrence Bender served as producers on all three movies.
He followed up with the science fiction horror film, The Faculty (1998), written by Kevin Williamson (Scream 1 and 2). Then in 2001, Rodríguez enjoyed his first $100,000,000 (USD) Hollywood hit with Spy Kids, which went on to become a 4-movie franchise. A third “mariachi” film also appeared in late 2003, Once Upon a Time in Mexico which completed the Mariachi Trilogy.
2005 was the year that he broke through to a wider market with his adaptation of the Frank Miller graphic novels series Sin City. Rodríguez insisted that Frank Miller direct the film with him because he considered the visual style of Miller’s comic art to be just as important as his own in the film. However, the Directors Guild of America would not allow it, Rodríguez chose to resign from the DGA, stating, “It was easier for me to quietly resign before shooting because otherwise I’d be forced to make compromises I was unwilling to make or set a precedent that might hurt the guild later on.” By resigning from the DGA, Rodríguez was forced to relinquish his director’s seat on the film John Carter (an lucky break!).
Sin City was a critical hit in 2005 as well as a box office success, particularly for a hyperviolent comic book adaptation that did not have name recognition comparable to the X-Men or Spider-Man. He has stated that he is interested in eventually adapting all of Miller’s Sin City comic books, and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is currently in production.
Rodríguez also released The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 2005, a superhero-kid movie intended for the same younger audiences as his Spy Kids series. However, the film was not a major success.
Rodriguez wrote and directed the film Planet Terror for the collaboration with Quentin Tarantino in their double feature Grindhouse (2007). This film was a throwback to the Grindhouse exploitation cinema of the late 6o’s and 70’s.
In 2009 he released Shorts a family comedy adventure in keeping with his Spy Kids style. In 2010 he produced Predators and directed Machete an expansion of a fake trailer Rodriguez directed for the 2007 film Grindhouse. It starred Danny Trejo as the title character. Trejo, Rodriquez’ 2nd cousin, has worked with him on Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, and Spy Kids, where Trejo’s character was also known as Machete.
He operates a production company called Troublemaker Studios, formerly Los Hooligans Productions. Rodríguez not only has the unusual credits of producing, directing and writing his films, he also frequently serves as editor, director of photography, camera operator, steadicam operator, composer, production designer, visual effects supervisor, and sound editor on his films. This has earned him the nickname of “the one-man film crew.” He calls his style of making movies “Mariachi-style”
Dan “Danny” Trejo (born May 16, 1944) is an American actor of Mexican descent who has appeared in numerous Hollywood films, most notably in “tough guy” roles as a villain, thug or lowlife characters, although he has also played protagonists in films such as Robert Rodriguez’s Spy Kids trilogy.
Born Dan Trejo in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, Trejo is the son of Alice Rivera and Dan Trejo, a construction worker. He is a second cousin of filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, though the two were unaware that they were related until the filming of Desperado. As a youth, he roamed the streets around his home area, committing various petty crimes with his uncle, and eventually became addicted to heroin.
While on the streets, Trejo developed talent as a boxer and considered taking it up as a profession. That ambition was dashed by a lengthy prison sentence. He served 11 years for drug and robbery charges in the Holmesburg Prison. While in Holmesburg, he became the Pennsylvania state prison champion in both the lightweight and welterweight divisions. During this time Trejo became a member of a twelve-step program which he credits with his success in overcoming drug addiction. He also served time in Folsom State Prison. Trejo was released in 1972.
While speaking at a recovery meeting in Los Angeles, Trejo met a young man in the movie business. His newfound friend invited him to the set of Runaway Train where Trejo was offered a job as an extra in the film’s prison scenes. Edward Bunker, himself a former convict and well-respected crime author who was writing the screenplay for the film, recognized Trejo, with whom he had done time at San Quentin. Bunker remembered Trejo’s boxing skills, and offered him $320 per day to train Eric Roberts, one of the movie’s stars, for a boxing scene. Director Andrei Konchalovsky liked Trejo’s work and decided to offer him a prominent role in the film.
Since then, Trejo has become a prolific actor in both films and television. Trejo has often appeared in five or more movies per year in various genres. Major releases in which he has acted include Blood In Blood Out, Animal Factory, Bubble Boy, Anaconda, Marked for death, xXx, Desperado, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Heat, From Dusk till Dawn, Con Air, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Predators, The Devil’s Rejects, Grindhouse, Rob Zombie’s Halloween, Snoop Dogg’s Hood of Horror and a guest role in the superlative Breaking Bad.
Trejo is known for his very distinctive appearance. In addition to his heavily lined face (usually sporting a long mustache), he has displayed the large tattoo on his chest for many roles (the tattoo depicts a woman wearing a sombrero). Many of Trejo’s characters in Robert Rodriguez movies have been named after knives or sharp instruments: Machete in Spy Kids, Razor Eddie in the From Dusk till Dawn series, Navajas (Spanish for blades) in Desperado, and Cuchillo (Spanish for knife) in Predators. He also plays Machete in a trailer made for Rodriguez’s film collaboration with Quentin Tarantino, Grindhouse. In 2010, he starred in a full theatrical version of Machete, based on the character.
The award-winning independent film, Champion was released in 2005, documenting Trejo’s life. Trejo has said that he is amazed when he walks the streets where he used to commit crimes and children ask him for autographs. He also pointed out that he often chooses to play bad guys to teach younger audiences that bad guys often die or go to prison, and that one should try to live a decent life.
His next major release will be a sequel to the surprise hit, Machete, entitled Machete Kills. The movie features another array of big names to rival those from the first, Mel Gibson, Amber Heard, Sofia Vergara, as well as returning cast members Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez and Tom Savini there is also a rumout that Tony Jaa has a cameo. The movie is due out early next year.