Friday, June 05, 2009

"Kung Fu" actor Carradine found hanged in Thai hotel

Actor David Carradine, star of the 1970s U.S. television show "Kung Fu," was found naked and hanging dead from a rope in the closet of his luxury Bangkok hotel room Thursday, Thai police said.

No signs were found of other people in the room and the body of the 72-year-old actor was sent to a hospital for an autopsy, police said. Results are expected on Friday.

"He was found hanging by a rope in the room's closet," Lieutenant Colonel Pirom Jantrapirom of the Lumpini police station in Bangkok told Reuters.

Carradine, from a family of performers and the eldest son of character actor John Carradine, enjoyed a long career on Broadway, television and in movies such as director Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill: Vol. 1" and "Kill Bill: Vol. 2."

Representatives for his Los Angeles-based talent manager said the actor was in Thailand to shoot a film called "Stretch," and while several media reports speculated his death may have been a suicide, a spokeswoman said neither they nor his family believed Carradine was capable of killing himself.

"His family is in shock," said Tiffany Smith of Carradine's management firm, Binder & Associates. "They have the same belief we have. There was no way David did this to himself."

Smith declined further comment pending the police report.

In his 1995 autobiography "Endless Highway," Carradine wrote that he tried to kill himself when he was 5 years-old.

The book also described his extensive drug use, ranging from LSD to cocaine, and ended with a chronicle of his efforts in the mid-1990s to get sober by attending a support group for alcoholics.


Condolences came pouring in from Hollywood celebrities and fans posting comments on his website,

Martin Scorsese, who directed Carradine in 1972's "Boxcar Bertha," called Carradine "a great collaborator, a uniquely talented actor, and a wonderful spirit."

One poster on Carradine's website wrote, "What a sad day it is for all who grew up watching David Carradine." Another said "RIP Grasshopper" -- the nickname of his "Kung Fu" character Kwai Chang Caine, a wandering monk in America's Old West who became an iconic figure of U.S. TV in the 1970s.

The actor was born John Arthur Carradine on December 8, 1936, in Los Angeles and was educated at San Francisco State University, where he studied music theory and composition.

While writing music for the drama department's annual revues, he discovered his own passion for the stage, joining a Shakespearean repertory company.

After working on Broadway in "The Deputy" and "The Royal Hunt of the Sun" opposite Christopher Plummer, Carradine earned a spot on Hollywood's map in the 1960s in TV westerns such as "Wagon Train" and "The Virginian" as well as his starring role in a TV version of the hit western movie "Shane."

But it was his role in "Kung Fu" that earned the actor his greatest fame. The series aired on U.S. television starting in 1972 and immediately won a large fan base for Carradine as Caine, a half-Asian martial arts expert and student of life.

The show spawned a movie and numerous other offshoots. Overall, Carradine's credits include more than 200 roles in movies, TV, video and DVD spanning nearly five decades.

His role as Caine earned him a nomination for an Emmy, U.S. TV's highest honor, and his turn as the villainous Bill in "Kill Bill: Vol. 2" led to his fourth Golden Globe nomination. He also won critical acclaim for portraying folk singer Woody Guthrie in the Oscar-nominated 1976 film "Bound for Glory."

Carradine was married five times and had two daughters from previous marriages. His latest wife was Annie Bierman, whom he married in 2004. His brothers include actor Keith Carradine.

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