David Carradine Found Dead in Bangkok Hotel Room of Apparent Suicide
David Carradine was found dead in Thailand today, hanged in a Bangkok hotel room with the cord used to operate the room's curtains. He had been in the city since Tuesday to shoot a film, according to Thai newspaper The Nation. He was 72. Their report said he had missed a cast and crew meal Wednesday, and that a chambermaid discovered him at 10 a.m. the next morning.
Carradine was born in Hollywood and came from an acting dynasty: He was the son of John Carradine, half-brother of Keith and Robert Carradine, and uncle to Ever Carradine and Martha Plimpton. He was best known for playing Kwai Chang Caine, the Shaolin priest who traveled the Old West on TV's Kung Fu, which ran 1972-75. But with 222 credits on his IMDb resume, his was a far more accomplished career than he tends to get credit for. He appeared in over 100 features, everything from B- and C- fare like the original Death Race 2000 and Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror, to projects helmed by Martin Scorsese, Ingmar Bergman and Hal Ashby, the last of whom cast him as his lead in 1976 Woodie Guthrie biopic Bound for Glory.
[Pause for humorous anecdote: At a recent screening of Glory at the American Cinematheque, an annoying heckler was revealed when the lights came up to be none other than Carradine. After a rambling speech in which he shot down the need for unions in modern Hollywood, a, shall we say, tense back and forth between audience and star began to develop. OK -- an outright yelling match, with Carradine having the added boost of the Egyptian P.A. system on his side. The crowd demanded the he relinquish the mic, then some confusion follows as to whether or not he meant to bonk a female audience member on the head after tossing it. He then insulted DP Haskell Wexler by saying the movie "looks like it was shot through a glass of milk," and that he had to convince Ashby not to fire Wexler. Wexler retorts with accusations of Ashby cocaine binges. This goes back and forth for a while, getting more and more personal, until Carradine decides to pick up his guitar and have a sing-along. There's lots more: the entire, surreal, now-legendary showdown was documented by attendee Chris Willman.]
In 2003 and 2004 came Carradine's most legitimate comeback shot, in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Vols. 1 & 2. He also shot several Tai chi and Qi Gong exercise videos, hosted Wild West Tech on the History Channel after Keith left the show, and starred in a series of Lipton ads ("This ain't no sippin' tea."). He's pictured at top just this past April at the Hollywood Palladium, attending the 23rd Annual Charlie Awards, awarded by the Hollywood Arts Council.