David Carradine, the prolific actor and self-styled "tough old man" best known for his title role in the Kill Bill films, has been found dead in a Bangkok hotel room, after apparently hanging himself from the door of a wardrobe. He was 72.
Police reports said that Carradine's body was discovered by a maid cleaning his suite at the 5-star Park Nai Lert Hotel at around 10am yesterday. He'd arrived in the Thai capital on Tuesday to begin work on a new movie called Stretch.
A local newspaper, The Nation, said that Carradine was half naked, and had a curtain cord wrapped around his neck. He had been due to join his film crew for dinner on Wednesday night, but never showed up for the meal.
Although some early news bulletins attributed his death to suicide, Carradine's personal manager Chuck Binder said he believed it was a tragic accident, telling reporters that the actor had no history of depression and was looking forward to making the film.
"I talked to him last week and he was in good spirits," Binder said. "It's just shocking. He was full of life, always wanting to work... a great person."
Police said Carradine had been dead for at least 12 hours, and found no sign of fighting or assault. The US Embassy's spokesman, Michael Turner, confirmed the death, but said he could not provide further details out of consideration for the victim's family.
Carradine was a leading member of a venerable Hollywood acting dynasty that included his father John, an iconic character actor, and brother Keith. His career spanned five decades, and included almost 200 films for directors such as Martin Scorcese, Ingmar Bergman and Quentin Tarantino.
He became a household name in the 1970s playing Kwai Chang Caine, a fugitive half-Chinese Shaolin monk in the TV drama Kung Fu. For the three years that he took the starring role, it was one of the most popular shows on US television.
Carradine's stock-in-trade was playing villains in low-budget martial arts films, many of which went straight to video but nonetheless secured him a cult following. He was nominated for an Emmy and four Golden Globes.
His portrayal of the folk singer Woody Guthrie in the 1976 film Bound for Glory helped the title to win two Oscars, together with another four nominations. More recently, he played an elderly, sexually perverted Chinese mobster in the Jason Statham action movie Crank: High Voltage.
Despite being born in Los Angeles, Carradine spent much of his childhood in 1950s New York. He learned to act at San Francisco State College, before honing his trade with a Shakesperean repertory company, and subsequently viewed himself as something of a Hollywood outsider.
For much of the 1980s and 1990s, his film career languished, and he found time to devote himself to an alternative lifestyle, together with his hobbies of painting, sculpture, and music. He also produced several exercise videos teaching some of his favourite martial arts: Tai Chi and Qigong.
Quentin Tarantino was responsible for Carradine's recent career renaissance, calling out of the blue to cast him opposite Uma Thurman in his 2003 martial arts revenge film Kill Bill. The director had apparently written the screenplay for the movie shortly after reading Carradine's autobiography Endless Highway.
"The result," Carradine later told an interviewer from Entertainment Weekly, "is that Bill has a lot of my character in it. Or at least a lot of what Quentin thinks my character is." He was nominated for a Golden Globe for the role.
Since the Kill Bill films came out, Carradine - who is survived by his fifth wife, Annie, and two daughters - had been cast in dozens of movies, mostly as elderly martial arts gurus. At the time his death, he had at least eight titles in production.
"I'm too old for the parts I did 35 years ago," he observed, during what appears to have been his final interview. "But instead, what I get now with this nice little pile of quality movies that are all waiting to be released, is an assortment of really tough old men."
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