"Kung Fu" actor David Carradine found hanged in Thai hotel

BANGKOK/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - 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 on Thursday, Thai police said.

Actor David Carradine at the 60th Annual Directors Guild of America Awards in California, January 26, 2008. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

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.

“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.

Lori Binder, a representative for Carradine’s Los Angeles-based talent manager, said the actor was in Thailand to shoot a film called “Stretch.” She declined to give further details of his death while it was under investigation.

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.”

Condolences came pouring in to the actor’s website

“What a sad day it is for all who grew up watching David Carradine and knowing this great actor. May you rest in eternal peace,” said one post.

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Another simply 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. television in the 1970s.

The website did not give details of Carradine’s death but speculation has focused on suicide.

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.


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.

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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.

Additional reporting by Laura Isensee and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by John O’Callaghan