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Sunday, June 7, 2009

"Kung Fu" Actor David Carradine Found Dead in Bangkok

"Kung Fu" Actor David Carradine Found Dead in Bangkok

A look back at five of the star's most memorable roles

A note on David Carradine's official Website confirms that the 72-year-old actor, perhaps best known for his role as Shaolin priest Kwai Chang Caine in the 1970s TV series Kung Fu, died June 3rd in Bankok. Carradine was on location in Thailand shooting a film called Stretch. According to a Thai police official, Carradine's body was discovered hanging by a nylon rope in his closet at the Swissotel Nai Lert Park Hotel, CNN reports. An autopsy is being conducted and an investigation has begun, though there were no signs of forced entry.


Carradine, who played a kung fu master in the Jonas Brothers' video for "Burnin' Up," came from fine theatrical stock. He was the son of legendary character actor John Carradine, and his brothers Keith (Dexter) and Robert (Revenge of the Nerds) are also actors. He is also the uncle of Ever Carradine (Party of Five) and Martha Plimpton (The Goonies). Carradine appeared in more than 100 films, and worked with such directors as Martin Scorsese, Ingmar Bergman, Quentin Tarantino and Hal Ashby.

While he was easily recognizable from recent appearances in Yellowbook and Lipton television spots, Carradine's lengthy career was filled with memorable performances. Here are five must-see roles from the four-time Golden Globe-nominated Carradine's impressive career:

Bill: In Quentin Tarantino's two-part Kill Bill series (released in late 2003 and early 2004, respectively), Carradine plays "Snake Charmer," the leader of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. Carradine's portrayal of the heartless killer who puts a hit out on his pregnant lady love, The Bride (Uma Thurman), introduced him to a new generation.

Shane: Carradine played the title role in this American Western television series based on Jack Schaefer's 1949 book. He was praised for bringing his role of a traveler and ex-gunfighter who defends a woman's land from a ruthless baron to glorious life.

Kwai Chang Caine: Carradine starred in the long-running ?70s series Kung Fu as Caine, a Shaolin monk-trained journeyman who seeks out his half-brother, Danny Caine, and exacts justice along the way.

Woody Guthrie: In the 1976 biopic Bound for Glory, Carradine portrays the legendary folk singer as he attempted to bring attention to the desperate plight of the Okie Dust Bowl refugees in California during the Great Depression.

Poon Dong: In this year's Crank: High Voltage, Carradine plays the 100-year-old head of the Chinese Triad, who orders his men to track down and remove (for transplantation in his own chest) the seemingly indestructible heart of Chev Chelios, played by Jason Statham.

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thai coroners completed an autopsy on the body of actor David Carradine Friday, a day after the star of 1970s-era U.S. television show "Kung Fu" was found naked and hanging dead in his luxury hotel room.

Coroners at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn hospital said they had not yet determined how the 72-year-old actor died and were waiting for the results of a toxicology screen. Police said it could take several weeks before the reason was known.

"We are now running tests and then we will decide the cause of death," the hospital's chief coroner, Nantana Sirisap, told Reuters. "This certainly was not a natural cause of death."

A maid found Carradine hanging naked by a rope in the closet of his hotel suite at the plush Swissotel Nai Lert Park hotel Thursday, police said.

Initial reports indicated a possible suicide, but his family representatives in Los Angeles have repeatedly said the actor was not suicidal.

Representatives for Carradine also declined to comment on media reports that the death was related to autoerotic asphyxiation, which involves intentionally cutting off oxygen supply for strong sexual arousal. And a former lawyer for Carradine said she suspected foul play.

But investigators in Bangkok said there was no indication other people had been in the room where Carradine was staying while shooting the movie "Stretch." Police and forensics teams were still gathering evidence as of Friday.

"We are currently interviewing witnesses, film crew, hotel staff and the last person who saw David alive," Lumpini police chief Colonel Somprasong Yentuam told Reuters.

"So far, no one saw anyone enter David's room around the estimated time of death."


A hotel employee, who gave her name as Oi, said Carradine was in good spirits in the final few hours he was seen alive.

"He was in the hotel lobby, relaxing and playing the piano -- he looked very happy," she told Reuters television.

Tiffany Smith of Carradine's Los Angeles-based talent manager Binder & Assoc. repeated assertions that the actor's family believes Carradine could not have committed suicide.

"It's not where he is in his life right now, he was completely full of life, extremely happy to be going to Bangkok and doing this film," she said.

Smith declined comment on media reports about the possibility of an accidental death by autoerotic asphyxiation, pending the police report. Autoerotic asphyxiation involves intentionally cutting off oxygen supply for strong sexual arousal.

When long-time family friend and Carradine's former lawyer Vicki Roberts, who represented the actor in a past divorce, was asked whether he had a history of using autoerotic asphyxiation, she replied: "No, absolutely not."

Roberts said details of the way the actor was found in his hotel caused her to suspect foul play, but she conceded she was only reading news accounts out of Bangkok.

Meanwhile, Smith said Carradine's family was making arrangements to have his body flown back to Los Angeles, but as of Friday there were no details on when that might occur.

Carradine is married to Annie Bierman and he comes from a family of performers, including actor Keith Carradine, whose father is the late character actor John Carradine.

He enjoyed a long career on Broadway, TV and in movies such as Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill: Vol. 1" and "Kill Bill: Vol. 2." But he was most famous for his role in "Kung Fu," playing a martial arts specialist known as Caine who wandered through the American Old West seeking wisdom and beating up bad guys.

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