A statement from the Thai police to The Associated Press revealed that the death of actor David Carradine may have been caused by accident. His body was discovered Thursday in a room closet at the Swissotel Nai Lert Park Hotel, where the 72-year-old was found hanging by a rope. “The two ropes were tied together” said Lt. Gen. Worapong Chewprecha. “It is unclear whether he committed suicide or not or he died of suffocation or heart failure.”
Carradine was best known for Kung Fu, which ran on ABC from 1972-75. The series follows the soft-spoken drifter called Caine, who uses his Shaolin teachings and martial arts to help people of the American West. Caine wasn’t your typical Western hero. He was a man of humility, honor, and righteousness: using his hands and feet instead of guns, yet he would rather solve problems peacefully without violence unless he has to no choice but to defend himself and on the behalf of the people for the greater good.
Kung Fu aired during a time of social and political climate: Vietnam, Watergate, the era of antiheroes, Black Power, and so forth. But the show also debuted at a time of renewed interest in spirituality and religion due to the musical Jesus Christ Superstar and Superman being reborn as a Christ-like figure. Carradine reprised the role of Caine in the 1986 TV sequel Kung Fu: The Movie, with a then-unknown Brandon Lee playing his son. Brandon, who died in 1993 during the filming of The Crow, was the son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, who was rumored star in the original series. Carradine returned once again in the syndicated series Kung Fu: The Legend Continues (1993-97): only this time as the grandson of Caine who battles crime and injustice in the big city. Not only did the actor do martial arts onscreen, but he also studied and practiced it in real life with Tai Chi, in which he put out a series of videos based on it.
Carradine’s manager Tiffany Smith is one of many associates, friends, and loved ones who refuse to believe that Carradine would take his own life. “I can tell you 100 percent”, she said to E! Online, “that he would never committed suicide. He was too full of life.”
Carradine appeared in over 100 movies such as cult fave Death Race 2000 (1975) with pre-Rocky and Rambo Sylvester Stallone, battled Chuck Norris as an gunrunner in Lone Wolf McQuade (1983), earned kudos as folk singer Woody Guthrie in Bound for Glory (1976), and guest-starred on shows such as Airwolf (1984-86). He began his comeback with Quentin Tarantino’s modern-day samuari saga Kill Bill vol. 1 (2003) & 2 (2004), as the main nemesis to Uma Thurman’s vengeful Bride, and was recently in Crank 2: High Voltage this year.
The actor was still in demand with several projects already in the works such as Stretch, in which he was shooting in Thailand two days before his death, and the indie drama Portland; a new episode of the medical drama Mental with Carradine guest-starring as a patient will still air on FOX Tuesday. “An actor of David Carradine’s stature behind our film meant the world to us” said Random Beach Productions executive producers Adrian Salpeter and Elizabeth Levine. “Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.
“The team is committed to this film and are considering other actors to replace the irreplaceable David Carradine. The producers and all involved are moving forward with the production in his memory.”
If Bruce Lee is the James Dean of martial arts, and Chuck Norris is the John Wayne of martial arts, then that makes David Carradine an mixture of enigma and mystery in martial arts as well as life, but he was, as Portland director Matthew Mishory stated, “one of a kind.”