Who Killed Bill? Obit for David Carradine.

David Carradine was part of a dynasty of actors that included his father, John; brother, Bruce; half-brothers Keith and Robert; and nieces Ever Carradine and Martha Plimpton.

The actor credited with over 100 feature films with directors such as Martin Scorsese, Ingmar Bergman and Hal Ashby was also nominated four times for the Golden Globes. His claim to fame, however, was the TV show Kung Fu, which aired from 1972-75.

In the series Carradine played Caine, an orphan raised by Shaolin monks and who flees China after killing the emperor’s nephew in retaliation for the murder of his kung-fu master. Pursued by revenge assassins from China, Caine wanders the American West in search of his half-brother Danny. His conscience forces him to fight injustice wherever he encounters it, fueled by flashbacks to his training in which his master famously refers to him as “Grasshopper.” Carradine reprised the role in a mid-1980s TV movie and played Caine’s grandson in the 1990s syndicated series Kung Fu: the Legend Continues.

It was around this time that career had been in the doldrums when Quentin Tarantino cast him in the title role of Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2. Tarantino is known for reviving careers, most notably John Travolta’s in Pulp Fiction, and with Carradine it was no different.

Carradine as Bill was formidable and dominating, but at the same time his personality leaned towards the maverick outsider. He expressed that Bill was a part closest to him. Tarantino had thought of him for some time: “He wanted it to be a revelation to the world that he would show me like people don’t know me,” Carradine explained. Tarantino drew inspiration from Carradine’s huge autobiography, Endless Highway. More recently, he appeared in the sequel to Crank along side Jason Statham.

His death comes as a shock to those that have worked with him. Director Martin Scorsese said he was “deeply saddened” by the news and called him a “uniquely talented actor.” He added “We met when we made Boxcar Bertha together, almost 40 years ago. I have very fond memories of our time together on that picture and on Mean Streets, where he agreed to do a brief cameo.”

Actor Michael Madsen, who co-starred with Carradine in Kill Bill and worked with him on a number of films after, said about the star, “David was one of the first actors I ever worked with when I started my career and the closest person to a brother that I ever had in my life.”

Carradine was in Thailand working on his latest film called Stretch when he was found dead in his room at the Swissotel Nai Lert Park Hotel. Police told reporters that it was unclear whether the star took his own life, or if he died of suffocation or heart failure. Though local authorities have begun their investigation into the matter, the actor’s family has asked the FBI to help investigate his death. The family does not believe he committed suicide and is troubled by conflicting accounts about the circumstances of his death.

David Carradine died on June 3, 2009, in his Bangkok hotel room. He was 72.

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