David Carradine - Grasshopper's farewell

David Carradine

In memory of David Carradine who died yesterday in Bangkok here's one from the archive. What follows is an interview The List ran in April 2004 just before the release of Kill Bill 2, in which Carradine played the title role. RIP David Carradine 1936-2009.

In typical time-twisting Quentin Tarantino stylee, the second part of Kill Bill starts out not where we left off in Vol 1, but by looping back to the day assassin-pimp Bill (David Carradine) and his squad of killers tried to kill our heroine at a Texas wedding chapel. 'How did you find me?' Uma Thurman's Bride asks her ex-lover Bill on the porch. 'I'm the man,' he replies, coolness incarnate.

Same goes for Carradine himself when met face-to-face. He da man. Sparking up a cigarette in a no-smoking zone ('I love to violate rules,' he drawls), the 67-year-old explains how originally, 'Quentin wrote this part for me and pretty much about me.' After all, Bill had to be iconic, convincing as a master of martial arts, a regular international man of mystery. Carradine is just that. The former star of the once hugely popular 70s TV show Kung Fu and elder son of a Hollywood dynasty, he sank into straight-to-video obscurity, apart from a few juicy turns in such films as cult Western The Long Riders, Ingmar Bergman's The Serpent's Egg, and Hal Ashby's Bound for Glory, in which he played Woody Guthrie.

But when push came to shove, Tarantino first offered the part to Warren Beatty. Carradine isn't the slightest bit bitter when this is brought up. 'I think the deal needed to be made with a guy like Warren Beatty because he's big-time, he's royalty,' he explains. 'And then I guess he and Quentin sort of had a falling out and he went back to his original plan. As a matter of fact Warren said to Quentin, "Why don't you just hire David Carradine, because you keep talking about him as the model all the time."'

He lets a beat go by and adds: 'I knew about it all along. I wasn't supposed to know, but I did because I have spies. I waited and finally the script was handed to me and it was a joy because it was the best script I've ever had.' For Carradine, Bill is a mixture of Tarantino and himself. 'Quentin has some of the same passion for teaching women how to do new things that Bill has,' he says knowingly. 'We have so much in common that dividing line gets messed up. Despite the fact that he's writing a character about me, there's a lot of him in me and a lot of me in him. We just meet on so many places. We share other things too, like a passion for Rodin's sculptures and similar musical tastes.'

It seems their collaboration will continue with an anime prequel movie in the pipeline about Bill's early days. Carradine will do the voice for this. Like so many of the actors Tarantino has 'rediscovered' (John Travolta, Robert Forster) and/or helped make into bigger stars (Thurman, Samuel L Jackson), Carradine repays the director with lavish, affectionate praise. 'I had more fun on this movie than on 15 movies put together,' he smiles. 'Quentin makes it that way. I think he is possibly the most capable director I've ever met. He understands every aspect of the process and he is delicate with actors which frees you. I think he understands people just as well as Ingmar Bergman, maybe more. The main thing is that he loves people.'

Given that Kill Bill is so much about masters and disciples, I ask Carradine if he has any disciples, a 'grasshopper' as they used to say in Kung Fu, of his own to whom he's master. He draws thoughtfully on his cigarette and then says no. 'I like to think of myself as the kid on the block and I want to stay that way,' he says. 'I don't want to be a master because I'm still a seeker. One of the lines I made up for Kung Fu was "We seek not to know the answers but to understand the questions." And I'm still there, still trying to understand the questions.' He da man.


1. magickpapers6 Jun 2009, 10:47pm Report

I am a blogger on the scene in Bangkok at the hotel where Carradine died and am blogging about this on http://magickpapers.com/blog


The announcer for the BBC breaks the story on TV. David Carradine was found dead in the Swiss Hotel on Soi Nailert. The film star was found in the closet of his room bound by curtain rope around his neck, and the inference is that his genitals were bound as well. The news ran through the Bangkok film colony like a forest fire.

I consult investigative journalist David Walker. He is also a screenwriter and author of the cult classic book, Hello My Big Big Honey. Walker is at the hotel. He has already led a CBS crew to legendary film producer-director David Winters penthouse office. Winters is a dear friend of Carradine from their glory days in Hollywood. Walker wants to see the surveilance tapes. No chance Bagger Vance. Dr. Pornthip, a colorful Thai forensic scientist is on the scene at the hotel. Walker says Pornthip, who is famous for sporting many hued punk hair styles and is a bit of a celebrity,delares the case to be death by auto sexual strangulation.

I roll up to Winters penthouse office. He is devastated by the tragic loss of a dear friend. He has not slept. CBS and People Magazine have already come by to solicit intelligence. David is shocked by the tawdry inferrences. He has spoken to 3 of Carradines agents. The agents declare that Carradine was on the roll of a lifetime. Quentin Tarantino redefined the 72 year old actor in Kill Bill. Carradine recieved a Golden Globe nomination for his work with Tarantino. The actor of the classic cult TV series Kung Fu had starred in 13 motion pictures since Kill Bill. His salary was in the stratosphere.

The strange circumstances of the verdict by auto- sexual strangulation trouble Winters. It takes two to tango. Why indeed would a man of his talent take his own life alone. Bangkok is known as a city with love for sale. Film people come here to shoot and avail themselves of the pleasures to be found in the gilded city of sin. Kinky sex is no big deal. Could this be a coverup for a sex robbery murder. The Royal Thai Police have shut the door on this case all too quickly. The tourist industry has been severely damaged by the recession and political instability. The murder of a famous film star would be a final nail in the coffin of the tourism industry. Winters says that Carradine, son of John , iconic members of an American cinema dynasty were above the fray. David Carradine was according to Winters a consumate gentleman, a brilliant actor, and a man for all seasons.

I run into local film producer Tom Waller at a reception hosted by the Italian Embassy. Tom does not believe in the verdict of death by auto-sexual strangulat

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