BANGKOK, Thailand - Actor David Carradine, 72, a cult idol who broke through as the willing student "Grasshopper" in the 1970s TV series Kung Fu and starred decades later as the leader of an assassin squad in Kill Bill, was found dead here yesterday. Police said he appeared to have hanged himself.
The actor was staying at the Swissotel Nai Lert Park Hotel, according to police. Mr. Carradine was in Bangkok shooting Stretch, said his manager, Chuck Binder, a thriller in which he was the sole featured American actor.
Mr. Carradine came from an acting family. His father, John, made a career playing creepy and eccentric characters in film and on stage. His brothers, Keith, Robert, and Bruce, also became actors. The actress Martha Plimpton is Keith Carradine's daughter.
"My Uncle David was a brilliantly talented, fiercely intelligent and generous man," Plimpton said yesterday. "He was the nexus of our family in so many ways, and drew us together over the years and kept us connected."
Mr. Carradine appeared in more than 100 feature films under such directors as Martin Scorsese, Ingmar Bergman, and Hal Ashby. One of his early film roles was as folksinger Woody Guthrie in Ashby's 1976 biopic Bound for Glory.
He was best known for his role as Kwai Chang Caine, a Shaolin priest traveling the 1800s American frontier West, in the TV series Kung Fu, which aired from 1972 to 1975.
"I wasn't like a TV star in those days; I was like a rock-and-roll star," Mr. Carradine said in an interview with Associated Press Radio in 1996. "It was a phenomenon kind of thing. ... It was very special."
Mr. 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.
He returned to the top as the title character in Quentin Tarantino's two-part saga, Kill Bill. Bill, the worldly father figure of a pack of crack assassins, was a shadowy presence in 2003's Kill Bill - Vol. 1. In that film, one of Bill's former assassins (Uma Thurman) begins a vengeful rampage against her old associates, including Bill.
In Kill Bill - Vol. 2, released in 2004, Thurman's character catches up to Bill. The role brought Mr. Carradine a Golden Globe nomination as best supporting actor.
Bill was a contrast to Caine, the soft-spoken refugee from a Shaolin monastery, serenely spreading wisdom and battling bad guys in the Old West. Mr. Carradine left after three seasons, saying the show was repeating itself.
After Kung Fu, Mr. Carradine starred in the 1975 cult flick Death Race 2000. He starred with Liv Ullmann in Bergman's The Serpent's Egg in 1977 and with his brothers in the 1980 western The Long Riders. After the early 1980s, he spent two decades doing mostly low-budget films, until Tarantino's films.
One thing remained a constant after Kung Fu: Mr. Carradine's interest in Asian herbs, exercise, and philosophy. He wrote a personal memoir, Spirit of Shaolin, and continued to make instructional videos on martial arts.
Mr. Carradine's five marriages produced two children. He also had a son with the actress Barbara Hershey.
He talked candidly about his past alcohol and drug abuse but said he had put all that behind him.
"You're kind of out of control emotionally when you drink that much," he said in 2004. "I was quicker to anger."
He said he had experienced "a regeneration" and was starting his career anew. "It's time to do nothing but look forward," he said.