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© David Carradine™ 2018

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DAVID CARRADINE

In a professional career spanning 45 years, Carradine has appeared in 118 films, 32 plays, 27 television movies of the week, miniseries and dramatic specials, 35+ guest appearances on various series and the star in 3 series.  His second starring role, as Caine in Kung Fu, evolved into becoming one of the most iconic roles in the history of television.  In addition to the smash hit series that garnered Carradine both Emmy® and Golden Globe® nominations, it also introduced many viewers to Asian martial arts and Chinese philosophy.  There were also two television movies, Kung Fu, The Way of the Dragon and Kung Fu The Movie.  Carradine resurrected his Caine character with a second series, Kung Fu, The Legend Continues, which he also co-produced.  He also authored Spirit of Shaolin, A Handbook of Kung Fu Philosophy and voiced Caine, The Kung Fu Adventure Online.  

A member of one of Hollywood’s acting dynasties, Carradine followed his father, John, a star of screen and stage dating back to the golden era of the Hollywood into the family business.  Carradine and his well-known brothers represent the second generation and many of their children make up a third generation of established actors. 

In feature films, Carradine began working more than four decades ago appearing in such films as Taggart, starring Dan Duryea and Bus Riley’s Back In Town, starring Ann-Margret.  Highlights from his 118 films include:

  • Martin Scorsese’s first Hollywood feature Box Car Bertha, opposite Barbara Hershey; 

  • co-starring with Liv Ulmann in Ingmar Bergman’s only English language feature and the only one shot outside Sweden, The Serpent’s Egg; 

  • The Roger Corman cult classic, Deathrace 2000; 

  • Starring as folk music legend Woody Guthrie in Bound For Glory for director Hal Ashby, a performance for which he was named Best Actor by the National Board of Review® and nominated for a Golden Globe®; 

  • Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye; 

  • Scorsese’s classic, Mean Streets; 

  • Co-starring with his brothers Keith and Robert, as well as other actors/brothers with the surnames of Quaid, Keach and Guest in Walter Hill’s Western, The Long Riders; 

  • Starring, directing, producing, editing and composing the main theme for Americana, a film which was awarded the People’s Prize at the Director’s Fortnight of the Cannes Film Festival; 

  • The notorious title character in Quentin Tarantino’s smash hit, Kill Bill Vol I., another role which garnered him a Golden Globe® nomination; 

  • The second part of Tarantino’s saga, Kill Bill Vol. II; 

  • And his most bizarre performance to date in another cult classic, Sonny Boy, portraying an ex-con living out his life cross-dressing as a mid-Western housewife, while running a gang of thieves.

David recently completed roles in the independent feature, Homo Erectus, The Caveman Comedy, starring, written and directed by Adam Rifkin, as well as the Rob Schneider comedy, Big Stan, and a romantic comedy, Camille, where he co-starred with James Franco and Sienna Miller.  He will appear in the action film Blizhiny Boy: The Ultimate Fighter.   

Carradine’s television work also covers more than four decades, dating back to appearances on such series as 

  • East Side, West Side, starring George C. Scott, 

  • Wagon Train, 

  • Alfred Hitchcock Presents, 

  • Gunsmoke, 

  • Ironside and 

  • Rod Serling’s Night Gallery. 

  • His first starring role in a series was as the title character in the series Shane, based on the classic film.  

He continued making guest appearances on such series as 

  • The Young Riders, 

  • Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, 

  • Profiler, 

  • Charmed, 

  • Just Shoot Me and

  • Medium. 

He had recurring roles on the series 

  • Largo Winch, 

  • Family Law, T

  • The Queen of Swords and 

  • Alias.  

In the miniseries genre, 

  • He starred in Mr. Horn, 

  • Was impressionist artist Paul Gaugin in Gaugin, The Savage, 

  • And portrayed one of his most menacing characters ever in the Civil War era epic hit miniseries, North and South and it’s sequel, Love and War: North and South II.  

His television movies and dramatic specials include productions of 

  • The Bad Seed, appearing opposite Mia Farrow in a David Susskind produced adaptation of Johnny Belinda, 

  • Gambler IV – The Luck of the Draw, 

  • By Dawn’s Early Light

  • And The Outsider, among many others. 

In a theatre career that began while he studied drama at San Francisco State College, Carradine was soon appearing in some of the Bard’s classic works at both the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival and the Ohio’s Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival.  Even during his stint in the Army he continued to act, producing, directing and performing in musicals and dramas for the U.S. Army Entertainment Unit.  Upon his honorable discharge from the military, Carradine found himself in New York and began working his way upward in the theatre world at the same time he was beginning to pursue his film and television career.  

He landed a leading role on Broadway in The Deputy.  For another  play on Broadway, The Royal Hunt of the Sun, starring opposite Christopher Plummer, Carradine was named Most Promising New Personality by Theatre World.  He continued to do classical and contemporary theatre work in New York and at major regional stages around the country. 

As a published author, David has also written his autobiography, Endless Highway, as well as The Kill Bill Diary, a day-to-day journal of his experience on the film set and beyond, and two martial arts related instructional books, David Carradine’s Tai Chi Workout and The Healing Art of Chi Gung.  He has produced and starred in a series of martial arts workout videos, beginning with David Carradine’s Kung Fu Workout, and a number of others on Tai Chi, Chi Gung, Cheng Tai Chi Meditation and Kung Fu Kick Boxing. 

In addition to his ongoing pursuits as an actor, producer, director and writer, Carradine also is a composer, musician and singer.  He has released the albums Grasshopper and As Is, as well as singles, including You and Me, Troublemaker and Walk The Floor.  Affirming his status as an acting legend, Carradine has his own star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.  

 

IMDB

ARTIST

In his own words...

I was fascinated by August Rodin's work, and tried to pattern my approach after him.  I think he's my hero, along with Thomas Jefferson and Beethoven.  I went for those guys because they broke the mold, like Bob Dylan and John Lennon, two more of my heroes.  And then of course there's Einstein.

I was pretty sure I was going to make sculpture my life's work, but thinking about it I realized I'd be stuck in a room with a cold, north light and a big piece of rock and maybe a pretty model, and considering how hard Art was to make a living at, I decided to write operas instead.  I figured that was a clear field.  American operas are rare.  And I'd be surrounded by singers, dancers and musicians, and I'd get to drink champagne and wear tuxedos and hang out with Leonard Bernstein.

So I enrolled in San Francisco Sate College, studying music theory and composition.  I didn't do well, there.  I'm not made for classrooms.  All I'd do in class was pretend to take notes.  Actually, I was drawing.  I dropped out of college and moved to Berkeley.  There was some interesting action there, as it was about the time of the free speech riots.  I lived rent-free in the basement of a guy who was running for mayor on the Socialist ticket. I  bought a book called "How to Draw and Paint" and did everything it said: stretched my own canvases, sized them, did all the exercises it recommended.  Painting in a basement doesn't work very well, though.  When I took the paintings outside, they' looked completely different.  So, I moved into the top floor of a duplex on Milvia Street, which, by the way happened to be facing in the backyard the guest house where Jack Keroac(sp?) had written "On The Road", which I'd just finished reading.  I took a part time job racking balls at a pool parlor so I could afford to pay the rent.

In the tenth grade I drew a comic strip for the school paper.  And I kept on sculpting, too.  I'd carry a ball of plasteline with me wherever I went.  I'd take it out and do something with it whenever there was nothing happening, such as when I was waiting for the principal to give me detention. I was always in trouble. 

Another problem I had to overcome was the fact that I'm slightly color blind:  Faces would tend to be green, and I wouldn't know it.  I solved that by never using green paint out of a tube.  If I wanted to paint a tree, I'd make the green myself. 

I've always had an especially hard time with everything I've tried to do.  I wanted to be a musician, but I don't have a particularly good ear.  I've managed to become a pretty great piano player, though, and I'm not the only one who thinks so.  I do okay with the guitar; and I write good songs.  I became an outstanding athlete even though I was one of those original ninety-eight pound weaklings to begin with.  I've made it pretty big as an actor in spite of being terminally shy.  I've always envied my brother Keith, who can do just about anything without trying very hard.  Invariably, I had huge obstacles to overcome in anything I tried.  Had to work against my genes to achieve my dreams.

Anyway, I produced fifty-two oil paintings during that period.  Taking a page from Uncle Will and my own libido, which has always been over-active, I painted mostly partially draped nudes.  by the time I got to the fortieth or so, I was doing pretty good.  None of those paintings are extant, except maybe the little one that I sold for $50.  All the others were stored for years in my father-in-law's garage, but by the time, years later, when I tried to track them down, they had disappeared.  All of my early sculptures are gone, too, except for one figure I did when I was seventeen, which my mother had saved.  It's not one of my best.

I moved back to San Francisco, and found Jack's Beatniks, what was left of them.  A year or two later, the scene in North Beach had gone flat, the few vestiges of it having moved underground in the Portrero District, which later grew into the Haight-Ashbury.  I hitchhiked down to Venice, California, and lived hand to mouth with the   that hung on down there; the "Holy Barbarians" as we were called. 

I hitchhiked to New York, where I started to make money as an actor.  I was living on unemployment insurance in a furnished room on Central Park West, painting and looking for acting jobs, when I got drafted. 

I spent two years in the Army, mostly in Fort Eustice, Virginia.  There wasn't any war to go to.  1960.  Korea was over and Vietnam was just a distant brush fire.  I worked in 'Training Aids' as an illustrator, drawing pictures of helicopters, maps, charts, etc.  Artists don't join The Military.  The Army can train a draftsman, but they can't train an artist.  They have to use civilians for those jobs at high pay.  So, if they find a draftee who can draw, they snap him up, for $75 a month plus room and board. 

I created a cartoon series for some of the dull classes.  It featured a buck Private, modeled after me, a beautiful blonde, modeled after Marilyn Monroe and a mean Sergeant, modeled after my mean Sergeant.  I also started a theater company, and we toured around the Army Posts on the East Coast with musical comedies.  I designed the posters, and some of the sets and costumes.

After I got out of the Army, I went back to New York, where I got a job with an Art Agency.  I quit it when I got my first acting gig, a production of Hamlet in a Mall in New Jersey.  A year later, I was starring on Broadway. 

After that, I rarely picked up a brush again.  I always had my paints with me, but my mind was on my acting career.  I briefly got it going again when I did a mini-series on the life of Gaugin.  I had a marvelous opportunity there.  A Parisian artist produced several copies of Gaugin's stuff for us.  If he had signed them, they'd be considered excellent forgeries.  Some of them were done as unfinished, and I was supposed to work on them in the movie.  The result of that was I learned how to paint like Gaugin.  I think that stuck with me.  I'd always thought I was mainly a cartoonist, not a fine artist. 

All this time I was still painting.  I did a few murals in bars and hotel lobbies, and hung a couple of my paintings in The Gashouse on Ocean Front Walk: partially draped nudes, of course.

Then, in the fall of 1996, I discovered the graphics program in my Apple computer.  I started drawing, using the track pad on my laptop.  At first the stuff looked like a four year-old's doodles, or as though I was drawing with my left hand, or was dead drunk; but in a few days I got it together.  A week later, it looked just like my pencil drawings, and after awhile, just like my oils.  In a way, it's a more direct technique than painting with a brush.  I'm doing it with my index finger.  No tool between me and the painting.  Straight from my brain and down my arm to the "canvas".  I miss the smell of turpentine, though.

But, now I could get back into my art.  I paint mostly in the wee, small hours.  You don't need sunlight to paint on a computer and I don't sleep very well at night. Also, there are no distractions late at night.  Phones don't ring at 2 A.M.  There are no meetings.  Kids aren't asking me to glue toys back together.  Doorbells don't ring.

I use a combination of AppleWorks and a simple program called Adobe PhotoDeluxe.  They each have something I want.  I stick with them because everything has to be done manually.  There are very few special buttons you can push to do things for you automatically.  I like that.  It's just me.  People can hardly believe I can do what I do with these programs.  Every once in awhile, someone will try to talk me into the real PhotoShop or Adobe Illustrator or something, but then, when they look at my stuff, they admit that I don't need it. 

Some people call me an inventor.  Well, I don't know about that.  There are a lot of people out there with Apples. 

I started getting interest from art dealers and museum people three or four years ago, but I didn't feel I was ready.  Last year, when I started casting around for a way to get the stuff out of the computer and onto canvas, I found,––through my old friend from the Beatnik days, Michael Bowen, known as pretty much the greatest of the unregenerated Beatnik artists from San Francisco––a fellow named Jim Costello, who made giclés for a living, a kindred spirit, covered with tattoos, like myself, and totally hip to my work.  I started running tests and transferring my computer art to canvas., all the time having no idea where I was going to take them.  I'd lost the cards and numbers of those interested Art Dealers long ago.

Then, at a gallery showing of my son's paintings (he's pretty good, amazing, actually, in a kind of punk underground way) I ran into an old friend from my distant past: a painter named Salvatore Monteleone.  He decided to mentor me, even though he hadn't seen my work.  I packed a few canvases into my car and drove them down to Mirabel's on the Sunset Strip, one of my favorite restaurants.  

I realized, though, that it was how Gaugin painted.  He'd draw a cartoon, a thick black line, and fill in the colors.  He himself called it a cartoon.  That gave me hope.  I still didn't paint much, though.  Never had the time or enough room to set it all up.  My days were full, and you need daylight to paint.  I never stopped drawing, though, on napkins, scratchpads, even on newspapers with magic markers.  The background of the newsprint made an interesting effect

In the Army, they classified me as an Impressionist-Expressionist.  They actually had that as an M.O.S. (Military Occupational Specialty) listed in a big book, with a six-digit ID. number beside it.  I don't know.  I think every one of my paintings is different.  I don't have a genre, or a set style that I know about.  I don't do cycles, or periods. 

Occasionally, I'll scan in a drawing I did in a sketch book, or on scrap paper.  Then work on it in the computer.  Sometimes, after I've produced the giclé, I might enhance it with oils, or pastels or maybe gold leaf.  Or I might rework scenery from a photograph behind the subject.  So, the paintings transcend time and space, going from analog sketches and photos to Cyberspace and back to the real world.  Some of it was started in the twentieth century and finished in the twenty-first.

I was influenced by everybody.  The Greeks, the Impressionists, the Fauvists.  Picasso, Matisse, Klee, Ernst, Peter Max. Disney, R. Crumb,  Frank Miller.  Yeah.  I've always been crazy about comics.  I'm an omnivorous reader of those.  Comics are cutting-edge. And I love Art Nouveau, mostly as it was reused during the hippy era, with its curlicues and beautiful impossibly long-haired women. 

I once had the luck to spend an afternoon with De Kooning in his studio.  That was a definite revelation.

I took up photography at one point.  I had a brace of Pentax SLR's, and I followed Rock Groups around the country.  I graduated to a Leica and photographed my girl friends nude.  I just recently got into the digital thing, using a Panasonic that has a Leica lens and a lot of pixels.

I set them around in the bar, on chairs, tables and the floor, and Salvatore, over a glass of Cognac, looked them over.  He dug them, as it seemed, did the patrons of the bar.  He helped me put together an exhibit in Beverly Hills with a charity hookup, and I was off and running, or at least walking very fast.

My Art is mostly representational.  Sometimes. though, I get a little abstract, and once in a long while I paint something that has a certain amount of social significance, like "Commander-in-Chief," a partly abstract representation of one of our Generals, unshaven and brutish, with a lot of explosive madness occupying his head. 

But, really, I paint almost nothing but nude women, mostly without the partial drapery, but then, this is the twenty-first century.  It's time to strip off the pasties, isn't it?  I tend to make nipples look like flowers, and I'm particularly adept at faithful representations of what Anais Nin called "The Delta of Venus."

I love color.  Maybe because of my color blindness.  When I say I'm a little color blind, I don't mean I can't see colors.  We're men, not dogs.  "Color confused" would be a better description.  I see lots of colors, brilliant, maybe more saturated than most people.  I just don't know what their names are.  But, I've conquered that.  And I always have my wife Annie to help me out..  I run everything by her.  I don't think I could do much all by myself in any of my areas of production: film making, writing, Art, Music.  A successful man, I believe, needs a woman––not behind him––but beside him.

Right now, I'm contemplating a series of paintings with religious themes, though it won't be very traditional. I've started out with a Madonna with two Messiah babies in her arms: identical twin girls! You might call it sacrilegious.  But, my take on religion is it's all right as long as you don't take it religiously; though I'm a big fan of Jesus.

I still sculpt.  My latest is a bronze bust of my fourth wife I call "The Farmer's Daughter."  It's been sitting in a foundry for several years.  I'm waiting 'till I can see it as just a sculpture and not my ex-wife.  Every once in a while, I go down there and change it a little.  It keeps looking better.  But, I don't want it in my house, so I don't know what to do with it anyway.

QUOTES

  •  “You cannot be a poet, be the poem.”

  • “There’s an alternative. There’s always a third way, and it’s not a combination of the other two ways. It’s a different way.”

  • [on his late friend and one-time co-star, Brandon Lee] “He was always giving 110%, and it produced a light in the eyes, which is what you look for in movies.’

  • “Every day, at least six people will come up to me and say, “Your show [“Kung Fu”] changed my life.”.

  • [on his lengthy acting career] “It’s always seemed to me like a mission. A holy one, like the Blues Brothers. It’s a marathon. You can’t quit; even coming in dead last has honor. Quitting doesn’t. Look, I had absolute faith in my future when I was starving in New York and no one believed in me besides me and my girlfriend. I’d be stupid to lose that faith after I’ve become a fucking icon. Oh, yes. And I love the work.”

  • “It’s not even a matter of physical fitness, it’s a matter of mind, body, unity and achieving a little tiny bit of spirituality, in your life.”

  • [Before he played Kwai Chang Caine on “Kung Fu”] I wasn’t like a TV star in those days, I was like a rock ‘n’ roll star. It was a phenomenon kind of thing… It was very special.

  • [on his drug/alcohol abuse] “There was only a period of a few years when I was drinking too much. I had a friend who was a mentor, and he suddenly said, “I’ve never seen you abuse a substance before.” I said, “Am I doing that now?”. And I was. That was spring of 1996. I like to think that I stopped drinking on St. Patrick’s Day, but it was actually a month later.”

  • [on when he realized “Kung Fu” was going to be a hit] “Man, I read that pilot script and flipped! But I never believed it would get on TV. I mean, a Chinese Western, about a half-Chinese / half-American Buddhist monk who anders the gold rush country but doesn’t care about gold, and defends the oppressed but won’t carry a gun, and won’t even step on an ant because he values all life, and hardly ever speaks? No way!”

  • [In 2004, on starring in so many low-budget films] “All I’ve ever needed since I more or less retired from studio films a couple of decades ago… is just to be in one. There isn’t anything that Anthony Hopkins or Clint Eastwood or Sean Connery or any of those old guys are doing that I couldn’t do. All that was ever required was somebody with Quentin’s {Quentin Tarantino] courage to take and put me in the spotlight”.

  • [In 2004, on his suicidal thoughts]” I remember one time sitting at the window of the third or fourth floor of the Plaza Hotel for about an hour, thinking about just tipping off.”

  • [on playing Bill in the “Kill Bill” films]” It’s got to be done a certain way. You can see these poses.”

  • [In 1991, on his signature role] “What we did on “Kung Fu”, stressing the philosophy and the desire for peace and the training, is something that has actually never been seen since then.”

  • [In 1977] “Acting was the last thing I thought of because it didn’t seem like you did anything”.

  • [In 1997] “I don’t have that much to say. I’m glad some people showed up. You know it’s April 1, and I still thought people would think it was a joke”.

  • [In 1993]” There is something, dare I say, very Christ-like here: reaching out to lepers, the downtrodden, the profligates. That was one reason I wanted to play someone like that. Whether or not that’s the kind of guy I am, to be able to portray someone who has this sort of holy quality to him was very appealing”

  • “With my tendencies as an anarchist and a revolutionary, this is the kind of place I would have wanted to blow up with a bomb in a paper bag. But I’ve reached a point now where I can see the limitations of Fidel Castro as easily as I can see the limitations of a Rockefeller. I don’t want to be either of those guys.”

  • “I’m perhaps the most gifted actor of my generation.”

  • [In 2008] Whenever I do an exhibit, I always specify. If you want to buy something, a great piece of it is going to go for Food for Africa. That’s the way I do it and I’ll always do it.

  • [In 2009] One foot, in front of the other, things happened, as I try to make them happen, so it wasn’t exactly, no real surprises.

  • [on his 1986 marriage to Gail Jensen, who met him on “The Long Riders”] It works. We feel like we’ve known each other for a thousand years. Something will happen, and we’ll say, “Yeah, you did that to me 800 years ago.”.

  • [In 1992, on trying to break into Hollywood without relying on his father, (John Carradine)] “It took me a long time to realize that he was having a hard time getting jobs himself. But I’m not sure he would have [helped] anyway–you were supposed to make it on your own.”

  • [In 1992] “I had a house in the Hollywood Hills that virtually every brother has lived in. It was like this safe harbor. We all took care of each other.”

  • [on Chuck Norris]: “How deep can you get into aikido? Aikido’s aikido. Chuck Norris, as you know, has a very heavy competitive background. He’s originally trained in Tang Soo Do, then what he did was competition karate. Chuck is very fast and very precise. I think he’s really good. But I don’t think that the whole thing that is kung fu is even touched on by any of these guys. I just think all they’re into is what they know about fighting and their movie mystiques. I don’t think these guys know anything about the history, the philosophy, the inner truth you’re supposed to be searching for. The stuff that we try to do in Kung Fu, which we did in the old series. That’s why I decided to do it again. It just seemed like nobody’s got the assets. They all thought it was a question of kicking and punching.”