Brother: David Carradine Was the “Greatest Maverick”

One day after David Carradine was found dead — some newspapers reported he committed suicide, but his manager denied the claims — in the Thai capital, Bangkok, his older brother Bruce Carradine, 76, tells about the Kung Fu actor.

What did David mean to you? As you can imagine, this is very hard. All together there were five of us that had the Carradine name. David had a lot of admiration for his father as an actor, and his mother he loved very dearly. We have all been close and we all love each other. There has never been any animosity or negative tension. Everyone did well in their own fields. David is the greatest maverick. He was a maverick from the beginning. I remember when we went to private school, back in the '40s. A school for boys, everybody had to take a shower before dinner. David never liked to do the conventional and he refused, and they ended up taking him forcibly and putting him in the shower. I remember that.

What is your favorite memory of him? This is not a favorite memory, but, you know. I remember in one instance when he had made an unfortunate decision during one of his relationships. David realized what he had done wasn't the wisest thing to do. His form of penance was to sleep on top of his grand piano, with no cushions and no blanket for a month.

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What was he most passionate about? He was definitely his own individual and guarded fiercely his own viewpoints. He was an idealist in many ways. He got a hold of kung fu, as we know. He was chosen by Jerry Thorpe who saw him on a Broadway play called Royal Hunt to the Sun. Jerry proposed the part in the Kung Fu series. He made a commitment to only do three years no matter how good or bad it was. He probably could have done it a little longer. He one time said to me, 'Bruce, I would die for my beliefs.' He got into more than one fight with directors. Once there was a director that was being unkind to a member of the crew, and David told him to stop. They got into it.

Did he have a lot of things he struggled with in life? He made a few wrong turns in his life. We all make wrong turns in life. We all have. But, being a celebrity it sometimes got pretty public. He admitted and declared publicly that he was arrogant, but he didn't brag. He was very proud. When you become an actor, you put yourself out on the front line. You're subject to rejection. It's very difficult on the spirit. Our father one time said, ‘If you can be anything else, don't be an actor.' He meant, you have to be driven so much to be an actor. When he left kung fu, he later said, 'Bruce, I've lost a lot of opportunity in Hollywood because of my insensitivities and my arrogance. I realize that now.' He said that like 15 to 20 years ago. Like all of us, he struggled with his demons, but they were larger than life in many instances. Being that his life as an actor was larger than life.

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What type of father was he? BC: He was on a talk show 25 years ago, and they asked him if he was a good father. He said, 'No, I'm just a father.' I think the problem with actors, especially when they reach those heights … David, I think he did what he could. Some of these people are so complex and so absorbed in their own lives, they have to constantly prepare for their next part — trying to figure out how to get a part and how to survive. I think it's difficult for someone like that to be a father. They're gone on shoots. They reach the peaks of success of achievement, and during the hard times they reach the depths of despair.

What do you know about his death at this point? Honestly, I only know what I read. I don't know any particulars. The fact that they said his hands were tied behind his back was rather suspicious. I actually got a call from a radio station in Colombia this morning. At the very end, I said I'd like to read something if I may. I said it's from the Book of Revelations, the 21:1-4 ["…And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."]. I find it very comforting.

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