David Carradine is pictured in the role of Kwai Chang Caine during the filming of Kung Fu: The Movie in January 1986. ((Associated Press))

Kung Fu  star David Carradine has been found dead in Bangkok, the U.S. Embassy said on Thursday.

Carradine, 72, was shooting the film Stretch  in the Thai capital at the time of his death.

Thai police have said he was found naked, hanging in the closet of his hotel room at the luxury Swissotel Nai Lert Park Hotel on Thursday morning.

Teerapop Luanseng, the officer investigating Carradine's death, said police suspect suicide.

The U.S. actor starred in the 1970s TV series Kung Fu, and in recent movies such as Kill Bill, Kill Zone, Dangerous Curves and Brothers in Arms.

Carradine first became widely known for his role in Kung Fu  as Kwai Chang Caine, a Shaolin monk who travels the American West in the 1800s, seeking out his half-brother. The series ran from 1972 to 1975. Armed only with martial arts skills, his character is torn between the desire to escape notice and the need to protect others.

Carradine reprised the role in a mid-1980s movie and also was in the 1990s series Kung Fu: The Legend Continues.

"I thought I was going to be a stage actor, just basically doing Shakespeare. I thought my peak would be when I did Hamlet on Broadway," Carradine said in a 2007 interview.

"It wasn't until I walked off of doing Kung Fu, or while I was doing Kung Fu, that I realized doing the show I have had a bigger effect on the world than I could ever have doing Hamlet on Broadway, and I kind of abandoned that goal."

No prior knowledge of martial arts

He had no knowledge of martial arts before starring in the series, but became a keen practitioner. He wrote books, David Carradine's Tai Chi Workout and The Healing Art of Chi Gung, and starred in martial arts workout videos.

After doing Kung Fu Killer in 2008, Carradine said he still enjoyed showing martial arts on the screen.

"It's kind of a vanity thing, but I revel in the fact that I can play this stuff. I'm 71 years old, and I can still do this stuff," he told gaming magazine UFO.

"I have always thought of it as a kind of dancing. You're performing choreography, by and large. All you have to do is learn the choreography and do it. You're not hurting each other. So it really is just a dance. Fred Astaire retired long before he was 71, and I'm still dancing," he said.

Lee Demarbre, the Canadian filmmaker behind Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, said Carradine's career paved the way for martial arts heroes such as Jean-Claude Van Damme.

"He was the first Caucasian to make martial arts seem real," Demarbre told CBC News. "His legacy is that he brought this ancient martial art to North America, to the rest of the world and made people see it's not just Asian. Anyone can do martial arts."


David Carradine, left with his father John Carradine in February 1972. They are on the set of Boxcar Bertha, Martin Scorsese's first Hollywood movie. ((Associated Press))

A musician and songwriter as well as an actor, Carradine appeared in more than 100 feature films in a career spanning 45 years.

He was the oldest son of character actor John Carradine. His brothers include actors Keith Carradine, Robert Carradine and Michael Bowen.

David Carradine grew up in Hollywood and was educated at San Francisco State College, where he studied music theory and composition.

He served two years in the army, then went to New York, where he appeared on Broadway in The Deputy and starred opposite Christopher Plummer in The Royal Hunt of the Sun.

He returned to Hollywood in 1966 to star in the short-lived Shane TV series and Martin Scorsese's first Hollywood film, Boxcar Bertha. He later worked with Scorsese on Mean Streets.

He also worked with Ingmar Bergman in his only English feature, The Serpent's Egg, appeared in Roger Corman's Deathrace 2000 and Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye.

He was nominated for a Golden Globe four times, for playing Woody Guthrie in Bound for Glory, for his role in the TV miniseries North and South, for Kung Fu in 1974 and for Kill Bill Vol. 2. The original 1970s Kung Fu series also received seven Emmy nominations, including a best actor nod for Carradine.

He won the People's Prize at the Cannes Film Festival's "Director's Fortnight" for his work on Americana in 1981.

Other notable movies included Bird on a Wire, The Long Riders and Grey Lady Down.

However, he also had a string of bit parts on television series and in little-known action movies.


Actor David Carradine poses at the 60th Annual Directors Guild of America Awards in Century City, Calif., in January 2008. ((Mario Anzuoni/Reuters))

Quentin Tarantino's stylish Kill Bill films were a return to stardom for Carradine, who plays the wily Bill that Uma Thurman aims to kill.

"Nobody is prepared for this movie. It's like nothing you've ever seen before," Carradine said ahead of the release of the first film. "People think they know Quentin, but this is something else."

Carradine was the host of Wild West Tech on the History Channel, and narrated the PBS anthropology series Faces of Culture.

He also released the albums Grasshopper and As Is, as well as singles including You and Me, Troublemaker and Walk The Floor.

Carradine was married five times and had two daughters, Calista Miranda and Kansas, both of them actresses.

With files from The Associated Press