US actor David Carradine may have died from a sex act gone wrong, Thai police said on Friday, as they probed the evidence after the Kung Fu star was found hanged in his Bangkok hotel room.
A maid at the luxury hotel in the Thai capital where he was staying found Carradine hanging naked and bound in a closet on Thursday morning, they said. He was 72.
“There was a rope tied around his neck and another rope tied at his sex organ, and the two ropes were tied together and hung in the closet,” police commander, Lieutenant General Worapong Siewpreecha, told reporters.
“Under these circumstances we cannot be sure that he committed suicide but he may have died from masturbation,” he said.
The star of 1970s TV series Kung Fu and the Kill Bill movies was in the Thai capital to shoot a film called Stretch.
Police had questioned the production crew working on the film, who told them the actor “drank beer from morning until evening the day before he was found dead,” Worapong said.
An autopsy report is expected within the next day, while forensic police have dusted Carradine’s hotel room and are testing a drink found there.
They have also asked the United States embassy for permission to question his wife, Worapong said.
Forensic expert Porntip Rojanasunan, who works with Thailand’s Ministry of Justice, said the death appeared to be caused by an “auto-erotic accident.”
“It’s not suicide or murder but he died... after masturbation,” Porntip said.
Police officer Pirom Janthapirom said that there was no sign of bruising on Carradine’s body.
Security cameras showed no one going in or out of Carradine’s room, which had been locked from the inside, he said.
The producer of Stretch, French firm MK2, said Carradine was found three days before the end of filming for the movie.
A spokesman for the company said Carradine’s death “could be accidental,” while a spokesman for his Los Angeles agents said the “circumstances surrounding his death are still unknown.”
“The Carradine family is devastated by the news of David’s passing,” said Julie Nathanson. “There will be no further comment until more information can be confirmed.”
Carradine’s manager, Chuck Binder, paid tribute to the actor, telling the BBC: “He was full of life, always wanting to work... a great person.”
Carradine was the son of prominent actor John Carradine and part of an acting family that includes brothers Keith Carradine and Robert Carradine.
He was born on December 8, 1936, during Hollywood’s Golden Age of cinema, though he entered showbusiness through musical theatre on New York’s Broadway.
While best known for his role as the fugitive half-Chinese Shaolin monk Kwai Chang Caine in the 1970s TV drama Kung Fu, Carradine had a long and varied career in film.
He appeared in Martin Scorsese’s Boxcar Bertha in 1972, and played legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie in the 1976 film Bound for Glory, which gained him a Golden Globe nomination.
The following year, director Ingmar Bergman called on Carradine to play a wandering out-of-work American Jew in poverty-struck Weimar Germany, for the movie The Serpent’s Egg.
In the following two decades Carradine continued to work, but failed to find success outside of cult B movies, as he was beset by the use of drugs and alcohol.
In the mid-1990s, he reprised the role as Kwai Chang Caine in Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, which found a home on US TV for a further 60 episodes.
A huge fan of his B movie work during the 1980s and 1990s, director Quentin Tarantino called on Carradine to play the title character in the 2002-2003 revenge-action-epic Kill Bill and Kill Bill II.
Carradine’s work on the movies earned him a fourth Golden Globe “Best Actor” nomination.
He was married five times, most recently in 2004, and was the father of two daughters.