Less than a month ago, while working on a short film in Canada, I was on my way to pick up David Carradine and take him to breakfast. I was more than a little nervous, as I'd never worked with an actor of his magnitude before and didn't know what to expect. As I knocked on his door, I braced for the worst - an awkward, silent car ride, breakfast at separate tables...
Imagine my surprise, when, within moments of walking in, I was instead treated to David's appraisal of Bob Dylan's new album, then moments later his reminisces of his own dabblings as a songwriter. By the time we finally made it to set a couple hours later, I had heard about everything from his childhood in Los Angeles to how he met his wife to his abiding love of good coffee.
And I wasn't the only one he opened up to. Despite the no-frills set and semi-professional crew - conditions that would've put many actors in a sour mood - David was relentlessly positive, energetic, and willing to engage with anyone. Want to know how Quentin Tarantino was on the set of Kill Bill or what is was like to be in the first-ever Steadicam shot? All you had to do was ask, and he was more than happy to tell you all about it in a candid, entertaining way. This was a man with truly extraordinary charisma, made all the more impressive because he was so eager to share it with anyone.
This morning, when I heard he had died at the age of 72
, this was the first thing I remembered about him. Sure, his screen performances were iconic and it's a shame to lose such a great actor, but we'll always have Kill Bill
and Kung Fu
and Bound for Glory.
Where he is truly irreplaceable is as a presence, an upbeat spirit whose vitality could energize an entire room and whose jokes and stories made long days on set seem a little shorter.
On this sad day, I feel fortunate to have seen this firsthand, and very sorry for those closest to him who will undoubtedly miss his energy, his charm, and his wonderful stories.