Bill Paxton is slated to direct a big-screen adaptation of the 1970s martial arts western series, Kung Fu, the series that made David Carradine a star and is routinely talked about when discussing casting Caucasian actors in Asian roles.
Paxton is best known as an actor with numorous well known roles from Aliens to Tombstone, but has directed two well recieved films, The Greatest Game Ever Played and the 2001 horror film Frailty. Paxton began his career in film making behind the camera working with the legendary B-movie director Roger Corman as a set designer in the late 1970s, before embarking on a successful acting career.
A film version of Kung Fu has been working it’s way around Hollywood for at least five years: the original series, stared David Carradine quietly gained a cult status over time and the death of its star in 2009 only served to increase interest. Quentin Tarantino’s decision to cast Carradine in the title role for his two-part paean to martial arts films, Kill Bill, also helped bring the series to the attention of a new generation of filmgoers.
Kung Fu starred Carradine as a Shaolin monk, Kwai Chang Caine, who leaves China in order to try and find his family in the old American west. Details of his current life are interspersed with flashbacks to his training with blind mentor Master Po, who refers to him as “grasshopper” and always seems to have something intensely wise to say. Carradine’s brother Keith portrayed the same character as a teenager in some flashback sequences.
The series has always been the subject of a degree of controversy as the widow of the Hong Kong martial arts star Bruce Lee, Linda Lee Cadwell, claimed in her memoirs that her husband came up with the idea for a series about a Chinese monk traversing the old west and had it stolen from him by Warner Brothers in the early 70s. Lee was considered for the role, but lost out to Carradine in what many actors saw at the time as evidence of prejudice against Asian actors in Hollywood.
Studio Legendary Entertainment plans to shoot the new version of Kung Fu next summer, partly in China.