When the suggestion was initially made a few years ago to pursue David Carradine for a role in "Break," my first reaction was how appropriate it seemed. After all, who better to cast in a flick laden with killer kung fu than Caine himself?
It was without a doubt one of the best creative decisions I ever made as a director and producer. When you see his performance, I think you’ll agree.
On the first take, David held out his arms to fellow actor Frank Krueger, exclaimed, “Welcome, my friend” and hugged Frank — just as the screenplay called for.
Following the embrace, however, Carradine ran his fingers through Frank’s hair and pecked him on the cheek. I leaned over to my assistant with a smile and noted, “That was interesting.”
On take two, that peck on the check transformed into a peck on the lips.
Take three was a real kiss.
Take four, however — that’s what’s in the film. But it wasn’t sexual. It was just the kind of twisted genius that only comes from a truly gifted and amazing actor. One could only imagine what a fifth take might have entailed.
Watching David take an already colorful character and sequence and escalate it to a level that renders audible delight to anyone who has ever screened "Break" is to me what personifies David as a true star.
Nearly a year later — in May of 2009 — "Break" had its theatrical release in Los Angeles. I remember being very excited, yet slightly nervous because David was coming to see the film for the first time. One of the proudest moments I can recall in my professional career was standing next to him in a Q&A session following the opening-night screening and hearing him say, “With independent films you never know. I happen to really like this film.”
He looked me straight in the eyes as he said it — despite the packed theater before him. A far cry from the man who challenged me to a sparring match on my set when he found out I was also a martial artist. But even then it seemed David was always making a point of passing along his knowledge, as if assuming the mentor role wherever he was, be it with a younger actor, a new director or even just a fellow martial artist.
As amazing as the performance that he gave me is, it seems that David’s greatest contributions to the people he worked with came between the lines.
David Carradine will be truly missed. His fans will remember his brightest on-screen moments and characters, but the people lucky enough to work with him will miss the element in David’s character that pushed everyone around him to achieve at a higher level.