Quotes

  •  “you cannot be a poet, be the poem.”
  • “There’s an alternative. There’s always a third way, and it’s not a combination of the other two ways. It’s a different way.”
  • [on his late friend and one-time co-star, Brandon Lee] “He was always giving 110%, and it produced a light in the eyes, which is what you look for in movies.’
  • “Every day, at least six people will come up to me and say, “Your show [“Kung Fu”] changed my life.”.
  • [on his lengthy acting career] “It’s always seemed to me like a mission. A holy one, like the Blues Brothers. It’s a marathon. You can’t quit; even coming in dead last has honor. Quitting doesn’t. Look, I had absolute faith in my future when I was starving in New York and no one believed in me besides me and my girlfriend. I’d be stupid to lose that faith after I’ve become a fucking icon. Oh, yes. And I love the work.”
  • “It’s not even a matter of physical fitness, it’s a matter of mind, body, unity and achieving a little tiny bit of spirituality, in your life.”
  • [Before he played Kwai Chang Caine on “Kung Fu”] I wasn’t like a TV star in those days, I was like a rock ‘n’ roll star. It was a phenomenon kind of thing… It was very special.
  • [on his drug/alcohol abuse] “There was only a period of a few years when I was drinking too much. I had a friend who was a mentor, and he suddenly said, “I’ve never seen you abuse a substance before.” I said, “Am I doing that now?”. And I was. That was spring of 1996. I like to think that I stopped drinking on St. Patrick’s Day, but it was actually a month later.”
  • [on when he realized “Kung Fu” was going to be a hit] “Man, I read that pilot script and flipped! But I never believed it would get on TV. I mean, a Chinese Western, about a half-Chinese / half-American Buddhist monk who anders the gold rush country but doesn’t care about gold, and defends the oppressed but won’t carry a gun, and won’t even step on an ant because he values all life, and hardly ever speaks? No way!”
  • [In 2004, on starring in so many low-budget films] “All I’ve ever needed since I more or less retired from studio films a couple of decades ago… is just to be in one. There isn’t anything that Anthony Hopkins or Clint Eastwood or Sean Connery or any of those old guys are doing that I couldn’t do. All that was ever required was somebody with Quentin’s {Quentin Tarantino] courage to take and put me in the spotlight”.
  • [In 2004, on his suicidal thoughts]” I remember one time sitting at the window of the third or fourth floor of the Plaza Hotel for about an hour, thinking about just tipping off.”
  • [on playing Bill in the “Kill Bill” films]” It’s got to be done a certain way. You can see these poses.”
  • [In 1991, on his signature role] “What we did on “Kung Fu”, stressing the philosophy and the desire for peace and the training, is something that has actually never been seen since then.”
  • [In 1977] “Acting was the last thing I thought of because it didn’t seem like you did anything”.
  • [In 1997] “I don’t have that much to say. I’m glad some people showed up. You know it’s April 1, and I still thought people would think it was a joke”.
  • [In 1993]” There is something, dare I say, very Christ-like here: reaching out to lepers, the downtrodden, the profligates. That was one reason I wanted to play someone like that. Whether or not that’s the kind of guy I am, to be able to portray someone who has this sort of holy quality to him was very appealing”
  • “With my tendencies as an anarchist and a revolutionary, this is the kind of place I would have wanted to blow up with a bomb in a paper bag. But I’ve reached a point now where I can see the limitations of Fidel Castro as easily as I can see the limitations of a Rockefeller. I don’t want to be either of those guys.”
  • “I’m perhaps the most gifted actor of my generation.”
  • [In 2008] Whenever I do an exhibit, I always specify. If you want to buy something, a great piece of it is going to go for Food for Africa. That’s the way I do it and I’ll always do it.
  • [In 2009] One foot, in front of the other, things happened, as I try to make them happen, so it wasn’t exactly, no real surprises.
  • [on his 1986 marriage to Gail Jensen, who met him on “The Long Riders”] It works. We feel like we’ve known each other for a thousand years. Something will happen, and we’ll say, “Yeah, you did that to me 800 years ago.”.
  • [In 1992, on trying to break into Hollywood without relying on his father, (John Carradine)] “It took me a long time to realize that he was having a hard time getting jobs himself. But I’m not sure he would have [helped] anyway–you were supposed to make it on your own.”
  • [In 1992] “I had a house in the Hollywood Hills that virtually every brother has lived in. It was like this safe harbor. We all took care of each other.”
  • [on Chuck Norris]: “How deep can you get into aikido? Aikido’s aikido. Chuck Norris, as you know, has a very heavy competitive background. He’s originally trained in Tang Soo Do, then what he did was competition karate. Chuck is very fast and very precise. I think he’s really good. But I don’t think that the whole thing that is kung fu is even touched on by any of these guys. I just think all they’re into is what they know about fighting and their movie mystiques. I don’t think these guys know anything about the history, the philosophy, the inner truth you’re supposed to be searching for. The stuff that we try to do in Kung Fu, which we did in the old series. That’s why I decided to do it again. It just seemed like nobody’s got the assets. They all thought it was a question of kicking and punching.”