Grasshopper to leap again as Kung Fu reboot takes flight

The grasshopper will leap again as the hit 1970s television show Kung Fu is set to be rebooted - with a female lead.

The original series starred David Carradine as Kwai Chang Caine, the son of an American father and a Chinese mother, who wanders the American West in the 1880s.

As a child, he is trained in martial arts in China by Shaolin Buddhists, including a blind monk who gives him the nickname Grasshopper; as an adult, he wanders from place to place in America, dispensing wisdom and attempting to avoid using his fists in fury, but usually failing.

David Carradine (left) as Kwai Chang Caine and Chris Potter as David Caine in Kung Fu: The Legend Continues Photo: Universal Pictorial Press

David Carradine (left) as Kwai Chang Caine and Chris Potter as David Caine in Kung Fu: The Legend Continues Photo: Universal Pictorial Press

Despite the controversial casting of a white man in the lead, the show was a popular and critical hit. It ran for 63 episodes (including a movie-length pilot) from 1972 to 1975, won three Emmys, spawned a range of bubblegum collector cards and both tapped into and fuelled the craze for kung fu that swept the Western world in that decade.

Now, Fox plans to re-imagine the series with a new show set in the 1950s.

According to Deadline, the new Kung Fu will follow the adventures of Lucy Chang (it is unclear if she is related to Carradine's character, though the smart money would bet on that being the case).

Like him, she is a Buddhist monk and martial arts master who wanders through America coming to the aid of the downtrodden.

Whereas Carradine's Chang was searching for his half-brother, the female Chang is searching for the man who stole her child years before. She is aided in her quest by a Korean War vet.

So far, Fox has committed only to a pilot, which will be written by Greg Berlanti and Wendy Mericle, who have previously collaborated on the long-running superhero series Arrow.

The actress who will play the lead has not yet been announced, but it is hard to imagine that in this day and age a Hollywood studio would want to risk the inevitable backlash that would follow were they once again to cast a white actor in the role - especially in light of the "whitewashing" furore that greeted Scarlett Johansson's turn in the film of Japanese anime Ghost in the Shell earlier this year.

This is not the first time Kung Fu has been rebooted. Carradine starred in Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, which ran for four seasons between 1993 and 1997, playing the grandson of the earlier show's Kwai Chang Caine, whose name he shared.

He also appeared in a 1986 telemovie, in which Brandon Lee played his son. Lee, who died after an accident on the set of the movie The Crow, was the real-life son of Bruce Lee, the Hong Kong actor and martial arts star who some reports claimed was originally considered for the lead in the Kung Fu TV series.

Whatever the fate of the new series, David Carradine will not make an appearance this time around. He died in 2009, aged 72, in a hotel room in Bangkok, from auto-erotic asphyxiation.

Facebook: karlquinnjournalist Twitter: @karlkwin Podcast: The Clappers

This story Grasshopper to leap again as Kung Fu reboot takes flight first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.