The son of actor John Carradine, Keith Carradine began his own theatrical training at Colorado State University, dropping out after one semester because he felt he wasn't getting anywhere. Soon afterward, Carradine made his stage debut in the "tribal love rock musical" Hair; his brief relationship with fellow cast member Shelley Plimpton resulted in a daughter, Martha Plimpton, who grew up to become a prominent actress in her own right. Carradine's first film was 1971's McCabe and Mrs. Miller, directed by Robert Altman. Four years later, Carradine's musical composition "I'm Easy," which he performed in Altman's Nashville (1975), won an Academy Award. Carradine divested himself of his familiar movie mannerisms in the early 1990s to portray the folksy, gum-chewing title character in the Broadway hit The Will Rogers Follies. In 1995, he emulated the past screen villainy of his father and his brother, David, as the smirking antagonist of the movie melodrama The Ties That Bind. He continued to work in film and television throughout the rest of the decade, showing up in movies like A Thousand Acres (1997) and various TV series. Meanwhile, the early 2000s found Carradine as busy as ever, with a recurring role as Wild Bill Hickock (whom he had previously played in the 1995 feature WIld Bill) on HBO's popular wild west series Deadwood, as well as roles on Dexter, Dollhouse, and Damages serving well to keep him in the public eye. Always handy with a six-shooter, Carradine took aim at some particularly nasty extraterrestrials in Iron Man director Jon Favreau's sci-fi/western genre mash-up Cowboys and Aliens in 2011.
Biography by Hal Erickson
- Actually provided piano accompaniment for his half-brother David Carradine's audition for Hair, but producers preferred him and gave him the role of Claude in the 1969 production; it was his stage debut.
- Made his TV debut on a 1971 episode of Bonanza.
- In 1972, he played the teenage incarnation of half-brother David's Caine character in TV's Kung Fu.
- Won Best Song Oscar for "I'm Easy," which he wrote and performed in Robert Altman's Nashville (1975).
- Also appeared in Altman's films McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971) and Thieves Like Us (1974).
- He and siblings David and Robert appeared as the outlaw Younger brothers in 1980's The Long Riders.
- Played Will Rogers in the 1994 film Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, and on Broadway in The Will Rogers Follies in 1991.
- Played Buffalo Bill Cody in Wild Bill (1995) and Wild Bill Hickok in HBO's Deadwood (2004).