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The Underdog Story Of The Karate Kid

Entertainment | January 22, 2022

The unforgettable crane kick. men'shealth

When it comes to teens learning karate through household chores, nothing touches 1984’s “The Karate Kid” starring Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita. The film raked in $91 million while spawning five sequels and a TV series over nearly four decades! Iconic lines like “Wax on, wax off,” “Get him a body bag,” and “Sweep the leg,” still resonate so many years later. However, the beloved film about a fish out of water taking on a borderline Aryan karate club could have looked very different, thanks to a few crucial decisions. Here’s the incredible backstory of “The Karate Kid.”

The scene where Mr.Miyagi gets drunk with Daniel and talks about his deceased wife was almost cut. It was also the scene that Morita and producers felt earned him his Oscar nomination. movieweb

Mind-Boggling What Ifs

When it comes to The Karate Kid’s history-altering changes, the casting of Mr. Miyagi has to come first. At the time Morita was most known for his role as Arnold on “Happy Days” and producer Jerry Weintraub felt his comedic background clashed with the tone of the film. Weintraub told John Avildsen, "I wish you could get a real Japanese guy to play this guy."

To prove he was “Japanese enough,” Morita grew a beard and added a Japanese accent to his screen test. He also suggested using his real first name "Noriyuki" in the credits. Such additions proved to be enough for the producer.

It's hard to imagine anyone else as Daniel Larusso. pinterest

Other Notable Changes

Obviously, the continued success of the franchise highlights the deep-seated love audiences have for the characters. However, many of those characters could have looked very different. Here are some of the more notorious forks in the road:

• Daniel La Russo was almost named “Daniel Webber.”

• Johnny Lawrence was nearly called “Donald Rice.”

• Weintraub offered the lead role to Sean Penn and Charlie Sheen.

• Clint Eastwood’s son auditioned for the role. Upon Kyle Eastwood failing to get the role, Clint banned Coca-Cola, who owned Columbia Pictures, from his films moving forward. Don’t mess with Dirty Harry!

Like every '80s movie The Karate Kid featured an amazing montage. newstatesman

Montage Magic

The edits that helped make The Karate Kid the classic it remains today also extended to the musical choices. When it comes to ‘80s movies, montages were as integral as Daniel La Russo’s crane kick.

The film’s unforgettable karate tournament montage scored to Joe Esposito’s "You're the Best" could have sounded very different. Originally, Sylvester Stallone wanted “You’re The Best” for Rocky 3 but opted for “Eye Of The Tiger” at the last minute. To think that two of the decade's most memorable montages almost switched songs could have altered the course of history.

Apparently, Mr. Miyagi's stuntman laid down quite a butt whipping during the filming of the Halloween fight scene. youtube

Taking One For The Team

During filming, multiple actors suffered minor injuries in the pursuit of perfection. On the DVD commentary, Macchio claimed the bruise on his chin was real thanks to an accidental roundhouse kick from William Zabka during the Halloween fight.

For the Halloween fight scene, when Mr. Miyagi saves La Russo by going one on five, the actors complained that Miyagi’s stunt double was going too hard and ruining takes. Eventually, real-life martial artist Fumio Demura convinced producers to do it his way. Finally, one of La Russo’s friends, Freddy, played by Israel Juarbe, actually took a soccer ball to the face earlier in the same scene.

Despite initial reservations Ralph Macchio fully embraced being "The Karate Kid."

Irony Of Ironies

Perhaps the most ironic factoids of “The Karate Kid '' begin and end with Ralph Macchio himself. Apparently, at the outset, Macchio felt the film was too silly and sweet. Despite his initial hesitation, Macchio eventually fell in love with the film as evidenced by him keeping the headbands, the All-Valley Karate Tournament trophy, and the 1948 Ford Super DeLuxe which Mr. Miyagi gifts Daniel in the film. As if saving all those keepsakes wasn’t enough, Macchio even named his only son Daniel!

Tags: Pat Morita | Ralph Macchio | The Karate Kid

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Kellar Ellsworth


Kellar Ellsworth was born and raised in Hawaii. He is an avid traveler, surfer and lover of NBA basketball. He wishes he could have grown up in the free love era!