Karate Kid: Ralph Macchio Waxes On About “Soulful Magic” Of 1984 (And Cobra Kai Reunion)


Columbia Pictures

Heres a real kick in the head: Its been 35 years since Columbia Studios released The Karate Kid. Fathom Events is marking the anniversary by bringing the 1984 classic back to the big screen Sunday and this Tuesday at more than 600 theaters nationwide. The special screenings are more than memory-lane matinees, they will be accompanied by a Season 2 preview of Cobra Kai, the acclaimed YouTube hit series (50 million views) that rekindles the Reagan Era rivalry between Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) and pulls a second generation into the All Valley Championships grudge match.

The Cobra Kai success has been a pleasant surprise for Macchio, now 57, but then again role of Daniel LaRusso has never really faded from his day-to-day life. Asked, for instance, how often fans approach him and reenact LaRussos fighting stance — the loose-limbed, one-legged “crane kick” pose — Macchio estimated that it might be three or four times a week. “Its unusual to go more than a day without it happening,” the actor said, “Unless I just stay at home and dont go out in public.” Considering the fact that 1,814 weeks have passed since The Karate Kid was released, thats a staggering number of unbalanced strangers for one person to encounter.

“Its crazy, I know, but Its part of the whole thing with The Karate Kid — its fascinating what has happened with that film from its inception to today,” Macchio told Deadline. “With the Cobra Kai series having re-birthed interest in that universe, its constantly open world and a part of my life.”

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Deadline caught up Macchio to talk about Cobra Kai, the anniversary, the film classics of the 1980s, and the only circumstances in which he will strike the crane-kick pose himself. First a bit of background about the original film, which was the fifth-highest grossing film of 1984.

Has there every been a better-buttered year for popcorn films than 1984? Ghostbusters, Beverly Hills Cop, Splash, The Terminator, Footloose, Sixteen Candles, Gremlins, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Romancing the Stone, Red Dawn, Police Academy, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Revenge of the Nerds, and The Flamingo Kid all took turns at the box office but none are more beloved than The Karate Kid.

“The film and the character just struck a chord back in the day,” Macchio says. “Daniel LaRusso, he was every kid next door. I think thats part of what connected. He had no business winning anything, so we all could be that kid. We all were that kid who was navigating adolescences, that kid who might have felt like the outsider in a new town, the fish-out-of-water, the child of a single parent, or was bullied…all these things that we all brush up against as we navigate adolescence. Theyre very human elements to life and I think thats part of what worked with that character and why he became such an inspirational character and why the movie caught on.”

Columbia Pictures

The Karate Kid was produced by Jerry Weintraub and directed by John G. Avildsen, who had won an Oscar for Rocky (1976). The script was by Robert Mark Kamen, who later became the go-to script collaborator for Luc Besson (the prolific pair have penned The Fifth Element, three Taken movies, and four installments in The Transporter franchise). The Karate Kid resonated as a generational story thanks to the heartfelt scenes between young Macchio and veteran actor Noriyuki “Pat” Morita, who portrayed the wise Mr. Miyagi, earning both an Oscar and a Golden Globe nomination for the memorable work. Elisabeth Shue would wait another decade for her own Academy Award nomination (which arrived in 1996 for Leaving Las Vegas) but she made her feature-film debut in The Karate Kid as Ali Mills, Daniels love interest and Johnnys ex-girlfriend.

“It was a very good script and very well-executed movie but thats not to underplay the impact of the cast,” Macchio said. “A huge contributing factor was, certainly, the late, great Pat Morita in that iconic role of Mr. Miyagi, the human Yoda we all wished we had. All of these elements came together and it just worked the right way at the right time as the perfect feel-good movie about overcoming obstacles.”

The films basic story is about a New Jersey kid (Macchio) transplanted to the San Fernando Valley where he becomes the target of Cobra Kai, a vicious gang of karate-school bullies. An elderly handyman (Morita) intercedes and, to everyones shock, is secretly a martial arts master. Will his life lessons and combat tutoring help his overmatched new friend survive a no-holds-barred tournament for the teen karate championship of the Valley?

The film made $91 million at the box office and Weintraub, Avildsen, Macchio, and Morita all returned for the 1986 sequel (which made $115 million at the box office) and another in 1989 ($39 million in box office). The same team minus Macchio reunited for 1989s fourth installment, The Next Karate Kid (just $9 million in box office) featuring Hilary Swank in the tutored title role. Sonys Columbia Studios and Weintraub brought the brand name back for a whole new generation in 2010 with The Karate Kid (starring Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan), which made $359 million worldwide. Every iteration was an attempt to recapture the original films crowd-pleasing triumphs.

Cobra Kai

“The film had a little soulful magic sprinkled on it and it was based in very human elements,” Macchio says. “But then since then? Its become this pop-culture thing that with all the quotes from the movie, all that “Sweep the leg” and “Get him a body-bag,” and, you know, “Wax-on, wax-off,” and the crane kick stuff and all it. Thats become a campy pop-culture thing but it still resonates now, and here it is 35 years later. Thats the ridiculous and terrific part.”

Adding to the legacy is Cobra Kai, which return this spring on YouTube Premium. The series was spotlighted today at WonderCon with panel that included Zabka and series creators Josh Heald (Hot Tub Time Machine), Jon Hurwitz (Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle), and Hayden Schlossberg (Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle).

The set-up synopsis for Season 2: “A new rivalry between opposing dojos is born in the aftermath of Cobra Kais controversial win at the All Valley Championships. Daniel realizes his next countermove is to open his own karate training school called Miyagi-Do, in honor of his mentor Mr. Miyagi. What was once a personal feud between Daniel and Johnny escalates beyond their differences to engulf their students, who, as teenagers, are already challenged to figure out who they are and who they want to be. Which path will they follow – Cobra Kai or Miyagi-Do?”

And the film, its still is embraced around the world and the characters, people connect with and find inspiration from and from there were now you know, doing a show thats got a different sort of angle and a different sort of feel but still connects to the universe and the nostalgia of what we did back in the 80s.”

The 1980s produced so many memorable teenager movies and teenage characters: Ferris Bueller, the Breakfast Club, Risky Business, Footloose, Say Anything, Sicteen Candles, etc. Films today may have young characters but they rarely have as much heart as they did in the Benatar years. When that observation was offered to Macchio he agreed.

“Thats a great observation,” Macchio said. “They dont have the heart. Its an interesting perspective. I wonder if it started with the internet and the ability [to watch] viral videos of reality and real things in the palm of our hands. That certainly, for a while at least, killed the sit-coms because nobody was buying the, Hi honey Im home concept, because they said thats fake, and I can get real right in front of me. Why would I want to watch fake? But that said, to me, if [a scripted project is] something well-executed, well-written, with characters that are well-defined and with flaws, and theres an element of wish fulfillment or an aspirational element? That will always work. Theres certainly less younger protagonists in stories now unless they are facing aRead More – Source

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