There was a time in Ralph Macchio’s life when he couldn’t imagine acting “Karate Kid” protagonist Daniel LaRusso never again. After three movies, Macchio didn’t think there was more to add to the story and he wanted to flex his acting skills with other roles.
“People think I live in Newark, New Jersey, and my mom drives a green station wagon, and I have this Japanese American guy who fixes the faucet when I need it,” says the actor, who has released a new book titled “Wax On: The Karate Kid and Me,” on his manufacturing experience “Karate Kid” and how time has helped him embrace the character.
Macchio’s feelings were only strengthened in 2005 when Pat Morita, who played his mentor and father figure, Mr. Miyagi, died.
“He just seemed like, why dance a solo without my partner? It’s like, you know Abbott without Costello… He and I had something special from when he started reading Mr. Miyagi and I was responding as than Daniel. That chemistry was unique and effortless.
Over time, it was William Zabka, who played Macchio’s “Karate Kid” nemesis Johnny Lawrence, who felt there was more story to tell.
“He was always like, ‘I wonder if there’s a way to bring these two together,’ Macchio said.
Macchio was surprisingly intrigued when Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg pitched the idea for “Cobra Kai” a continuation series of these characters some 30 years later. After two seasons on YouTube, it was picked up by Netflix where it was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series. Season five is now streaming.
“They just saw how you could open up this world and take the black and white of ‘Karate Kid’ and add all these shades of gray from these characters where not everyone is good or bad all the time and your allegiance can change as you learn (character) back stories, and it’s really a lesson in how to do it and how to do it right. And then we also have this great young cast. They’re just amazing They become big stars.
Along with his book, Macchio talks about some things he would come back and do differently if he could. When Elisabeth Shue was removed from the sequel after the first “Karate Kid,” he says he should have contacted her.
“I was doing a movie called ‘Teachers’ at the time, and then I had ‘Crossroads’ and ‘Karate Kid II’ lined up, and I didn’t stop to think how that might have felt for her. So years later, I look back and think I probably would have picked up the phone then.
Macchio says he has always enjoyed the impact of “Karate Kid” but write “Wax On” amplified that.
“It was even more profound and poignant while I was writing,” he said.