Ralph Macchio talks 'Cobra Kai,' relationship to Pat Morita in 'Waxing On': 'It was magic'
As the sage Mr. Miyagi taught his karate pupil Daniel-san, "Man who catch fly with chopstick accomplish anything.” So a book doesn't seem too tall an order for Ralph Macchio, the actor who portrayed underdog Daniel LaRusso in the franchise's first three "Karate Kid" films and Netflix's "Cobra Kai." He was able to snag a fly, after all.
"Waxing On: The Karate Kid and Me" (Dutton, 256 pp., out Tuesday) traces the rise of Macchio, now 60, after the original film's 1984 release that crane-kicked off 1986 and 1989 follow-up features and a Netflix series going five seasons strong that elaborates on the story of Daniel's original opponent, Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka).
"The book is always tied into the Daniel LaRusso of it all, ‘The Karate Kid’ journey of it all," Macchio tells USA TODAY. "Even though I talk about ‘The Outsiders’ and ‘My Cousin Vinny,’ and my life and my wife and kids here and there, and the '90s that got a little dry for me after the '80s success."
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Writing the book "was far more emotional than I expected," Macchio says as he revisits memories with his onscreen mentor Mr. Miyagi (the late Pat Morita) and director John G. Avildsen and producer Jerry Weintraub, who have also died.
Macchio writes of regrets – like not presenting at the Oscars in 1985 alongside a nominated Morita, or being too foolish to absorb career advice from Warren Beatty – Daniel's "essentially impossible to pull off" crane kick and his evolving feelings about being so tied to "The Karate Kid." In the All Valley karate tournament of interviews, Macchio talks about his "magic" moments with Morita, the possibility of Hilary Swank's Julie Pierce showing up on "Cobra Kai" and what could be in store for the series.
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Question: What was your relationship with Pat Morita like?
Ralph Macchio: On screen, it was magic. I call it soulful magic. He and I were close, friendly. People say, “Oh, did you guys do everything together?” No, not really. He was an actor. I was an actor. He lived in California, Hawaii and Vegas, and I lived in New York, and we went on with our lives. But there was that special relationship/connection that when I looked at him, it was nothing but love, from the aspect of understanding we had something special.
He died in 2005 at 73. Do you remember what your last interaction was?
My last interaction in person was the Lincoln Center awards ceremony where he got an Excellence Award (in 2004). We may have spoken on the phone after that. He would leave those messages, “Hey Ralphie, it's me, Unca Popzi! I love your ass, baby. What you doing?” That was earlier, but I believe we might have spoken after the awards ceremony and in brief fashion. But the last memory was us (at the ceremony), and there's a picture of that in the book of us that night, together, smiling, laughing, cracking jokes. And it was the first time we were seen together in probably 20 years.
Pat was in “The Next Karate Kid” (starring Swank) and you were not. Surprisingly, you write in your book that you found out about the movie in the newspaper. What was that moment like?
It was a weird kind of relief and gut punch at the same time. “The Karate Kid Part III,” I felt, had so many flaws in the script, and the character of Daniel LaRusso really didn't move forward. Ironically, “The Karate Kid (Part) III” is giving birth to so much great story in “Cobra Kai” right now. So it's amazing how even the shortcomings of yesterday become the fruits and gifts of today. But I felt, “I guess I'm too old to play that part.” And I'm like, “Well, thank God I'm too old to play that part.” And then like, “Really, they're gonna make another one without me?” All that, in like three seconds.
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Did you and Pat ever talk about “The Next Karate Kid”?
Nope. It was interesting. That was probably our widest absence of communication. We were both doing our lives at that point and doing other things. So there was never the phone call, “Hey, I'm gonna do this.” It's an interesting thing. In the next book, I'll write about that.
"Cobra Kai" has so many great cameos from the "Karate Kid" franchise. Has Swank been asked to make an appearance as Julie?
I do not have any information on that. All I know is that the door is open because she's of the Miyagi-verse, as we call it. She knew Mr. Miyagi, and it would be seemingly feasible, if those are two words that belong together, that Daniel would know who Julie Pierce was.
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If “Cobra Kai” is picked up for a sixth season, what might it look like?
We tease some of the international elements, and we tease that John Kreese (Martin Kove) is not done. Season 5 ends in a way where it seems like everything is OK, but being we are in a karate soap opera, which is what “Cobra Kai” is. Anything can happen. I'd like to see where they go with the next generation stories. And, it's so much fun to see actors like Yuji Okumoto and Thomas Ian Griffith, as Chozen and Terry Silver respectively, be such big parts of these seasons and add more layers and nuanced characters to the “Karate Kid” universe. I think there's more story to tell, so I'm excited for what tomorrow may bring.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Cobra Kai Season 6? Karate Kid star Ralph Macchio on series, new book