While The Karate Kid is pretty much a perfect movie, there’s far more to this film than sanding floors, painting fences, and beating up bad guys. The behind-the-scenes story is equally fascinating. Let’s take a look at why The Karate Kid is the best around.
The saga of Daniel LaRusso and Mr. Miyagi all started when producer Jerry Weintraub saw a news story about a local kid who earned a black belt in karate to protect himself from a group of bullies. Weintraub was immediately inspired, and soon enough, Columbia Pictures hired Robert Mark Kamen to write a screenplay.
If you’ve never heard Kamen’s name, you’ve certainly seen his movies. The man has written films like Lethal Weapon 3, The Fifth Element, The Transporter, and Taken. And when he was approached with the idea of a martial arts movie, Kamen was able to draw on his personal experience while writing the script. After all, he’d been studying karate for 17 years.
He based the character of Mr. Miyagi on one of his instructors, while the character of John Kreese was a combination of two people Kamen had known in real life: a tough Marine-turned-karate teacher and a martial arts instructor who ordered his pupils to injure their opponents.
Other than maybe Yoda or Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mr. Miyagi is probably the greatest movie mentor of all time.
Pat Morita is perfect in the role, and his performance earned him an Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actor.
However, back in the day, Morita wasn’t such an obvious choice for the part of a martial arts master. He used to be a comedian, and before The Karate Kid, Morita was best known for playing the comical character of Arnold on Happy Days. So when director John G. Avildsen approached producer Jerry Weintraub with the idea of casting Morita as Miyagi, Weintraub wouldn’t even consider it.
“He was adamant. He says, ‘I don’t want a comedian. I don’t want a comic actor for this role. This is a heavyweight part. I want an actor.'”
Weintraub wanted to go with legendary Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune. But Avildsen was convinced Morita was the right man for the job, so he went ahead and did a script reading with Morita and then surprised Weintraub with the audition tape. Keep watching the video to see the untold truth of The Karate Kid.
Real life inspiration | 0:00
Casting Mr. Miyagi | 1:06
Casting Daniel and Johnny | 2:18
The man behind the martial arts | 3:30
Busting the Chuck Norris myth | 4:58
The man behind Miyagi | 5:43
You’re the Best | 6:39
What’s in a name? | 7:56
World War II experience | 8:28
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