Ralph Macchio: Mr. Miyagi, the wise karate instructor, once told his student Daniel-san, “Man who catches a fly with chopstick do everything.” As the actor who played the underdog Daniel LaRusso in the first three “Karate Kid” films and Netflix’s “Cobra Kai,” writing a book doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch. After all, he did catch a fly.
Ralph Macchio, now 60, tells his story in “Waxing On: The Karate Kid and Me” (Dutton, 256 pages, out on Tuesday), which chronicles his rise to fame after the 1984 release of the original film, which spawned sequels in 1986 and 1989 and a Netflix series currently in its fifth season and which expands on the backstory of Daniel’s original opponent, Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka).
According to Ralph Macchio’s interview with USA TODAY, “The book is always connected into the Daniel LaRusso of it all, ‘The Karate Kid’ trip of it all.” “Even though I speak about ‘The Outsiders’ and ‘My Cousin Vinny’ and my life and my wife and kids here and there and how the ’90s were a bit dry for me after the ’80s success,” he said.
Ralph Macchio admits that writing the book “was considerably more emotional than I imagined,” as he reflected on his experiences working with the late Pat Morita as Mr. Miyagi, as well as the late John G. Avildsen and Jerry Weintraub.
Ralph Macchio discusses Daniel’s “basically impossible to pull off” crane kick and his changing sentiments about being so attached to “The Karate Kid,” among other regrets, like not presenting at the Oscars in 1985 with a nominated Morita and not listening to career advice from Warren Beatty. Ralph Macchio discusses his “magic” moments with Morita, the prospect of Hilary Swank’s Julie Pierce appearing on “Cobra Kai,” and the future of the series in the All Valley Karate tournament of interviews.
How was it that you two got along with Pat Morita?
It was amazing on film, Ralph Macchio says. My name for it is soulful magic. We were really close, and I consider him a friend to this day. Whenever we’re together, people often ask, “Did you two do everything?” Absolutely not. This man acted in productions. I used to be an actress. We both continued on with our lives, he in California, Hawaii, and Las Vegas, and me in New York. But there was that unique connection between us; I could feel nothing but love for him when I looked at him.
At age 73, he passed away in 2005. When was the last time you two talked?
Ralph Macchio: The Lincoln Center awards show when he was honored with an Excellence Award was the last time I saw him in person (in 2004). After that, it’s possible that we had a phone conversation. He’d say things like, “Hey Ralphie, it’s me, Unca Popzi!” in his texts. Yes, sweetie, your behind is the bomb. And you’re doing what? That was back when, although I think we briefly spoke after the awards event. But the last thing I remember is us (at the ceremony), and there’s a photo of us that night, smiling and laughing and telling jokes in the book. For the first time in what may have been twenty years, we ran into one other.
Ralph Macchio: While you were not in “The Next Karate Kid,” starring Hilary Swank, Pat was. The fact that you learned about the film through the press is a surprising admission in your book. Describe the feelings and thoughts you had at that time.
It was both a sigh of relief and a blow to the stomach.
Ralph Macchio: There were a lot of problems with the storyline of “The Karate Kid Part III,” and I didn’t like how the plot or Daniel LaRusso’s character developed. The irony is not lost on anybody that “Cobra Kai” is the creative offspring of “The Karate Kid (Part) III.” It’s incredible how even the failures of the past may provide rewards in the present. I said to myself, “I think I’m too old to play that role.” And I thought, “Thank God I’m too old to play that role.” In such a case, you could be thinking something along the lines of, “Really, they’re going to build another one without me?” All of it happened in no more than three.
What about “The Next Karate Kid”? Did you and Pat ever discuss it?
Nope. To say the least, I found it fascinating. It was the longest time we’d gone without speaking. Both of us, at the time, was busy with life and other pursuits. So, nobody ever said, “Hey, I’m going to do this,” over the phone. You may say that it’s an intriguing phenomenon. I plan to address it in my upcoming book.
Ralph Macchio: The “Karate Kid” cast members who make cameo appearances in “Cobra Kai” are fantastic. Could we see Swank in the role of Julie if she were to accept an invitation?
Regarding it, I can provide no details. We call her a Miyagi, but all I know for sure is that the door is open. With her familiarity with Mr. Miyagi, it seems plausible that Daniel would recognize the name, Julie Pierce.
Can you imagine what a sixth season of “Cobra Kai” might be like?
Some of the international themes are hinted at, and it’s hinted that John Kreese (Martin Kove) isn’t through yet. The fifth season concludes rather satisfactorily, but this is a karate soap opera, after all, and we all know how those finish. The unexpected is always a possibility. It will be interesting to watch where the tales of the following generation go. And it’s a great joy to see performers like Yuji Okumoto (Chosen) and Thomas Ian Griffith (Terry Silver) play significant roles in these seasons as they bring new dimensions and nuances to the “Karate Kid” canon. I believe there is more to this narrative, therefore I am looking forward to what the future holds.