30 Facts About The Karate Kid

Image credit: 
Columbia Pictures

It's been 30 years since Daniel LaRusso and his mother packed up and moved from New Jersey to sunny California. To celebrate this anniversary, here's a look at 30 facts about The Karate Kid. Take a right, check it out.

1. PAT MORITA WAS INITIALLY TURNED DOWN FOR THE ROLE OF MR. MIYAGI

In the early 1980’s, Pat Morita was best known for his comedic work as Arnold, the restaurant owner on Happy Days.

According to the 2013 book The Films of John G. Avildsen, Morita was Avildsen’s first choice for Miyagi; however, producer Jerry Weintraub felt that audiences would not take him seriously in the role due to his background in comedy. After Morita grew a beard and added a Japanese accent to his screen test, an impressed Weintraub had a change of heart and Morita was given the part.

2. DANIEL WEBBER IS GONNA FIGHT...

Wait. What?!?

It sounds blasphemous, but in original versions of The Karate Kid script, Daniel LaRusso's last name was Webber. 

3. ...AGAINST DONALD RICE

While we’re at it, let’s get this out of the way, too. Johnny Lawrence’s name was originally Donald Rice.

4. "YOU’RE THE BEST" WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN FOR A DIFFERENT MOVIE

Although "You're the Best" will be forever tied to the montage of fight scenes during the All-Valley Karate Tournament, Joe Esposito’s song was originally written by Bill Conti and Allee Willis to be used in Rocky III. It was ultimately replaced with Survivor’s "Eye of the Tiger." Esposito revealed this information in a 2008 interview on the Adam Corolla Show where he suggested that "You're the Best" was turned down for use in the movie Flashdance as well, and was replaced with Michael Sembello’s "Maniac." The '80s truly had an embarrassment of riches when it came to montage songs.

5. FREDDY TAKES ONE IN THE FACE

As Daniel and his new friends play soccer on the beach, his eye is caught by Ali Mills, the beautiful blonde from the Hills. Coolly trying to impress her, Daniel shows off his soccer skills only to have the ball knocked away by Freddy (played by Israel Juarbe). Watching closely, you’ll see that poor Freddy takes a direct hit to the face as he brings Daniel back to reality.

6. DANIEL’S ICONIC SHOWER COSTUME IS FORESHADOWED IN MIYAGI’S WORKSHOP

At the Halloween dance, Daniel mentions that his shower costume was made by a friend. The assumption that he’s referring to Mr. Miyagi is confirmed in the previous scene where parts of the shower costume can been seen hanging in the background as Miyagi prepares jack-o-lanterns in his workshop.

7. MOST FILMING LOCATIONS ARE STILL INTACT AND LOOK MOSTLY THE SAME

Google Maps/Columbia Pictures

A few sources provide fascinating photos of the current state of many filming locations used in The Karate Kid. For the most part, these California-based locations are still recognizable and look very much the same as they did 30 years ago.

For a complete look at these filming locations, visit itsfilmedthere.com or the Karate Kid Site at fast-rewind.com.

8. THE FILMING LOCATION FOR MIYAGI’S HOUSE WAS ONLY RECENTLY DISCOVERED

Although most filming locations from The Karate Kid had been found long ago, Mr. Miyagi’s house always eluded avid location hunters. Until recently.

Taking the art of finding filming locations to a whole new level, one fan did some major sleuthing to finally confirm the location of Mr. Miyagi’s house, which was demolished in the late 1980s. Read the details of Lindsay's search at iamnotastalker.com.

9. MIYAGI’S WORKSHOP WAS ACTUALLY A PARKING LOT

Google Maps/Columbia Pictures

While the apartment complex itself looks very much the same in real life as it does in the film, one exception is the portion representing Mr. Miyagi's workshop. Opening to the exterior of the building, this area of the complex was actually an open parking area which was walled off for the sake of the film. Comparing a shot from the film to an image taken from Google Maps Street View, this transformation is very clear.

10. TWO RUN-INS WITH JOHNNY WERE DELETED FROM THE FILM’S FINAL CUT

The original Karate Kid script includes two confrontations between Daniel and Johnny which were eventually cut from the film.

The first takes place in the school cafeteria just after Daniel has bought lunch for Ali. Seeing them about to take a seat, Johnny hurries over just in time to sneak a piece of blueberry pie onto Daniel’s chair. Standing up with his pants covered in blueberries, Daniel is equally embarrassed and livid. In a brave act of revenge, Daniel smears what is left of the pie across Johnny’s shirt and mayhem ensues. A photo from this scene can be found on the back of the B.B. Hiller novelization of The Karate Kid.

The other scene occurs later in the film and also takes place at school. Coming up from a drink at the fountain, Daniel finds himself face to face with Johnny and stands up for himself once again by questioning the practices of the Cobra Kai.

The original script reveals this exchange:

Daniel: We both know you can kick my ass seven ways from Sunday. So why do you still bother?
Johnny: Maybe ‘cause I like to.
Daniel: You ever think he might be wrong?
Johnny: Who?
Daniel: Your teacher.
Johnny: Watch your mouth, asshole.

11. MR. MIYAGI GIVES DANIEL A SWEET RIDE

Casual viewers of The Karate Kid know that Mr. Miyagi gives Daniel a cool yellow car for his birthday. Classic car enthusiasts may recognize this smooth ride as a 1948 Ford Super DeLuxe Club convertible.

12. CHUCK NORRIS DID NOT DECLINE THE ROLE OF JOHN KREESE

It is widely rumored that Chuck Norris was initially considered for the part of Cobra Kai Sensei John Kreese but turned down the role as he did not want to be associated with a character that represented martial arts in such a cruel and aggressive way. According to IMDB.com, Norris has stated that he was never offered this role but likely would have turned it down for these reasons if he had been.

13. SENSEI KREESE WAS A MILITARY VETERAN

Upon Daniel’s first visit to the Cobra Kai dojo, he is faced with a wall full of awards recognizing the accomplishments of the students and their sensei. Among the plaques and trophies is a photograph showing Sensei Kreese wearing full military fatigues and recognizing him as “Karate Champion” and a U.S. Army captain from 1970-1972.

Kreese’s military service is referenced again later in the Karate Kid trilogy when viewers are introduced to Terry Silver — a Vietnam veteran and successor to Kreese as the Cobra Kai sensei.

14. DANIEL WENT TO WEST VALLEY HIGH SCHOOL

Although the name of the school attended by Daniel is never mentioned in the film, it is subtly referenced in a scene at his locker, just before he tells Ali about the "agreement" he has made with the Cobra Kai. A sticker inside the locker door suggests that Daniel attends West Valley High School.

15. ROCKET COMPUTERS WENT BANKRUPT

Daniel and his mother moved to California as a result of her new job with Rocket Computers (“Flight to the future!”). The original script reveals why Freddy had “never heard of it” and also sheds some light on why it seems that Mrs. LaRusso might be an employee of the restaurant across from the Cobra Kai dojo.

As she shares with Daniel:

“They went bankrupt!...[But] listen to this. I walk out of Rocket with the beginning of Excedrin headache one through ten about to come on, and I’m going back to the car when this woman comes flying out of this restaurant, The Orient Express, and she’s screaming, ‘I quit! I quit!’ Right behind her is this guy and he’s yelling just as loud, ‘You can’t quit! You’re fired!’ It’s one minute to noon, people are coming in to lunch, I’m the first but only applicant — I got the job!”

When Daniel questions her new position as a waitress, his mother clarifies that she is not a waitress. She is a hostess.

16. MRS. LaRUSSO READS VINTAGE MAGAZINES

Mr. Miyagi stops by the LaRusso's apartment #20 to fix the faucet and finds Daniel practicing karate. While Miyagi was surprised that Daniel was trying to learn karate from a book, it is also surprising that the magazine underneath the book was published in April 1969. 

I guess this then-15-year-old Easter issue of Family Circle explains the bunny cake clipping seen hanging on the refrigerator door (although it doesn’t explain why the LaRussos were planning for Easter in September).

17. PAT MORITA DID NOT PERFORM THE CRANE KICK

The tournament semi-finalists included Johnny Lawrence, Bobby Brown, Daniel LaRusso, and a character credited only as "Karate Semi-Finalist," played by black belt Darryl Vidal. Vidal shows off some flashy moves before being eliminated by Johnny, who advances to face Daniel in the final.

Vidal is now a 10th degree black belt and one of the most respected teachers in the sport. His involvement with The Karate Kid was not limited to the action seen in the tournament. Earlier, in one of the most memorable scenes from the film, Mr. Miyagi performs the crane kick from atop a wooden post on the beach as Daniel observes from a distance.

But it was not actually Pat Morita on the post — it was Darryl Vidal serving as his stunt double. These details are confirmed in the DVD commentary track and Vidal himself provided this information to the Karate Kid Site at fast-rewind.com: "I am the stunt double for the scene where Mr. Miyagi is on the post on the beach. It isn't noted in the cast list at the end where I am just listed as the semi-finalist. I am dressed in a body-suit, and bald-head wig."

18. DANIEL AND HIS FRIENDS HAVE AMAZING T-SHIRTS

Although Daniel hides his “No More Mr. Nice Guy” tee under a button-up, Freddy proudly wears his “Makin’ Bacon” shirt for all the world to see.

And what’s with “The 3 Eyes?” Anyone have a clue what this is?

19. HAPPY GILMORE’S GRANDMA LIVES IN DANIEL’S APARTMENT BUILDING

Entering his new apartment building for the first time, Daniel stops to speak with a woman who reveals she is from Parsippany, New Jersey. Moments later, she provides Daniel with some less-than-clear directions to Mr. Miyagi’s workshop. You may recognize her as Frances Bay — the character actress who played Happy Gilmore’s grandmother.

20. A BAND FROM THE SOUNDTRACK APPEARS IN THE MOVIE

The Karate Kid soundtrack includes the song "No Shelter" by the band Broken Edge. The band can be seen in the film playing on stage at the Halloween dance.

21. PAT JOHNSON WAS AN EXPERT, A REFEREE, AND A TOY

Pat Johnson was responsible for choreography of the fight scenes throughout The Karate Kid. Johnson, a well-known karate expert, also played the part of the referee in the film's final match. When the Remco line of Karate Kid action figures hit shelves in 1986, a figure based on Johnson as the tournament official was included in the Competition Center set. 

22. THE KARATE KID INCLUDES SOME FAMOUS FAMILY TIES

Dutch, a member of the Cobra Kai, was played by Chad McQueen — son of legendary Hollywood actor Steve McQueen.

Early in the film, Freddy invites Daniel to a beach party with his friends. Among those friends was Chucky — played by Frank Burt Avalon, who happens to be the son of singer and beach film veteran Frankie Avalon.

At the Halloween dance, Daniel has a raw egg smashed on his head by a guy dressed as a chicken. The chicken boy was played by Todd Lookinland — brother of Mike Lookinland, Bobby of Brady Bunch fame.

Larry Drake, later of L.A. Law, is credited as "Yahoo #2," and you may also recognize Larry Scott from the original Revenge of the Nerds in the role of Jerry.

Lastly, although uncredited, actor Andrew Shue appears briefly as an arbitrary member of the Cobra Kai. He is the brother of Ali Mills herself — Elizabeth Shue.

23. IT'S ALL FUN AND GAMES UNTIL SOMEONE BRUISES HIS CHIN

In the DVD commentary, Ralph Macchio suggests that the bruise seen on his chin is real — a result of a roundhouse kick that struck him during the Halloween night fight against some teens dressed up in skeleton costumes.

24. PAT MORITA'S GIVEN NAME IS USED IN THE CREDITS

As previously mentioned, Pat Morita was well-known prior to The Karate Kid for his comedy work on several TV shows, including a recurring stint as Ah Chew on Sanford and Son. Producer Jerry Weintraub suggested that Morita's credit in the film include his given name — Noriyuki — so as to sound more "ethnic." Therefore, the role of Mr. Miyagi is credited to Noriyuki "Pat" Morita.

25. THE TOURNAMENT VICTORY WAS NOT THE END

The Karate Kid was not intended to conclude with Daniel's victory over Johnny at the tournament. The opening scene in the sequel The Karate Kid Part II, which sees a parking lot confrontation between Kreese and Miyagi, was the original film's original ending. Both B.B. Hiller's novelization of the film and early copies of the script conclude with Miyagi tweaking Kreese's nose and the members of the Cobra Kai dropping their belts around their defeated leader.

26. DANIEL SHOULD HAVE BEEN DISQUALIFIED...MAYBE

In an amazing breakdown written for overthinkingit.com, Matthew Belinkie considers the legality of the crane kick within the rules of a typical karate competition. According to Belinkie, competition rules prohibit participants from striking their opponent using "full power."

Going on to discuss this matter with an expert in karate competition, he confirms that in most cases, Daniel would have been disqualified as a result of the maneuver. Read Belinkie's commentary for yourself and see what you think.

27. MANY OF THE ACTORS ARE ACTIVE ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Several of the original cast members are active on social media sites. Ralph Macchio chimes in on Twitter along with Martin KoveWilliam Zabka, and Tony O’Dell. On Facebook, Ron Thomas actively promotes his real-life dojo and martial arts training.

If you follow any of these guys, you’re sometimes treated to behind-the-scenes gems like this.

[Image courtesy of Sensei Ron Thomas]

28. THE MAIN CAST REUNITED FOR AN AWESOME MUSIC VIDEO

What do you get when you combine Dennis Haskins from Saved By the Bell, the core of The Karate Kid cast, and the band No More Kings? You get the amazing 2007 music video for a song called "Sweep the Leg."

29. WAX ON, F*CK OFF

In 2010, Ralph Macchio appeared in a video for Funny or Die as he humorously attempted to shed his "good guy" image.

30. A COMPLETE REHEARSAL OF THE FILM IS AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE

Hold on to your seats, Karate Kid fans. If you weren't aware of this already, prepare to have your minds blown. An entire rehearsal of The Karate Kid is available to view on YouTube! Included in the run-through are several dialogue variations and a few scenes that didn't make it to the final cut of the film. If you're a diehard Karate Kid fan, you'll definitely want to check this out for yourself.

Images property of Columbia Pictures

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June 22, 2014 - 11:00am
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