Wax on. Wax off. Sweep the Leg, Johnny! Get him a body bag! It's one of the most quotable films from the 1980s and that's really saying something. The Karate Kid launched a franchise, with its positive message about empowerment and friendship. Here we'll take a look at 10 things you never knew about The Karate Kid.
THE COMIC BOOK KARATE KID
DC Comics actually owned the name "Karate Kid," thanks to their little known hero of the same name, who was part of the Legion of Superheroes. The comic book giant was kind enough to lend the studio their permission to use the title. At the end of the credits, there's a special thank you to DC Comics for letting them use it.
Ralph Macchio was already 22 when he was cast as The Karate Kid, a blue-collar boy from the East Coast suddenly navigating the social circles of a Southern California high school. The part of Daniel LaRusso was originally offered to a pair of familiar '80s faces. Sean Penn, fresh off his breakthrough role in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and future Platoon star Charlie Sheen, both turned it down.
Hollywood legend says Clint Eastwood banned Coke products from his movies after his son, Kyle, was passed over. Coca-Cola was the parent company of Colombia Pictures at the time.
Speaking of famous actors and their sons, the actor who plays Cobra Kai member Dutch, Chad McQueen, is the son of screen legend Steve McQueen. Chucky, a friend of the kid who invites Daniel to the beach party, is played by Frank Burt Avalon, son of singer Frankie Avalon, who starred in a bunch of old school beach party movies.
THE SHUE SIBLINGS
Elisabeth Shue plays Ali, the girl in the love triangle of sorts with Daniel LaRusso and his main adversary, Johnny Lawrence. She went on to star in Adventures in Babysitting, Cocktail, and Leaving Las Vegas, among other movies. In the early '90s, her brother Andrew was a main cast member on the Beverly Hills 90210 spinoff, Melrose Place. He has an un-credited role as a Cobra Kai member in The Karate Kid.
CASTING MISTER MIYAGI
Legendary Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune, who made 16 films with Akira Kurosawa, auditioned for the part of handyman Karate Kid mentor Mister Miyagi. In his DVD commentary, director John G. Avildsen said the audition was great, but he worried the Seven Samurai star's take on Miyagi would have been "too serious." Conversely, producers felt that Happy Days actor Pat Morita may not have been serious enough. The beard and heavy accent he adopted for his screen test helped to win them over.
THE BEST AROUND
The Karate Kid montage anthem "You're the Best" was originally written for Rocky III. Joe Esposito, who recorded "You're the Best," revealed in a 2008 interview that the song was offered to the makers of Flashdance at one point, but they chose "Maniac" instead. Rocky III ended up going with Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger." Survivor recorded a song for the Karate Kid soundtrack, too: "The Moment of Truth."
THE DRUNKEN MIYAGI
The studio wasn't too excited about the scene where Mister Miyagi gets super wasted, reflecting on his time in the U.S. Army during World War II and the loss of his wife and son, who passed away from complications during childbirth. Avildsen fought to keep the scene in and believed it helped earn Morita his Oscar nomination.
THE YELLOW CAR
In the movie, Mister Miyagi gives Daniel one of the classic cars he had him wax on/wax off in what was revealed to be part of his karate training. In real life, producers gifted Ralph Macchio with that very same 1948 Ford Super Deluxe.
HEROES & VILLAINS
The filmmakers purposefully put some distance between Macchio and Morita and the actors who played the film's villains, the Cobra Kai. Martin Kove, William Zabka and the gang trained separately with fight coordinator Pat E. Johnson, helping to ensure the right vibe for their onscreen confrontations. Years later, at a 30th anniversary panel, Kove revealed that he and Morita eventually became quite friendly and kept in touch, running into each other a couple of times per year until Morita passed away.
Speaking of Pat E. Johnson, the fight instructor and choreographer played the ref during the final tournament match in the movie's climax. Johnson, a former student of Chuck Norris, had a small role in Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon. He was also one of the Karate Kid characters to get the action figure treatment.
THE ORIGINAL ENDING
The Karate Kid II picks up right where The Karate Kid left off, with the aftermath of the tournament, and a confrontation between Mr. Miyagi and Cobra Kai's sensei. This bit in the parking lot was originally intended to close the first film. Early copies of the screenplay, as well as the movie's novelization, end with that nose honk.