Released in 1984, The Karate Kid is a martial arts drama film starring Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita, and Elisabeth Shue. The movie follows the story of Daniel LaRusso, a new kid in the Los Angeles area who learns karate from Mr. Miyagi, his apartment complex’s handyman and karate master. Upon its release, the film was acclaimed by critics and audiences, launching Macchio’s career, revitalizing Morita’s and popularizing karate in the United States. Now, step into the dojo and check out these lesser-known facts about The Karate Kid.
“You’re The Best” Was Written For A Different Film
One of the most iconic montage scenes of the 1980s is when Daniel LaRusso works his way through the climactic karate tournament with Joe Esposito’s “You’re The Best” blasting in the background.
Unknown to most, was that the song was initially written by Bill Conti and Allee Willis to be featured in Rocky III, but was replaced by “Eye of the Tiger.” It was later revealed that the song was also planned to be used in the movie Flashdance as well, but was beat out by “Maniac.”
The Location Of Mr. Miyagi’s House Remained A Mystery For Some Time
Many of the filming locations for the Karate Kid are easy enough to find in the Los Angeles area, with many of them looking the same today. However, one location that even Karate Kid superfans had a hard time finding was Mr. Miyagi’s house.
Then, in 2014, one fan went above and beyond to find the location and succeeded. They found the land that Mr. Miyagi’s house once stood on although it was unfortunately demolished in the late 1980s.
There Were Supposed To Be More Confrontations Between Johnny And Daniel
In the original script, two other confrontations between Johnny and Daniel existed but were cut from the film. The first takes place in the cafeteria after Johnny buys Ali lunch. Before Daniel sits down, Johnny places a muffin on his chair, which Daniel proceeds to sit on.
Daniel then smears the blueberries on Johnny’s shirt, and chaos ensues. The other scene is when Daniel lifts his head from the drinking fountain to find himself face-to-face with Johnny. He then stands up for himself and questions the values of the Cobra Kai.
One Of The World’s Most Respected Karate Teaches In The World Was In The Film
In the semi-finals of the tournament, those still competing include Daniel, Johnny, Bobby, and a character credited as “Karate Semi-Finalist,” who is played by the real-life black belt Darryl Vidal. Today, Vidal is a 10th-degree black belt and is considered one of the greatest in the sport.
However, he did more than just act in the tournament. In one of the more memorable scenes in the film, Mr. Miyagi can be seen doing a crane kick from a distance on a wooden post. Unsurprisingly, this was not Pat Morita, but Vidal, who wore a bodysuit and a bald cap for the scene.
The Tournament Wasn’t Supposed To Be The End Of The Film
Although Daniel being victorious over Johnny at the karate tournament seems to be a very fitting ending, that’s not what it was in the script. The film was supposed to conclude in a confrontation between Kreese and Miyagi in the parking lot, which turned out to be the opening scene in the sequel.
Furthermore, the novelization of the film by B.B. Hiller and copies of the early script had Miyagi twisting Kreese’s nose and the Cobra Kai dropping their belts around their defeated teacher.
Happy Gilmore’s Mom Makes An Appearance
When Daniel and his mom are entering their new apartment complex for the first time, Daniel stops to speak with an elderly woman who says that she’s from Parsippany, New Zealand, also giving him unclear directions to Mr. Miayagi’s workshop.
If she looks familiar, that’s because she’s the character that plays Happy’s grandmother in Adam Sandler’s Happy Gilmore. She has also made appearances in Twin Peaks and also the woman that Jerry steals a loaf of bread in Seinfeld.
Screenwriter Dennis Palumbo Had A Different Vision For The Film
When former screenwriter Dennis Palumbo was offered the screenwriting job for the film, he responded by saying he would take the job as long as Daniel lost the fight in the end.
He explained that “You can’t have Mr. Miyagai tell him, ‘It doesn’t matter if you win or lose’ for 90 minutes and then have him win.” However, he later admitted that he was wrong, stating, “But that’s because I was being a moron…Now, they made four sequels to that movie, so I was obviously wrong.”
Mr. Miyagi’s Military Experience Was Based In Reality
During the scene when Mr. Miyagi is intoxicated and celebrating his “anniversary,” he reveals to Daniel that he served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team of the United States Army.
As it turns out, the 442nd Regiment really did exist and was made up of mostly Japanese Americans, many of whom had been in internment camps in the United States. The regiment fought overseas in Europe during World War II and became the most highly-decorated unit in the history of the American military.
Rumors About Chuck Norris
Rumors have been circulating for years that Martin Kove, who played John Kreese, the sensei of the Kobra Kai, replaced Chuck Norris for the role. Some have said that Norris turned down the role because Kreese’s portrayal of martial arts was too aggressive and violent.
However, it was later revealed that Norris was never even offered the role. Nevertheless, when clearing the air, he noted that he would have turned it down anyway for the same reasons the rumors say.
Elisabeth Shue Then
Actress Elisabeth Shue had some major roles in the 80s, including The Karate Kid and Back to the Future. Also a graduate of Harvard, Shue’s acting ability was recognized with several award nominations, including an Academy Award, Golden Globe, and a BAFTA.
The Karate Kid was her film debut in 1983, co-staring opposite of Ralph Macchio as his love interest, Ali Mills. The role launched her career and she later became the love interest of Tom Cruise’s lead characters in Cocktail.
Elisabeth Shue Now
Elisabeth Shue is still acting today, taking a lead role in the superhero drama television series The Boys in 2019 and starring opposite Tom Hanks in the film Greyhound, set to release in 2020.
Throughout the 90s and 00s Shue was considered for several film roles that she either didn’t land or turned down. Still, she’s had a successful career. Shue married director Davis Guggenheim in 1994 and together they have three children.
Kove’s Anger With The Casting Director Helped Him Get The Part
In the DVD documentary about the making of the film, Martin Kove states that he had received a call from John G. Avildsen saying that they wanted him to audition for the role of Kreese, but that he had to wait. Kove wanted the role so badly that he even started turning down other offers.
Unfortunately, the waiting period was weeks, and Kove was getting tired of turning down parts. So, when he was finally called in for the audition, Kove was so angry, that he channeled his emotions into the audition and got the part.
Actor William Zabka Came Up With His Own Backstory For Johnny
According to the commentary in the VHS release of the film, actor William Zabka, who plays Johnny Lawrence, came up with his own backstory for his character.
He did this in order to get “a better feel for his character,” so it felt like Johnny had a reason to be the bully that he was. Zabka envisioned Johnny as a young man with no father, and the closest thing to a father figure that he has is the ruthless Kreese.
An Interesting Fan Theory
In the iconic comedy series How I Met Your Mother, Barney is insistent that Johnny is the real “Karate Kid,” and is one of his personal heroes. This relates to a fan theory that Daniel is actually the real bully and Johnny is the “Karate Kid.”
The theory continues that Johnny only uses his skills for defense like Mr. Miyagi teaches and that Daniel is the instigator. Furthermore, it also suggests that Daniel didn’t want to learn karate to compete with Johnny but as an act of revenge.
Pat Morita’s Given Name Is Featured In The Credits
Pat Morita plays Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid but is also known for his work on numerous comedy television series, especially his recurring role as Ah Chew on Sanford and Sons.
When making the credits for the end of the film, producer Jerry Weintraub suggested that Morita’s credit in the film should be under his given name, which is Noriyuki, to make it sound more authentic. So, his role is credited as Noriyuki “Pat” Morita.
The Hidden Name Of The High School
Since none of the characters in the movie mention the high school they attend, and there are never any signs or banners shown, it’s assumed that the school went on as nameless. However, there is a small clue that only people really paying attention might be able to catch.
In the scene right before Daniel tells Ali about his “agreement” with Cobra Kai, you can see a sticker inside of his locker, which says “West Valley High School.”
The Word “Bully” Is Never Used
Even though bullying is one of the core themes of The Karate Kid, incredibly, the word “bully,” “bullies,” or any other version of the word is ever used or mentioned throughout the whole film.
Even after the scene when Johnny gets jumped by the Cobra Kais on Halloween when Mr. Miyagi and Daniel are talking, Mr. Miyagi refers to Daniel’s attackers as his “friends.” This must have been intentional and most likely hard to pull off writing-wise.
The Opening Scene Had Historical Significance
The background shown in the opening credits of the film was shot in Sedona, Arizona. This is the location that many Westerns from the 1940s and 1950s, such as Last Wagon, Leave Her to Heaven, and The Rounders were filmed.
The scene was shot facing north from The Village of Oak Creek to Bell Rock formation that can be seen in the distance. Furthermore, the motel that Danny and his mother stay in is at the center of a major intersection known as the “Y.”
Pat Morita Was Almost Declined The Role Of Mr. Miyagi
In the early 1980s, Pat Morita was mostly known for his comedic roles in several hit television shows. According to the 2013 book The Films of John G. Avildsen, Morita was Alvidsen’s first choice for the role of Mr. Miyagi.
Yet, producer Jerry Weintraub didn’t think that audiences would be able to see Morita in a serious role considering his career in comedy. After Morita grew a beard and laid on a Japanese accent during his screen test, Weintraub was impressed and changed his mind.
Daniel Should Have Been Disqualified From The Tournament
In the climactic showdown of the film, when Johnny and Daniel face off in the competition, it’s possible that Daniel should have been disqualified for his crane kick. Not only is it against the rules to hit opponents in the face, but it’s also illegal to use “full power,” which Daniel seemingly did.
Although it made for great storytelling, those who are nitpickers about plot holes such as these might not be happy that Daniel received no punishment simply because he’s the hero of the story.
The Movie Hit The Jackpot At The Box Office
Although most people today have at least heard of The Karate Kid even if they haven’t seen it, amazingly, the film was made for a mere $9 million. Yet, upon its release, it earned a whopping $90 million, making it the fifth-biggest movie of 1984.
The only films that surpassed it in terms of earnings included Ghostbusters, Beverly Hills Cop, and Gremlins. However, in terms of box office receipts, it beat out Police Academy, Footloose, Splash, and Revenge of the Nerds.
People Actually Threatened William Zabka After Playing Johnny
According to William Zabka, his character of Johnny still annoys people today and has even branded him as a real-life bully, regardless that he’s far from one. After portraying the leader of the Cobra Kai karate group, he was actually threatened by a real-life karate gang.
He once noted that “There was a guy…in the Valley and he was a friend of mine and came up after the movie and said…there was a real karate gang that was wanting to beat me up, truly, in the Valley.”
The Main Character Was Almost Daniel Webber
Fans of the film would most likely call Daniel LaRusso their favorite character. After all, he was the main character of the movie, aka, “the karate kid.” They also would probably be shocked to hear that the name originally appeared in the script as Daniel Webber.
There’s something disturbingly generic about the name, which makes us glad that they changed it to LaRusso, something that rolls off the tongue. Though it wouldn’t have made a major difference to the film, it clearly was important enough to call for a change.
Johnny’s Character Was Almost Donald Rice
If you thought that Daniel’s original last name was ill-fitting, you really won’t believe what the screenwriter almost named the antagonist of the movie. Bad boy Johnny Lawrence was named Donald Rice in the initial script!
We can’t imagine being threatened by someone who shares a first name with Donald Duck and whose last name is a grain. Talk about generic! Johnny is a much edgier name, and Lawrence is strong enough to mimic the character’s pride.
The Soccerball To The Face Was Real
At one point in the movie, Daniel shows off his soccer skills to his love interest Ali. The character Freddy ends up getting the ball away from Daniel, only to end up with a soccer ball to his face.
In movies, it’s easy to assume that everything is fake and planned out. In this case, the soccer ball really did get Freddy square in the face. As they say, acting isn’t as easy as it seems!
Daniel’s Shower Costume Was From Mr. Miyagi’s Workshop
Remember that hilarious shower costume that Daniel says his “friend” made him? It turns out the mysterious costume-maker was none other than Mr. Miyagi! You may have had a hunch that this was the case, but there’s a clue in the movie.
Before Daniel shows up dressed as a shower, you can briefly see the costume hanging in the background in a previous scene. It’s dangling from the wall behind Mr. Miyagi in his workshop!
Many Of The Filming Locations Look The Same Today
Even though it’s been several decades since The Karate Kid was filmed, many of the locations look the same. One example is this apartment complex located in the LA neighborhood of Reseda.
Other places you can visit to see the film locations include the Canyon Portal Motel, the Leo Carrillo Beach, Charles Evans Junior High, The Orient Express Restaurant, The Dojo, and Ali’s family house in Encino. There’s also Golf ‘N Stuff and countless streets in LA you may recognize from the movie.
Mr. Miyagi’s Home Was Demolished Later That Decade
If you do go on a journey to find all of The Karate Kid filming locations, one spot you won’t be able to view is Mr. Miyagi’s home. That’s because the building was demolished at the end of the ’80s.
The abrupt change may be the reason that fans couldn’t peg the address for decades. It wasn’t until 2014 that a diehard fan was able to confirm the address where Mr. Miyagi’s home used to exist. That’s some determination right there.
Mr. Miyagi’s Worshop Was Really Any Open Parking Structure
Though the movie would have you believe that Mr. Miyagi’s workshop was an enclosed space, a trip to the actual location will debunk this idea. In actuality, the wall you see pictured here doesn’t exist as part of the apartment complex.
The movie crew fashioned the wall for filming purposes. The real building has an open parking structure where Mr. Miyagi’s workshop was located. They transformed the parking spots into a room and then returned it to its original condition after filming was done.
The Legendary Car Gift
One of the things that give The Karate Kid such a happy ending is that classic yellow car that Mr. Miyagi gifts to his faithful student. Though it’s clear that the car is a beauty, you may wonder about the make and model.
Car collectors can tell you that this is a 1948 Ford Super DeLuxe Club convertible. According to classiccars.com, the vehicle is worth about $34,000 today. We’re willing to bet that the one from the actual movie is worth much more, though.
Sensei Kreese And His Successor Were In The Military
As far as The Karate Kid is concerned, being in the military and practicing karate go together like peanut butter and jelly. Not only does Mr. Miyagi have military experience, but so does his movie rival, Sensei Kreese.
If you followed the Cobra Kai reward wall with a close eye, you might have spotted Kreese wearing military fatigues. Another film that is part of The Karate Kid trilogy introduces Kreese’s successor, Terry Silver, as a Vietnam veteran.
Though it isn’t explicitly stated, fans who closely watched The Karate Kid know that Daniel attends West Valley High School. The most blatant way that the director makes this known is through a brief shot of the inside of Daniel’s locker.
It’s there that we see a West Valley High School sticker. In actuality, the film was shot at a middle school called Charles Evan Junior High. The school has since been repurposed as an adult education center.
The Original Script Tells What Happened To Rocket Computers
Have you ever wondered why Daniel and his mom move to LA for her computer job, and yet she seems to be working at a restaurant later on in the film? The original script had a few lines that clarify what Mrs. LaRusso’s job situation was.
In a conversation that was later cut out, Mrs. LaRusso explains to her son that Rocket Computers went bankrupt! She says as she was leaving, she saw a hostess quit The Orient Express, so she immediately walked in and got the job.
A Vintage Magazine Appears In The Film
Those who have really gone through the film with a fine-toothed comb may have noticed that below Daniel’s karate book is a magazine from 1969! At the time, that way only 15 years prior, but it’s still unusual that Mrs. LaRusso would be reading such an old edition.
Even stranger is that their fridge sports a clipping about making a bunny cake. While it makes sense that the clipping would come from an April issue of Family Circle, what doesn’t make sense is why she was reading this at the beginning of Daniel’s school year in September.
One Of The Semi-Finalists Acted As Mr. Miyagi’s Stunt Double
Remember the semi-finalist who Johnny beat so that he could compete against Daniel in the finals? The person who played that contestant was black belt Darryl Vidal, a teacher who is highly regarded in the karate world.
Darryl is so talented that he was the one who performed the crane kick atop a wooden post. The expert wore a bodysuit and a bald-head wig to look like Mr. Miyagi from afar, acting as Pat Morita’s body-double in that scene.
The Halloween Dance Band Appears On The Soundtrack
You may have thought that the musicians on stage during the Halloween dance were actors, but they’re actually a real band! Their name is Broken Edge and they’re so talented that they even appear on the soundtrack!
On the album, the song “No Shelter” is by Broken Edge, so it makes sense that the producers reached out to see if they would perform in the actual film. As they say, it’s all about who you know in Hollywood!
The Fight Referee Was Also The Choreographer
Pat Johnson was the actor who played the referee in the heart-pounding semi-finalist and finalist matches. The reason he was so compelling may have something to do with the fact he was also the one who choreographed the fights!
The actors must have felt genuine pressure as all of their moves were closely inspected by the man who choreographed them! It’s no wonder that they made action-figures out of the legendary referee when the movie became a hit.
Elisabeth Shue’s Brother Appears In The Movie
Do you see that Cobra Kai member hunching down to the far right? That’s none other than Andrew Shue! He’s the brother of Elisabeth Shue, the actress who plays female lead Ali.
The brief role wasn’t prominent enough to earn Andrew any acting credits, but it did at least get his face on camera. Less than a decade later, Andrew would emerge as heartthrob Billy Campbell on the famous soap opera Melrose Place.
Daniel’s Bruised Chin May Have Been Real
After boys dressed as skeletons attack Daniel at the Halloween dance, he comes to school with bruises and a scratched face. Though a makeup artist manufactured many of these marks, the bruise on his chin may be real.
In the DVD commentary, actor Ralph Macchio suggests that a roundhouse kick during the fake fight resulted in an actual bruise to his chin. Though the extent of the damage isn’t clear, it’s wild to know that the impact wasn’t all smoke and mirrors.
The Credits State Pat’s Given Name
If you stuck around long enough to watch the credits at the end, you would have noticed something about the name of the man who portrayed Mr. Miyagi. Though the actor goes by Pat Morita, his name is listed as Noriyuki “Pat” Morita.
Noriyuki is Pat’s given name, and producer Jerry Weintraub thought that it would be more “ethnic” to include this name in the credits. We’re fairly sure the name wouldn’t have made any difference, but that’s Hollywood for you!