Pat Morita will forever be remembered as Mr. Miyagi in the first four The Karate Kid movie, with the character now etched into cinematic history. Having played the character throughout the franchise, William Zabka, who originally played Johnny Lawrence in the first two Karate Kid movies, has revealed that Morita pitched his own idea for how to continue the Karate Kid legacy.
“I had so many people that had ideas for Johnny Lawrence. Actually, my favorite one was Pat Morita himself had an idea. He wasn’t done with Miyagi yet, and this is in his last years. He called me he said, ‘BZ BZ, I have a great idea for Karate Kid 5.’ Miyagi’s going to die, and he wanted him to have a proper Okinawan burial, but while he’s sick, he saw Johnny Lawrence as being his doctor, and I thought that was interesting. That was probably the wildest idea I could’ve imagined, and coming from Pat Morita, it was awesome.”
So, Pat Morita was somewhat ahead of the curve with his idea to bring back previous antagonist Johnny Lawrence, as well as giving him something of a redemptive arc. While Morita has become synonymous with the character of Mr. Miyagi, interestingly it has recently emerged that the studio and producers originally did not want the actor for the role. “Who was going to play Mr. Miyagi?
They were talking about Toshiro Mifune, the great Japanese actor who didn’t speak any English, so that would have been a challenge,” Ralph Macchio recently explained. “But all the sudden Arnold from Happy Days shows up on video tape from Pat Morita and the studio did not want him. The producer did not want him. I was like, ‘Arnold, from Happy Days?’ But John Avildsen was like, ‘I’ve read him and I’ve read you and I’m putting you guys in a room together.”
The Karate Kid, released in 1984, follows Ralph Macchio as Daniel LaRusso who meets the wise, old Mr. Miyagi. Taken under his wing, LaRusso learns karate in order to defend himself from some local bullies, ultimately going on to win a major karate competition using the now iconic crane-kick. The Karate Kid was recently resurrected in the hugely popular sequel series, Cobra Kai, which is now available on Netflix. Set 34 years after the first Karate Kid movie, the series re-examines the narrative from Daniel’s rival, Johnny Lawrence’s point of view. Now a struggling alcoholic, Johnny decides to reopen the Cobra Kai karate dojo, leading to the rekindling of his old rivalry with Daniel LaRusso.
A third season is now on the way, with the recent confirmation that it will not be delayed due to the ongoing global situation. Thankfully, the series was able to wrap production and get everything necessary finished before the entertainment industry was put on indefinite hiatus some months ago. Showrunner Josh Heald said, “Thankfully with season 3, we wrapped production before the end of 2019, and we wrapped post-production… I think there was a little bit of overlap.” He also noted that, “we finished our final mix, the last big piece of post-production in person.”
Cobra Kai sees the return of both Ralph Maccio as Daniel and William Zabka as Johnny. The series also stars Courtney Henggeler, Xolo Maridueña, Tanner Buchanan, Mary Mouser, Jacob Bertrand, Gianni Decenzo, Vanessa Rubio, Peyton List, and Martin Kove. The series was created by Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg, and Josh Heald. Seasons 1 and 2 of Cobra Kai are now available, with the third season due to land on the streaming service sometime in 2021. This comes to us from Collider Interviews official YouTube channel.