No One Told Ralph Macchio About the ‘Karate Kid’ Reboot


Ralph Macchio learned that he had been expelled from « The Next Karate Kid » by reading the newspaper.

Macchio, then in his early 30s, had no idea about the project until he read in 1994 that producer Jerry Weintraub had told reporters the actor was « too old » to continue. his role as New Jersey underdog Daniel LaRusso – about five years after starring in « The Karate Kid Part III.

« Actually, that’s how I learned [‘The Next Karate Kid’] was being made,” writes Macchio, now 60, in his 256-page memoir published Tuesday, “Waxing On: The Karate Kid and Me.”

« I saw it in the newspaper, » Macchio continues. « They went with a different writer, a different director, and a different actor for the protagonist. »

Ralph Macchio, who starred in the first three ‘Karate Kid’ films with Pat Morita (right), said he found out the franchise was going on without him when he heard about it in a newspaper
Everett Collection / Everett Pass

Actress Hilary Swank, making her first appearance in a lead role, portrayed Julie Pierce, replacing Macchio as LaRusso. Actor Noriyuki « Pat » Morita reprized his role as martial arts mentor Mr. Miyagi.

The exclusion seemingly landed like a roundhouse kick in Macchio’s guts.

« To this day, for some reason, I haven’t seen this curtain-to-curtain movie, » Macchio writes. « I only saw it in bits while browsing movie channels on TV. It was weird to me, because I wasn’t in contact with anyone from the franchise during those years.

Macchio writes in his new book that he never fully watched "The next Karate Kid," with Hilary Swank with Morita.
Macchio writes in his new book that he never fully watched « The Next Karate Kid », featuring Hilary Swank with Morita.
©Columbia Pictures/Courtesy of Eve

« The Next Karate Kid » was widely panned, earning a 7% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where critics called it the « useless » fourth installment in the venerable franchise. It reportedly grossed less than $9 million domestically – the least successful of the series to date, including in the 2010 remake of “The Karate Kid” starring Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan.

But critics praised Swank’s performance, with the Los Angeles Times saying she « might really be a find » in its review.

Years later, in 2008, Macchio discovered that a remake of the original 1984 cult classic was in the works, with Hollywood stars Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith serving as producers and their son Jaden in the lead. A reporter asked Macchio what he was thinking as he walked down the street, a « shocking moment » he details in his book.

“I remember being caught off guard trying to process the concept,” Macchio writes. « I remember saying that I wasn’t the biggest fan of most remakes… I then went on to say that I hoped there would be more original content in Hollywood soon. »

A « clickbait » headline the next day shouted « Macchio Slams Remake » – prompting a call from Smith himself.

« He started the call with a playful, ‘Look, I know I’m messing with your baby…but I promise I’ll do it right…respect, respect, respect,' » Macchio recalled. « He was cool and the intentions were clear. »

When Will Smith decided to redo "The Karate Kid" With his son Jaden (right, with Jackie Chan), he called Macchio after reading the actor's dismissive comments.
When Will Smith set out to remake ‘The Karate Kid’ with his son Jaden (right, starring Jackie Chan), he called Macchio after reading the actor’s dismissive comments.
©Columbia Pictures/Courtesy of Eve

Macchio and Smith had previously met during auditions for « My Cousin Vinny » in 1992, when they were both up for a lead role (which Macchio landed).

« I alluded to his megastar movie successes that followed almost immediately after that audition day, » Macchio wrote of the phone call. « We had an upbeat conversation with lots of laughs and mutual respect exchanged. »

Macchio cleared the air, telling Smith he wasn’t « mad » about the upcoming remake.

Memoirs of Ralph Macchio, "Waxing On: The Karate Kid and I," is out now.
Ralph Macchio’s memoir, « Waxing On: The Karate Kid and Me », is now available.

« And in return he offered to involve me in the remake in any way I wanted and said the door was open, » adds Macchio. « I was very convinced that stepping back and allowing him and his team to reinvent history in their own way would be best for everyone. »

Smith then handed the phone to his son Jaden – and Macchio gave his blessing, telling the youngster to « kick some ass » and have a little fun doing it.

« But I couldn’t help but realize that, in the moment, I really felt like an Obi-Wan to a young Skywalker, » Macchio writes. « Like passing the lightsaber to a next-gen Jedi warrior. »


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