The role of Daniel LaRusso in “The Karate Kid” franchise ended up being the part of a lifetime, but not every actor who was offered the role accepted it.
Ralph Macchio ended up being cast as LaRusso in the iconic 1980s film and later TV show, but before they settled on Macchio, there were other names in the mix.
“’The Karate Kid’ is … the gift that keeps on giving,” Macchio told Deadline in May 2021. “You carry such a responsibility and a pride in playing these roles that have become part of pop culture around the world.”
Sean Penn and Charlie Sheen were both considered for the role, according to Screen Rant, but it was never made public why they didn’t accept the role. Clint Eastwood’s son, Kyle Eastwood, also auditioned but wasn’t offered the part, Screen Rant reported. As a result, because Coca-Cola owned Columbia Pictures, which distributed “The Karate Kid,” “Clint Eastwood had all Coca-Cola products banned from his movies,” Screen Rant reported.
Director John G. Avildsen also asked C. Thomas Howell, best known at the time for his role as Ponyboy Curtis in “The Outsiders,” according to IMDb.
C. Thomas Howell & Ralph Macchio Starred Together in ‘The Outsiders’
“The Karate Kid” was the top rental video of 1985, according to UPI, but before the film came out, everyone was talking about Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Outsiders,” released in 1983. Macchio starred as Johnny Cade in the star-studded cast of “The Outsiders” alongside the likes of Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe and Diane Lane.
Two of the names considered for the leading role in “The Karate Kid” were friends and “The Outsiders” co-stars of Howell and Macchio, according to Screen Rant — Tom Cruise and Emilio Estevez.
Howell turned down the chance to even audition and has never commented on his reason for doing so publicly.
Howell Turned Down the Role of a Lifetime
The role of LaRusso was arguably the part of lifetime, especially considering that decades later Macchio is still playing the iconic character.
The “Cobra Kai” reboot picks up decades after “The Karate Kid” left off. Now the story is focused on LaRusso’s nemesis, Johnny Lawrence, starting his own dojo.
“Season 3 has become the richest for me as an actor,” Macchio told GoldDerby in May 2021. “’Daniel LaRusso seemingly had it all and is now losing his grip and focus and has to re-balance himself. All those things resonate on a deeper level.”
Macchio didn’t feel the same way about “The Karate Kid 3” though.
“Part three is not my favorite movie. All they did was make the first one over again, without any of the good stuff,” he said during a January 2021 interview on the podcast Sway. “I just felt for the LaRusso character he never went forward. It felt like we were redoing the first movie in a cartoon kind of a sense without the heart and soul.”
Season 4 of Cobra Kai will be released on Netflix on December 31, 2021.