John Kreese, the infamous villain from The Karate Kid movies and now Cobra Kai, is portrayed by Martin Kove. Kove has had other roles, most famously portraying Detective Victor Isbecki in the CBS television series Cagney & Lacey, but he is best known as Sensei Kreese.
The role of Kreese has been career defining for Kove. He said in an interview with USA Today that “I find myself, over the last couple of years, really becoming John Kreese.” It is widely rumored, however, that the role of John Kreese was almost given to someone else.
It Is Widely Rumored That Chuck Norris Was Offered the Role
According to Mental Floss it is “widely rumored that Chuck Norris was initially considered for the part of Cobra Kai Sensei John Kreese, but turned down the role as he did not want to be associated with a character that represented martial arts in such a cruel and aggressive way.”
CBR says that “Norris was busy with an action film when Karate Kid was being shot.” They also say that “Norris himself says he was never offered the part, but had he been, he would have turned it down for the very reason stated in the rumor — that he felt Kreese was such an unfavorable depiction of a karate professional that he didn’t think it was a good idea.”
Kove Wants to Change How People Think of Kreese
Kove understands that most people see Kreese as a cruel and aggressive character. In fact, PageSix says that in order for Kove to reprise his role for Cobra Kai he “had to be ‘persuaded’ to return by the show’s writers.”
Kove explained to PageSix that “I don’t look at him as a villain,” he said. “I look at him as a misunderstood character.” He wanted to be sure that people had a better understanding of what his character had been through and why his teachings are so extreme.
In an interview with USA Today Kove said that he played a role in shaping Kreese’s character for Cobra Kai season 3.
“I had a lot of ideas about (Kreese) in Vietnam and wanted to prove a little more vulnerability to this character,” says Kove who feels Season 3 provides “justifications for this character’s psychology, for this character’s baggage, for his values” and an understanding of “why John Kreese is the way he is.”
Norris Is Still Connected to ‘The Karate Kid’
Even though Norris was not in the running to play Kreese in the movie, he is still connected. Pat E. Johnson, who portrayed the referee in The Karate Kid, has worked closely with Norris to grow Karate across the United States. Johnson was also the stunt coordinator for the film.
Norris hired Johnson to be the chief instructor at his school in Sherman Oaks, California. Johnson then became the captain of the undefeated Chuck Norris black belt competition team. Norris also names Johnson his vice-president of the National Tang Soo Do Congress and later the vice president of the United Fighting Arts Federation.
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