To fans of “The Karate Kid,” the performances of Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita as Daniel LaRusso and Mr. Miyagi are legendary and unforgettable. In 2012, director John G. Avildsen, who died in 2017, released footage of the two stars’ auditions on his YouTube channel, and the video is publicly available to view online. Below is the footage, and the context behind it. Here is everything you need to know.
Macchio and Morita Did Their Auditions Separately
Above is the full clip of Macchio and Morita’s auditions for “The Karate Kid,” which took place in spring of 1983, according to Avildsen’s video description. The description also explains that the two actors did their auditions separately – Morita in Burbank, CA, and Macchio in Avildsen’s NYC office a few weeks later – hence why the separate reels are spliced together to form a makeshift scene.
According to AllFamous, casting for “The Karate Kid” took place between April and June 1983, meaning that this footage was likely shot near the end of the casting process. Morita, who was around 50 at the time, was not producer Jerry Weintraub’s first choice for the role, according to a 2013 biography of Avildsen (and a comment by Avildsen in the video). It took a few tries for the American-born actor to nail the role and convince Weintraub to take him on; it wasn’t until he came back with a beard and nailed the Japanese accent that Weintraub was impressed enough to hire him.
Given that Morita still has the distinctive moustache that he had during his time as Arnold on “Happy Days” (which is part of the reason why Weintraub was hesitant about the prospect of Morita playing Mr. Miyagi), the audition shown above must have taken place somewhere in the middle of that period, before Morita had nailed it completely. As the video’s description explains, the audition period went on several more weeks before Macchio and Morita were offered the parts.
According to Macchio in a 2018 Sports Illustrated interview, filming began on Halloween 1983, meaning that the footage above likely took place a few months before what the audience saw on the big screen for the first time in 1984.
Macchio and Morita Are Reading For a Memorable ‘Karate Kid’ Scene
Before the actual audition itself, which begins around 1:45, Avildsen, off-screen, describes the basic plot of the movie to Macchio, which he says ends when Daniel, Mr. Miyagi, and Daniel’s girlfriend, who he describes as “the rich girl from the other side of the tracks” – a character also known as Ali Mills – “go off into the sunset.” Avildsen then explains the context behind the scene Macchio is reading for in particular.
The scene that Macchio, who was 21 at the time, and Morita recite is the one that takes place right after Mr. Miyagi beats up Johnny Lawrence and his gang on Halloween night, in defense of Daniel. In the scene – shown above – Daniel realizes Mr. Miyagi is the one who saved him, and asks Mr. Miyagi if he could teach him karate himself.
There are a few differences between the script in the audition and the way it is in the film. For one, Daniel refers to the mystery man who saved him (before he realizes it is Miyagi himself) as “Spiderman” in the movie, but just “that other guy” in the audition; for another, Daniel mispronounces Miyagi’s name in the scene in the film as “mi-ya-gee,” a frequent gaff in the film which Miyagi always corrects, as he did in the real scene. In the audition, that line is not included.
In addition, in the film, Miyagi says karate comes from China, whereas in the audition, Miyagi says karate was brought to Okinawa from China, and gives a more detailed explanation of its origin. In fact, karate did originate in Okinawa, according to China Highlights, but was influenced by a Chinese form of martial art called Fujian White Crane.
Although Pat Morita died in 2005, Macchio continues to portray Daniel LaRusso nearly 40 years later in Netflix’s spin-off series “Cobra Kai.” Be sure to catch season 4 of the show when it is released December 31.