Martin Kove may be best known for his role as villain John Kreese in the smash 1984 film “The Karate Kid,” as well as its ongoing spin-off series, “Cobra Kai.” However, Kove, now 75, has been appearing in film and television roles for almost 50 years now, and has made headlines doing a number of roles, such as ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” just this year. Few may know, however, that he recently played a role in Quentin Tarantino’s latest hit, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.”
Here’s what you need to know.
Kove’s Sheriff Is Based On Henry Fonda
Most fans of “The Karate Kid” or “Cobra Kai” may have missed Kove’s appearance in the Tarantino film, as he only appears for a few seconds and with one line.
In the black-and-white sequence (shown above) meant to portray a 1960s-style TV trailer, Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), in character as Jake Cahill, approaches the town’s sheriff (Kove) with a string of horses carrying dead bodies behind him. The sheriff, leaning back on his rocking chair smoking a cigar, feet resting against the post, says, “You never bring them in alive, now do you, Jake?” Jake replies, “Not when there’s three of them and one of me.” The trailer then continues, without Kove making another appearance.
In a 2020 interview with Screen Rant, Kove said that much of his scene was cut due to the length of the film, as is normal in movies. He also said that it was his own idea to have his feet up on the post, and that the scene is an homage to John Ford‘s “My Darling Clementine,” with Kove honoring Henry Fonda‘s role as Wyatt Earp in the film.
Although his role was small, Kove has expressed his gratitude for working with Tarantino on numerous occasions. In a 2019 Chicago Tribune profile released shortly after the film, Kove said that one of the high points of his career has been the opportunity to work with Tarantino. However, “trying — and repeatedly failing — to get Tarantino on the phone in order to make that happen will go down as one of his worst moments,” the article said of Kove.
What Tarantino Gets His Staff To Chant To Stay Motivated
In a 2019 interview with Muscle and Fitness (shown above), Kove revealed some other tidbits about what it was like to work for Tarantino on the set.
He said in the interview that when he got the call from Tarantino, he would have given an immediate “yes” no matter what the role was. “It doesn’t matter,” he elaborated, “there are people who work for Tarantino who don’t care if they have any lines. You know, it doesn’t matter who’s that actor, could be a big-time actor.”
Kove said that he had been “bugging” Tarantino “for years” to be involved in a project of his, noting that he particularly wanted to be involved in “Django Unchained” or “The Hateful Eight,” given he was a big fan of Westerns. Hence, Tarantino figured he was a good fit for the role of “Sheriff.”
“He’s just so much fun to work for,” Kove said of Tarantino, “and he’s such a film buff. And he knows everything you’ve ever done, every little show that you did in the ’70s that you guest starred on – ‘Charlie’s Angles,’ this, that – he knows.” Kove did indeed guest star for one episode on ABC’s “Charlie’s Angels” in 1977.
Kove also revealed an interesting fact about what would happen when shooting for the day was just about wrapped up, but Tarantino wanted one more take:
He finishes the day, and he says, “I think I got it but I want one more [take],” [turns] around…to his 100-character crew, and says, “why?” And everybody screams in unison: “because we love to make movies!”
Be sure to catch Martin Kove continue his role as John Kreese in season 4 of “Cobra Kai,” which will be released on Netflix December 31.