How Actor Pat Morita Died

Pat Morita

Getty Pat Morita strikes a pose at the Democratic National Convention in 2000.

With Season 3 of Cobra Kai premiering on January 1, fans may be reminiscing over one of the most beloved characters in The Karate Kid franchise, Daniel LaRusso’s sensei, Mr. Miyagi. Miyagi was played by Japanese-American actor Noriyuki “Pat” Morita in the film series. He actually snagged an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor nomination because of the role, as reported by The New York Times

Pat Morita Died in 2005 at the Age of 73

Pat Morita

GettyPat Morita looks at the crowd at the Democratic National Convention in 2000.

Unfortunately, Morita was unable to reprise the iconic role in Cobra Kai, as he died on November 24, 2005, at the age of 73. According to People magazine, he was admitted to a Las Vegas hospital on October 31 of that year, where he “developed a severe bladder and urinary tract infection.” The publication noted the actor’s death was a result of “complications from alcoholism.” 

Following his death, Morita’s third wife, actress Evelyn Guerrero, commented on her husband’s issues with addiction. 

“He said, ‘I tried. I can’t do it. I’m an addict,’” the Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie actress told People magazine.

She also disclosed that after going to rehab in 2004, the father of three “relapsed big time.” 

“[The doctors] warned him if he continued to drink, he would die,” Guerrero told People. 

In addition, the actress revealed that a day prior to his death, Morita, “said, ‘Evi, you have to let me go. I gotta go home now. I gotta be with Redd Foxx and all those funny guys up there in the sky.’”

She went on to say that her husband “had a huge heart, and he was the love of my life, and he will forever be missed.”

Prior to His Death, Morita Expressed Interest in Reprising the Role of Mr. Miyagi

Hilary Swank & Pat Morita

GettyNoriyuki “Pat” Morita and Hilary Swank share a scene in the movie “The Next Karate Kid.”

Prior to his death, Morita expressed interest in being a part of a fifth Karate Kid movie to his co-star William Zabka, who plays Johnny Lawrence in the franchise. In an August 2020 interview with Collider, Zabka revealed that Morita had a specific idea in mind for how their characters would have interacted in the movie, stating:

[Morita] wasn’t done with Miyagi yet, and this was in his, you know, last years. He called me and said, ‘B.Z. B.Z., I have a great idea for a Karate Kid 4, you know, a Karate Kid 5. You know, I want — Miyagi’s going to die.’ And he wanted him to have a proper Okinawan burial, but while he’s sick, he saw Johnny Lawrence as being his doctor. And I thought that was interesting.

While that idea never came to fruition, Miyagi and his teachings are often mentioned on Cobra Kai by the character Daniel LaRusso. The owner of LaRusso Auto Group honors his friend and mentor — who in the show died in 2011 — by keeping open his dojo, Miyagi-Do, noted Looper

In an August 2020 interview with The Guardian, Ralph Macchio, who plays LaRusso, spoke about how filming certain scenes for Cobra Kai has made him emotional about his late co-star.

“There’s a montage scene in series two in which I’m teaching a younger kid, just as Miyagi taught LaRusso, and that brought a real rush of emotion for me. Every time we shoot I hearken back to those early days of rehearsal with Pat,” said the actor. 

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