Before his death in 2017, John G. Avildsen, the director of the original three “Karate Kid” films, was able to post some behind-the-scenes videos of the films’ production on his YouTube channel. Many of these have gained traction among fans of the franchise online, such as the screen tests for leads Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita as Daniel LaRusso and Mr. Miyagi.
In 2011, Avildsen uploaded some footage of Macchio and Elisabeth Shue, who plays female lead Ali Mills, doing a joint audition for the first time in 1983.
Macchio and Shue Perform The ‘Ali-With-An-I’ Scene
The audition (which you can watch above) took place in Avildsen’s New York City office in the summer of 1983, according to Avildsen’s video description. This means that Macchio was 21 and Shue was 19 when it was shot.
The scene which the two young actors perform is that which takes place on the soccer field near the beginning of the film, a day after Daniel tries to prevent bully Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) from stealing Ali’s radio, but gets a black eye in the process. Ali feels guilty about Daniel’s injury (though he tries to brush it off), and they begin to bond. At the end of the scene Ali tells Daniel her name (“Ali, with an ‘I'”), although it clearly underwent some re-writes between the audition and the time of shooting, as there are some noticeable differences between them.
For one, the dialogue differs, and there is overall more of it in the audition scene. The film scene not only takes place on a soccer field, but it also has Ali exchange a ball between Daniel a few times, including once where she juggles it on her legs. The audition, on the other hand, gives no indication that the scene takes place on a sports field of any kind; instead, the two casually stroll forward as if they’re walking along a street.
Also, in the audition scene, the bit in which Ali famously tells him her name (“Ali with an ‘I'”) is extended, with Daniel questioning in which part of her name the “I” is placed. “A-L-Y-I?” he asks.
Furthermore, Daniel’s “Daniel with an ‘L'” reply is not in the audition. In both, however, it is clear that a relationship between the two is brewing. In a comment, Avildsen describes Shue as a “strawberry shortcake” and Macchio as a “cannoli.” “They were a “perfect match,” he wrote. “And both good actors.”
This Was Shue’s First Film Audition
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. Macchio had already appeared in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Outsiders,” which premiered earlier that year, and had gained some recognition for that.
For Shue, however, this was her first appearance. As she explained in a 2018 Sports Illustrated group interview for “Cobra Kai”/”The Karate Kid,” “This was my first film. I’d been to Wellesley [College] for two years, and I left to do a pilot for ABC called ‘Call to Glory.’ I auditioned for ‘The Karate Kid’ after that.” Shue ended up being a series regular on the short-lived ABC drama from 1984 to 1985, in which she played Jackie Sarnac.
As a result of her novelty to the scene, Shue recalled being impressed by Macchio’s experience: “Ralph was a big star compared to the rest of us. We were all like: ‘Woah, he has a manager’.”
Elisabeth Shue reprised her role as Ali Mills in the final two episodes of “Cobra Kai” season 3, where Ali reunites with Daniel and and Johnny for the first time in over 30 years, and they revisit old times together. Shue has been confirmed to return in season 4.
Be sure to catch more of Macchio and Shue as Daniel and Ali in the upcoming season, which will be released December 31.