The Emmy-nominated series “Cobra Kai” takes place over 30 years after the events in the “Karate Kid” film franchise. In the first movie, which was released in 1984, Johnny Lawrence (William “Billy” Zabka) bullies Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) after he expresses interest in his ex-girlfriend Ali Mills (Elisabeth Shue). Daniel eventually learns karate and the two teenagers face off at the 1984 All Valley Tournament. Unfortunately for Johnny, Daniel wins the competition.
As Daniel and Johnny were high school students in “The Karate Kid,” some fans may be curious how old the actors who portrayed them were during the film’s production.
Here’s what you need to know:
Ralph Macchio Was 22-Years-Old When The Movie Premiered
While Daniel LaRusso is 17-years-old throughout most of “The Karate Kid,” Ralph Macchio was in his early 20s when he first portrayed him. While speaking to Vanity Fair in September 2020, the “My Cousin Vinny” actor shared that he “read the script” for the martial arts film soon after “The Outsiders” debuted in 1983, meaning he was 21-years-old when he auditioned for the role. He recalled that the role of Johnny Cade in “The Outsiders” had helped start him “being taken seriously” in Hollywood.
He stated that during the audition process for “The Karate Kid,” he went to the director, John G. Avildsen’s apartment, and “read with him one on one.” He then shared that he “was cast early on” and eventually, was tasked to do a reading with Pat Morita, who was eventually cast as Mr. Miyagi.
“John Avildsen was like, ‘I read [Morita] and I’m putting you guys in a room together.”
“Pat Morita got into the room together and just grabbed the pages and started reading and it was effortless. That magic that happened on the screen happened the first day we picked up pages. He had Miyagi in his skin, his mind,” shared Macchio.
William ‘Billy’ Zabka Was 18-Years-Old When ‘The Karate Kid’ Premiered
William “Billy” Zabka was fresh out of high school when he audition for “The Karate Kid.” During an August 2021 appearance at Planet Comicon Kansas City, alongside his “Cobra Kai” co-stars Jacob Bertrand and Martin Kove, the actor spoke about the audition process for the 1984 film. He shared that he did not feel like he was the right fit for Johnny as he was not a martial artist.
“I really didn’t think I would get the part. When I read the script he was a motorcycle gang leader. He was a karate black belt, so I really took myself out of the equation, thinking well, you know — so I learned everything for the film. They trained us,” explained the father-of-two.
While speaking to Entertainment Weekly in May 2021, Zabka shared that his 18-year-old self would be ecstatic to learn that he was reprising his role of Johnny on “Cobra Kai.”
“The 18 year old me is kicking himself on the beach somewhere. Just the idea of this is too – it’s just so unbelievable it really truly is. You know, Johnny’s like, you know, an old friend of mine from childhood, to see him grow up and to get the you know, the love and attention from the fans and the critics has just been – it’s a dream, it’s really been a dream,” asserted the 56-year-old.