Since the premiere of The Karate Kid in 1984, Ralph Macchio has been associated with the character Daniel LaRusso. As of 2018, he has reprised the iconic role in the acclaimed series Cobra Kai.
However, Macchio was not the only actor considered to play the New Jersey native.
In a Recent Interview Macchio Talked About Famous Actors Who Auditioned for Daniel LaRusso
During a January interview on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Macchio named other actors who auditioned for Daniel.
He explained that he was “cast very early” to play the West Valley high school student.
“But it was like one of those test deals where you’re not in yet,” explained the actor.
He stated that while on set, he noticed Charlie Sheen, who was presumably also up for the role.
“I remember walking by and seeing Charlie Sheen hanging out outside [Karate Kid producer] Jerry Weintraub’s bungalow. And I was like, ‘what’s Charlie doing here?'” said the 59-year-old.
He went on to say that he did not feel like Sheen fit the part, stating that he did not “look like an Italian guy from Jersey.”
Fallon then asked Macchio if Nicolas Cage had also been considered to star in the martial arts film. The actor stated that he believed that was true. He then disclosed that Robert Downey Jr. could have also been cast as the 1984 All-Valley champion.
He proceeded to say that the A-list actor “also did the workshop” for the character Johnny Cade, who Macchio played in the 1983 film The Outsiders.
“So I was going pretty good with Downey Jr. at that point and then [his career] just — like Iron Man, it took off,” quipped the actor.
‘Cobra Kai’ Star William Zabka Shared Similar Information About Casting for ‘The Karate Kid’
In a 2018 Sports Illustrated interview with the cast and crew of The Karate Kid, Cobra Kai star William Zabka, who plays Johnny Lawrence, shared similar information.
“Robert Downey Jr. was considered for Ralph’s part. And Charlie Sheen. I know they had some known names in that category,” said the actor.
He then described his audition process for The Karate Kid.
“I think they were looking for an unknown for Johnny… My audition was at the Columbia Pictures lot. The role was this gang leader—tough karate guy—and so it wasn’t a friendly environment [among the other actors trying out],” explained Zabka.
In the same interview, the film’s first assistant director Clifford Coleman also revealed that Pat Morita, who famously portrayed Mr. Miyagi, was not the studio’s first choice. At the time, Morita was best known for his stand-up performances and playing Arnold on the ABC sitcom Happy Days.
“Nobody wanted Pat Morita; he had a horrible background. He was the type of stand-up comic who got up on stage loaded, dirty and foul. He was not Pat Morita the sensei,” stated Coleman.
Instead, the studio was interested in the prolific Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune. However, he was unable to “speak a word of English,” as noted by the movie’s production coordinator Susan Ekins in the same interview.
Karate Kid writer Robert Mark Kamen stated that the movie’s director, late filmmaker, John Avildsen, “insisted on Pat” and the Japanese-American actor eventually got the role.
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