Pat Morita famously portrayed Daniel LaRusso’s sensei Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid film franchise. However, the new documentary More Than Miyagi attempts to dismantle the notion that the late actor, who died in 2005, could be reduced to just that one role. The film examines Morita’s decades long-career and his struggles with substance abuse, which likely were caused by his traumatic childhood.
While the movie makes it clear that the actor was different from Mr. Miyagi, his friend Tommy Chong asserted that they shared some characteristics.
Tommy Chong Believes Morita Shared Characteristics to Mr. Miyagi
In a recent interview that was uploaded on the Cobra Kai Theories YouTube channel, the Up in Smoke actor recalled that he viewed Morita as a mentor. Chong stated that he first encountered the Karate Kid actor “around” 1970, when he and his partner comedy Cheech Marin were just starting their act together. He noted that Morita “was being managed by Sally Marr,” who was Lenny Bruce’s mother. Her niece, Evelyn Guerrero, who starred in a few Cheech and Chong movies, ended up marrying the Happy Days star in 1994, as noted in More Than Miyagi.
“He’s always — such a cool guy. He really was Miyagi when we met him because we were trying to be comedians. He [was] already a comedian,” revealed Chong.
He acknowledged that he only occasionally saw Morita upon first meeting him. Chong revealed, however, that the actor reached out to him during his time of need. While he was about to serve his prison sentence in 2003, Morita called him and shared some advice.
“I got a call — it was the night before I was leaving for prison… the only call I got… I was like you know going to jail. And Pat called — he was more Miyagi than he was Pat and he gave me the greatest pep talk ever. It just resonated… ‘This is an adventure that you’re going to conquer. It’s going to be okay. Just be true to yourself’… It carried me all though the whole experience,” explained the 82-year-old.
This is not the first time that someone close to Morita has talked about him being similar to Miyagi.
‘Cobra Kai’ Star William Zabka Also Compared Morita To Mr. Miyagi
During a recent interview on The View, Cobra Kai star William “Billy” Zabka, who plays Johnny Lawrence, noted that the actor was his mentor during the production of The Karate Kid.
“[The] Karate Kid was my first film, and when I walked onto the set, we were doing rehearsals. There’s Pat Morita and Ralph Macchio from The Outsiders, and Pat really took me under his wing. And in a way was kind of my Miyagi, as far as you know helping me feel at place and at home,” said the actor.
The 55-year-old also noted that Morita instructed him on how to improve his performance
“When we did the fence fight with Ralph in The Karate Kid in the skeleton outfit, I remember doing the rehearsals and I was doing it maybe half speed and half energy,” recalled the father-of-two. “And he pulled me aside and — he called me BZ. He said, ‘BZ, BZ,’ he says, ‘listen, man, listen, man, when you do rehearsals you got to give 110 percent, 110 percent. That way when the cameras are rolling its like bread and butter baby, it’s like bread and butter.’”