Fans of the Karate Kid franchise likely remember 1994’s The Next Karate Kid starring Hilary Swank. The film was Swank’s first lead role, starring alongside Pat Morita who reprised his role as Mr. Miyagi. The two worked closely together the entire film as Mr. Miyagi trained Swank’s character, Julie, in Karate.
Swank and Morita grew close during their time working on The Next Karate Kid. According to BleedingCool, Kevin Derek, director of More Than Miyagi: The Pat Morita Story wanted to talk to Swank for his documentary. Unfortunately, he said Swank had a commitment filming another project. BleedingCool points out Swank was featured while promoting the film in archival footage and also spoke at Morita’s ceremony commemorating his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
How Their Characters Connected
In The Next Karate Kid Swank plays Julie, the granddaughter of Mr. Miyagi’s commanding officer from World War II, Jack Pierce. Mr. Miyagi meets Julie while visiting Boston for her grandfather’s funeral. Julie has been forced to live with her grandparents after her parents died in a car crash, and deals with anger issues as a result. Her anger has led to disagreements with her fellow students and teachers.
Miyagi invites Julie’s grandmother, Louisa, to stay at his home in Los Angeles while he remains in Boston to watch over Julie. Miyagi discovers Julie has been trained in Karate by her father, and agrees to train her further to help with bullies at school. He takes Julie to a Buddhist monastery where she learns about balance and how to deal with her anger and strife.
At the end of the movie Julie and Mr. Miyagi team up to take down the “Alpha Elite,” a security fraternity at Julie’s school that has been targeting her. Miyagi’s lessons had not only made her a better fighter, but also a more balanced and controlled person.
Swank’s Connection to the ‘Miyagi-verse’
The “Miyagi-Verse,” a term coined recently after the creation of Cobra Kai, is all films and television shows which are considered canon in the Karate Kid universe. The creators of Cobra Kai have recently confirmed they consider The Next Karate Kid to be canon, and there is a possibility of Julie’s return in the show.
In an interview with CBR Cobra Kai creaton Jon Hurwitz said “It’s our belief that anything that has happened in a movie Mr. Miyagi was in, which includes The Next Karate Kid, is part of the Miyagi-Verse and our series takes place in the Miyagi-Verse.”
He also spoke about the possibility of characters returning to the franchise. “Any character who has lived within this Miyagi-Verse has potential to show up at some point on Cobra Kai,” he said. “I can say that the three of us, as writers, have literally discussed pretty much every person who has appeared in those films, from these large characters you’re talking about, like the Terry Silvers of the world, to the most minor characters who had one or two lines.”
Julie’s addition to the show would open up a world of possibilities. There is no way to know how her character ended up after The Last Karate Kid, so she could provide almost any role needed for the plot to move forward. Additionally, her outsider perspective would work well to moderate any disagreements between Daniel and Johnny in training the Miyagi-Do students.
Swank’s return to the franchise would be an interesting addition. Her connection to Morita and his character of Mr. Miyagi could drive her to reunite with the franchise and live in the nostalgia that actors like Ralph Macchio and William Zabka have relished.