May 22, 2018

How 'Cobra Kai' Brought 'The Karate Kid' Roaring Back to Life

Ralph Macchio, William Zabka and the creators of the YouTube Red series break down the long road back to the dojo

(by Andy Greene 4-24-18)

In September 2016, William Zabka – best known for portraying quintessential 1980s teen movie villain Johnny Lawrence in the original The Karate Kid – was summoned to his favorite Mexican restaurant in L.A. The reason: A mysterious meeting with three young comedy writers who had found big success in recent years with the Hot Tub Time Machine and Harold and Kumar franchises. He had absolutely no idea what they wanted. "We must have finished four or five baskets of chips and salsa," says Zabka. "But they kept pushing away the waiter from taking our order so they could tell me their idea."

The elaborate plan they unveiled left the 52-year-old actor in a state of absolute shock: They wanted to bring back The Karate Kid as a serialized television series. "I said to them, 'This sounds too good to be true,'" says Zabka. "'To do something like this you'd need to get everybody to sign on it, including [rights holders] Sony, [Will Smith's production company] Overbrook [Entertainment] and [the estate of late Karate Kid producer] Jerry Weintraub.' They said, 'Everybody is in. The next step is to get Ralph Macchio.' I said, 'All right, just make sure at his lunch they serve broccolini. That's the secret to his youth.'" When the long meal ended, Zabka walked out and drafted a text to the guys that he was ultimately too embarrassed to send: "The Johnny in me just opened one crusty eye."

May 3, 2018

The Crane Kick Is Bogus: A Karate Kid Oral History

Nearly three dozen members of the cast and crew of the original 1984 "The Karate Kid" share behind-the-scenes moments and filming secrets of an all-time classic movie.

(by Alex Prewitt 5-1-18)

At the end of a switchback road that winds through Sonoma Valley wine country, the wood varnish has worn from the spot where Robert Mark Kamen still practices karate on his vineyard porch each day. Now 66, the screenwriter took up martial arts after getting jumped by a gang of bullies at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. In hindsight, it was a history-altering asskicking

His earliest instructor was a truculent Marine captain who preached raw violence, which helped on the revenge front but which left Kamen desiring a deeper spiritual connection with the craft. He branched out and discovered Okinawan Gōjū-ryū, a defensive style designed to turn aggression on the aggressor with smooth blocks and sharp counterstrikes. Kamen trained four hours each day, seven days a week, under a teacher who spoke little English but who had learned directly from the founder of Okinawan Gōjū-ryū: a sensei named Chojun Miyagi.

Sound familiar? Three and a half decades after Kamen turned his life into a 109-page draft of a script, The Karate Kid waxes on. Released in June 1984, two weeks following the premier of Ghostbusters, the film endures through an endless list of quotable catchphrases: “sand the floor. . . paint the fence. . . sweep the leg.” It inspired generations to stand up against schoolyard tormentors (pity those who did so with a crane kick), introduced a mainstream audience to the heroism of the all-Japanese 442nd Infantry Regiment from World War II, and lives on through an upcoming web series, Cobra Kai. The film’s $90 million domestic gross helped Kamen build his beloved vineyard, where he’s sitting on this sun-splashed afternoon, fielding a call from the manager of a local cinema who wants him to appear at an upcoming Karate Kid tribute night.

“I’ll wear my Mr. Miyagi T-shirt,” Kamen replies. “Or I can wear my WAX ON, F--- OFF T-shirt.”

Many of the production’s principal figures have passed away, including producer Jerry Weintraub, director John Avildsen and Pat Morita, whose turn as Miyagi earned an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor, a first in that category for an Asian-American. But nearly three dozen other members of the cast and crew spoke with SPORTS ILLUSTRATED about the making of The Karate Kid, reliving a whopping hit that, like Daniel LaRusso’s performance in the final round of the All-Valley Under-18 Karate Championships, no one saw coming,

(more to come)