Pat Morita struggled to convince Karate Kid bosses he could play Mr Miyagi

Ashley Bautista November 24, 2022
Pat Morita struggled to convince Karate Kid bosses he could play Mr Miyagi
Photo by Columbia Pictures/Getty Images

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No matter how many roles he had before joining the cast of The Karate Kid, Pat Morita will always be known for his portrayal of Mr Miyagi. Despite directors not wanting to give him the role at first, the actor left a lasting legacy. But, how did Pat Morita get cast as the wise old Mr Miyagi in Karate Kid?

Wax on, wax off. It means so much more than standard chores.

Pat Morita interpreted the role of Nariyoshi Kesuke Miyagi, best known as Mr Miyagi in the original Karate Kid franchise. He was the harsh sensei who taught Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) not only martial arts in order to protect himself, but also invaluable life lessons.

After months of sacrifice and lots of training to compete against the brutal Cobra Kai, Mr Miyagi and LaRusso’s relationship goes beyond their martial art classes.

Released in 1984, The Karate Kid later went on to become a huge hit. The following year, Morito was nominated for the 1985 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Sadly, Hollywood lost Morita in 2005 due to kidney failure. The heartbreaking loss of the beloved actor has inspired Ralph Macchio to pay tribute to Miyagi through the new TV series Cobra Kai.

How was Mr Miyagi cast in Karate Kid?

Photo by M. Caulfield/WireImage

Pat interpreted the most iconic and well-known karate sensei in film history. He was 52 years old when he played in the 1984 martial-arts film.

Surprisingly, the producers of The Karate Kid did not want Morita to be considered for the role, nor did they want him to audition for it. The reason? The uncertainty about being able to play a serious character when he was a comedian.

However, director John Avilden showed up with a tape of Morita reading a few lines from the script, only to realize the endless possibilities of him playing the part.

Nonetheless, he had to prove himself to be capable of the role. According to Slash Film, Morita had was tested five times for the role, with the actor describing it as a “long process.”

“They bring me in five times,” Morita said. “They want to see if I can do it again. Then they bring Ralphie in. … They want to see if there is chemistry.”

In the end, producer Jerry Weintraub was won over, and Morita confirmed his role.

Legacy continues in Cobra Kai

Cobra Kai. (L to R) Yuji Okumoto as Chozen Toguchi, William Zabka as Johnny Lawrence, Ralph Macchio as Daniel LaRusso in episode 508 of Cobra Kai. Cr. Curtis Bonds Baker/Netflix © 2022

The new show makes small mentions of LaRusso’s beloved sensei. During one episode, Cobra Kai made a special tribute to the late actor, who passed sadly passed away in 2005.

In the heartfelt scene, LaRusso feels lost and needs to claw back his motivation. He pays a visit to his old friend and mentor’s gravestone – Mr Miyagi, whose character also passed away. Reconnecting with the character, LaRusso fuels his inspiration to continue fighting.

“It was really important to me to have that in the show,” Macchio told ABC News about the special tribute. “[Miyagi] has to be a part of LaRusso’s life even if he falls off the rails.”

“He was the human Yoda for America … as a teen, you want [Miyagi as your] mentor.”

Cobra Kai is available to stream on Netflix.

Ralph Macchio says Morita will be ‘forever his sensei’

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Following the heartbreaking loss of Morita, Ralph Macchio spoke at his memorial service. Held in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 2005, the actor was asked to speak the eulogy, which he was hesitant about at first but didn’t regret doing it.

In a statement shared by E! News, Macchio paid tribute to their time together, as well as their impact on the film industry.

“Pat Morita was a truly generous actor, a gifted comic, and an even greater friend,” he said. “It was both my honor and privilege to have worked with him and create a bit of cinema magic together.”

“My life is all the richer for having known him. I will miss his genuine friendship. Forever my Sensei.”

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Ashley is a journalism graduate from Kingston University, currently writing for HITC, Reality Titbit and The Focus. She loves to travel and learn new languages and cultures. She also has an interest in celebrity news and the entertainment world. When she’s not writing, she’s on social media, watching K-dramas or shopping.