It took about six seconds for Funny or Die to greenlight Wax On, F*ck Off — the trailer for the documentary that supposedly follows original Karate Kid Ralph Macchio‘s attempt to finally become a Hollywood bad boy — when Macchio and Emmy-winning director Todd Holland walked into their office with the concept and the title. But as we found out when we spoke with Macchio this afternoon, the video, shot over two days at the end of May in LA, has actually long been in the works…
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This video was your idea. How long have you been thinking about it?
RALPH MACCHIO: Todd Holland, who’s a fabulous TV comedy veteran with Malcolm in the Middle and The Larry Sanders Show, he and I were working together years ago on a project for me based around my life. We were able to sell it but never get it on the air. We’ve always stayed in contact, so I knew he’d be the guy to go to if I ever did something like this. The concept just clicked in my head: With Sandra Bullock getting more attention based on the Jesse James scenario than the Oscar, with Tiger Woods being more famous than he ever was because of scandal, and I being this sort of anti-E! True Hollywood Story. You’re constantly reinventing yourself in this business and attempting to change preconceived minds in the media and in the industry. I had it all shaped out in my mind. The intervention scene — “Are you sure you’ve never slept with anyone else?” — that was the launch. [Macchio met his wife when he was 15. They’ve been married 23 years and have two children. Actors play them in the video.] I knew I wanted to pepper it with certain celebrities talking about me as if I had a drug or sex problem with my good-guy niceness. We went to a bunch of folks, and Molly Ringwald and Kevin Connolly were great to come in. The scene in the bar — ”I’m not Chachi, motherf—er!” — that was mine all the way. [Laughs] Todd and I have been sewing that joke for five years with my other show. But I’m not a joke writer and neither is Todd. The Funny or Die staff writers [Chad Carter and Chris Kula] were instrumental with like, “a powerful never-coming of age story,” which I loved. And the scene with the prostitute [“Why don’t you come back when you turn 18, okay?”], they wrote out. A lot of it happened on the day as well. There’s a lot of happy accidents in the video.
Give me an example.
Stuff like the mannequins, that was Todd’s idea. Initially, I was gonna go to bigger-name celebs that have had the crash-and-burn scandal and have come back, i.e. Robert Downey Jr. or Kiefer Sutherland or Nick Nolte, who I worked with years ago. I had in my mind to have that sort of quasi-Miyagi mentor training sequence. It’s so quintessential ’80s to have a training montage, so I wanted to have me hitting rock bottom and then to appear out of the shadows, some famous person who’s bounced back from the lowest point of scandal or controversy to guide me in my descent. We were shooting the first day, and we didn’t have anybody. It was hard to get someone to do this. We couldn’t come up with anybody that we all agreed on. Then we made the Internet my mentor. Doing my own research focuses it more on him, Ralph, going out there and getting it done himself. And we used Michael Lerner’s ad-lib [as Ralph’s manager] talking about how if he was a degenerate I could sell him. Todd and his editor, John Valerio, did an incredible job of finding the through-line and the pacing. The cocaine smiley face just happened on the day. And the Costco card? Killer. The crane, I said I would only do the crane again if it was on my own terms, and this was my own terms. I was a little concerned, can I get the kick up there as the old guy? But we were able to do it. The guy took a great hit. On a day when the [Karate Kid] remake is opening, and it’s sort of an odd bittersweet feeling for me…. I’m just focused on the fact that people are emailing, Facebooking, and Twittering [Wax On, F*ck Off] to everybody they know. I’m very proud of it and overwhelmed by how well it’s being embraced. It’s been up a day-and-a-half, and we should have half a million views very soon. I was gonna be happy with 100,000, now I’m like, a million! [Laughs] You get an inch, you take a yard.
What is the best response you’ve heard?
My favorite is, “So when does the movie open? I’m going.”
A lot of people are like, “I would pay to see this movie.”
I’m getting a lot of that. The fans are just so cool trying to will me into a major television show or a new movie. That’s kind of fun.
What do you hope comes out of this?
That’s a good question. There’s a piece of me that did this to show the type of humor that I love — irreverent, dark, parody — which most people don’t know, and to go to places that I normally wouldn’t go. They wouldn’t normally cast me as the guy who would walk into a bar all coked up and just get up in somebody’s face. The best-case scenario is that I’m doing it at a time when there’s such great interest because of the remake coming out, I take advantage of that wake-up call to the town, meaning Hollywood, as to how smart it would be to find the right vehicle for me at this point — whether that’s television or features. Hollywood loves that more than anything, that sort of comeback story. It’s sort of like when Neil Patrick Harris did that Harold & Kumar thing. All the sudden he was a different actor. He was the same actor. It’s like Travolta’s said, he’s come back eight times, it’s just Pulp Fiction is the one everyone talks about. Worst-case scenario, I have this great, cool video that’s an awesome button to all that I’ve done over the years.
What is the truth in the video: Do you feel like being a nice guy held you back in Hollywood?
I do feel that — to a point. The truth is, you have a much richer life if you somehow lead one that you can hold together. The flip side of that, there have been two or three projects that have been held up by the fact that, “We love him. He’s great. He’s so nice. The best guy ever. There’s no conflict. There’s no drama. There’s no edge.” I was playing this role on Ugly Betty, the sweetest, nicest guy. He was a fun character to play, but I was in a Latin soap opera — where are you gonna go with a nice guy in a Latin soap opera? [Laughs] So I started feeling that. Then I went out and I pitched a show about six months ago that was a quasi, soft-scripted reality show. It’s when I couldn’t sell that show that [Wax On, F*ck Off] really kicked into gear. How many people over the last 10 years have said, “You need a scandal.” It’s like walking into a Hollywood meeting and they say, “You’re so nice. We love you. Great guy. Terrific. Worthless.”
Is face cream something people have really tried to get you to sell? Because you do not look 48. I had to look that up. I didn’t believe it.
Yes. The face cream has come up. That was part of the soft-scripted reality project that I was contemplating. It was about those things, all the offers I get — men’s face cream, vitamin products — the man-child freak of nature that I am. [Laughs] I threw all that stuff in the video. There’s another scene that was cut where I’m calling this guy asking to buy some blow for Ralph Macchio and he just laughs uncontrollably.
Would you do that show now, if a network bit?
If I could make it like this, semi-scripted, yes. Because that’s what Curb Your Enthusiasm is. In a way, although Modern Family is certainly not soft-scripted, it has the feeling that it is, and I love that kind of comedy. With Larry Sanders and Malcolm in the Middle, Todd Holland was one of the pioneers in directing that style. We’ll see. Anything in Hollywood that lasts more than 15 minutes — and this is already going on its second day — is like huge. [Laughs] Unless you’re Brad Pitt or Julia Roberts, that’s pretty much the way it is. You grab it, enjoy it, and celebrate all the baby steps.
Anything on the horizon now?
I did an episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent with Jeff Goldblum, which was fun because I’ve known him for years. That airs June 15. I play a breeder of pit bulls. Fortunately, I only had to work with a couple of puppies. The mama was in the cage growling from around the corner. Most of the other stuff is behind-the-camera, which I don’t have up enough to broadcast. The rest of it is having the summer with my family. These years and summers go by fast. My daughter just graduated high school and is heading to college. My son’s 14, he graduates middle school tonight. My kids are watching [Wax On, F*ck Off] like crazy. My son comes up from downstairs in the house, “362,000 views!” I took my son to the premiere of the remake [Monday night]. His name is Daniel, so we figured Will Smith’s son, meet Daniel’s son. Will was great, and they treated me very, very well. Jaden signed the trophy that he wins in this current remake to me and gave it to me that night. My son has the trophy that I have from the original movie in his room.