The Karate Kid Stars, Then and Now
Earlier, news broke that the original onscreen rivals in 1984’s The Karate Kid are reuniting for a half-hour comedy series ordered by YouTube Red, aptly titled Cobra Kai. Now that it’s been almost 25 years since “Wax on, wax off” became a household saying, it’s time to check out what the stars have been up to since then.
Ralph Macchio (Daniel LaRusso)
On top of playing everyone’s favorite ’80s hero Daniel LaRusso, Macchio starred in some other popular movies of yore (The Outsiders, My Cousin Vinny). Now, he’s mostly appearing in various sitcoms as himself with the most memorable being a stint on How I Met Your Mother with a another special guest (more on that later). He also had running stints on popular shows Ugly Betty and Psych, and is currently filming Psych: The Movie. Oh, and he also placed fourth on Dancing With the Stars in 2011 with multiple scores of 30. We wonder what his training process was like?
Pat Morita (Kesuke Miyagi)
In case you forgot, Morita got a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the Oscars for his turn as Daniel’s instructor, Mr. Miyagi. “Wax on, wax off” has lived on for decades, but Morita also starred in quite a few high-profile television shows since The Karate Kid and its subsequent sequels, including Baywatch and The Hughleys. Younger fans who weren’t around for the film’s success may also recognize him as the voice of The Emperor in Disney’s Mulan. Morita passed away in 2005 due to kidney failure. He was 73.
Elisabeth Shue (Ali Mills)
Back in 1984, Shue shined as the central love interest in the film and audiences fell in love with her too. After Karate Kid, she was a regular face on CSI for a couple of years as Julie Finlay and also narrated Tuck Everlasting. In 1995, she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars for her role in Leaving Las Vegas alongside Nicolas Cage. In an underappreciated role, she appeared as herself in 2007’s Hamlet 2. Next up, you can catch her in the upcoming Battle of the Sexes.
Randee Heller (Lucille LaRusso)
Heller, who played Daniel’s mother, actually began her career on Broadway. After Karate Kid, however, she landed multiple guest appearances on popular television shows like Felicity, Nip/Tuck, Who’s the Boss, ER, and Mad Men (check out EW’s interview with Heller on that stint here). Most recently, she appeared in 2017’s A Crooked Somebody alongside Modern Family‘s Ed Harris and Downton Abbey’s Joanne Froggatt.
William Zabka (Johnny Lawrence)
Though he had no previous martial arts experience before his breakout role as Johnny Lawrence, Zabka actually went on to earn a green belt in Tang Soo Do after filming. Since then, he’s tried his hand at directing music videos like No More Kings’ “Sweep the Leg” and Rascal Flatts’ “Why Wait.” Most recently, fans caught Zabka as a recurring guest star on How I Met Your Mother as Barney Stinson’s (Neil Patrick Harris) hero; e even once appeared in an episode alongside Macchio. Currently, he’s directing commercials for Verizon and Little Tikes. Who woulda thought?
Martin Kove (Kreese)
As head instructor of Cobra Kai, Kove had quite the memorable turn. Since then, he’s beefed up his résumé with appearances in action-thriller projects, and more recently reprised his role as Kreese on Tosh.0.