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9 Quick Questions for Ralph Macchio

Actor’s iconic ‘Karate Kid’ character is still going strong

ralph macchio smiling, wearing tan shirt and brownish green jacket in front of gray background

Michael Schwartz


Ralph Macchio scored his dream role as Johnny Cade in The Outsiders in 1983, and one year later, he struck pop culture gold as the lovable underdog Daniel LaRusso in The Karate Kid, a role he’s revisiting on Netflix’s Cobra Kai. The 60-year-old actor adds the title of author to his résumé with Waxing On: The Karate Kid and Me, a book that revisits the iconic movie characters and themes that are still resonating with viewers.


Are you in touch with any of your costars from The Outsiders?

I touched base with Rob Lowe just recently. C. Thomas Howell, sometimes Matt Dillon. He came up on the East Coast like me. And Emilio [Estevez] I haven’t seen in a while, but after the movie we were friends where we saw each other more often. Anyone associated with that film — including Francis Ford Coppola, the great filmmaker, who I just heard from recently — there’s a kindred spirit there. It was a real special time and a launching pad for all of us. 


patrick swayze, emilio estevez, matt dillon, ralph macchio, c thomas howell, rob lowe and tom cruise standing against wall in a still from the outsiders

Mary Evans/Zoetrope Studios/Ronald Grant/Everett Collection

Ralph Macchio starred in the 1983 movie 'The Outsiders' alongside Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, Matt Dillon, C. Thomas Howell, Rob Lowe and Tom Cruise.


What are your favorite memories of making that film?

Getting the part was one of my favorite memories, because I wanted that part so bad. I read that book when I was 12 years old. So it was really everything to be chosen to play Johnny Cade. It is the one role I wanted, and it doesn't normally happen that way. I was spoiled pretty early. 


Is it surreal to still be playing Daniel LaRusso nearly 40 years after the original Karate Kid movie?

It’s completely surreal. I was just … in New York City and a bunch of 12- or 14-year-old kids throughout my walk were just coming up with big smiles on, wanting a picture or to give a high-five, and it’s just crazy. It’s a bit like 1984 all over again. Except back then they were like, “Hey, aren’t you the Karate Kid?” And now it’s like, “Hey, don’t you play the dad on my favorite show?” 


If you weren’t able to star in Cobra Kai, who would you pick to play your character?

I love Jason Bateman, everything he does. … He’s so even-keeled. It would be interesting to see Bateman playing LaRusso, a guy who gets so amped up.


Did you name your son Daniel after [your character] Daniel LaRusso?

I write about that in the book. My wife’s best friend growing up was her cousin, Daniel, and he meant the world to her, and obviously Daniel LaRusso means the world to me.


How often does someone say “wax on, wax off” to you these days?

That’s something that’s never gone away. Cobra Kai has only enhanced it. That’s the beauty of a successful story that has stood the test of time.


ralph macchio as daniel larusso and pat morita as mister miyagi doing karate moves in a still from the karate kid 3

Columbia Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

Macchio's character, Daniel LaRusso, in 'The Karate Kid' was trained by Mr Miyagi, played by Pat Morita.


Speaking of standing the test of time, do you still own that 1947 Ford convertible that Mr. Miyagi gave Daniel in the first film?

Yep, the car that I have in the Cobra Kai series parked at Miyagi’s house is that exact car. … Right now it’s down in Atlanta [where we film]. They keep it carefully protected, and hopefully we will get season six of Cobra Kai to shine her back up and put her back out there. She’s the one girl that has always been with LaRusso through thick or thin.


The Karate Kid soundtrack had some pretty iconic tunes. What’s on your current playlist?

There’s always [Bruce] Springsteen. A lot of blues music. Always a little bit of AC/DC. Maybe a little bit of Guns N’ Roses. Then to really confuse you … I’ll have a little bit of opera. I love movie scores like Ennio Morricone’s Cinema Paradiso and The Mission. I’m all over the place.


You had a milestone birthday last year. What did you do to celebrate?

I did celebrate the big six-oh during the shooting of Cobra Kai season five. My wife and kids came down. It was still during the pandemic, so I couldn’t have a big blowout. My daughter asked the crew and cast of Cobra Kai to send me a video message, and my wife and kids [did] as well. It’s a wonderful keepsake of what was happening at that time. That’s the most meaningful stuff. 

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