Pat E. Johnson served a few roles in The Karate Kid franchise and this is one of those Chuck Norris influences that does (indirectly) make its way into the movie. A longtime student of Chuck Norris, Johnson served as a stuntman, the fight coordinator, the fight choreographer, and an actor in the film series.
‘The Karate Kid’ fans can spot Johnson as the referee in the final fight scene between Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence. Johnson was one of only four people on the set that had any martial arts training.
Pat Morita’s Close Call
What can be considered a very near miss in movie history was that Pat Morita was not originally selected to play Mr. Miyagi. Morita’s long history of playing comedic parts was considered by the casting staff to be a detriment — audiences were well acquainted with his roles in 'Happy Days' and 'M*A*S*H'.
As legend has it, it took a grand total of five auditions for Morita to convince John Avildsen that he could shed his comic persona and embody the rather solemn Mr. Miyagi.
“Karate Kid” was a lesser-known (yet still very copyrighted) character in the DC Comics universe. Karate Kid belonged to the Legion of Superheroes and was a pivotal character in the comic book. The title of “The Karate Kid” was considered too good a marketing tool to compromise on so the producers approached DC Comics to negotiate using the name.
DC Comics, who owned “Karate Kid” had no issue in allowing Columbia Pictures to title the movie “The Karate Kid”. We bet DC would have negotiated differently in retrospect.
You’re the Best
The ‘80s remain the decade of seminal soundtracks especially when it comes to epic showdowns. Before a drunken Randy Marsh from South Park made a whole new generation aware of Joe Esposito’s “You’re the Best”, the song was immortalized as the accompaniment to the final fight between Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso.
“You’re The Best” apparently wasn’t the best choice for Sylvester Stallone as it was rejected in favor of “Eye of the Tiger” for Rocky. Fortunately, John Avildsen found the perfect fit for it in 'The Karate Kid'.
Johnny Lawrence’s Less Intimidating Namesake
The cast and crew understood the target audience of 'The Karate Kid'. It is inarguably a film that has transcended generational gaps and this is in no small part due to the attention to detail. Details such as the name of the antagonist. To best visualize this, imagine getting beat up by a guy named Donald. And his surname is Rice.
That’s correct – Johnny Lawrence was originally named Donald Rice. We are certain that the roundhouse kicks and karate chops would feel far less painful knowing it was being delivered by a “Donnie Rice”.