The Karate Kid 30-Year Anniversary: Where Are They Now?
The Karate Kid is an undisputed 1980's cinema classic and a quintessential example of the "underdog" genre that defined so many (often less worthy) movies from the era; it follows a familiar template for fans of sports flicks.
For those of us who grew up during the same decade, The Karate Kid was one of the first movies with which we truly fell in love.
And though it's a film clearly awash in the pop culture excesses of the time, it's timeless enough to remain an enduring fan favorite 30 years after its release.
With an eclectic group of characters, including perfect '80s antagonist John Kreese (played by Martin Kove) and instantly iconic lines like "wax on, wax off," The Karate Kid offers plenty of wiki-fodder for the casual cinephile.
Despite the movie's success at the box office and critical praise, many of the film's actors went on to have careers that can best be described as nondescript, if not obscure.
Now that it's been three decades since The Karate Kid made us all attempt the "Crane" kick, it's the perfect time to catch up with the men and women who helped make it an awesome sports flick.
Lucille LaRusso is the loving and supportive single mother of Daniel LaRusso, The Karate Kid’s beloved protagonist.
Actress Randee Heller appeared as Lucille LaRusso in all three Karate Kid films. Other than that, she has been working regularly as an actress since the late '70s.
Most recently, Heller has guest starred on Modern Family, Wilfred, The Mentalist, Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy and she played the epic Miss Blankenship on Mad Men.
Mr. Mills is the father of Ali Mills, the friend and love interest of Daniel LaRusso. He seems a bit aristocratic and strict, but not terribly unfriendly when he and his wife meet Daniel for the first time.
Though, the look he gives the LaRussos when their car won’t start—without some creative jiggering—definitely indicates he thinks his little girl could probably do a little better.
Actor William Bassett’s impressive resume dates back to 1960, when he got his first role in a TV movie called The Tempest. Prior to appearing in The Karate Kid, he appeared in classics such as I Dream of Jeanie, Bewitched, The Towering Inferno and The Mod Squad.
More recently, Bassett appeared in the 2003 horror movie House of 1000 Corpses, Arrested Development and Reno 911! He’s also done voice work in video games such as Star Wars: The Old Republic and Fallout 3: Broken Steel.
Dutch is the bleached-blond friend of Johnny Lawrence and fellow student at the Cobra Kai dojo. He’s definitely the meanest of a pretty mean bunch, and he probably would’ve grown up to be an unredeemable psychopath in the movie world.
Dutch was played by Chad McQueen, who is the son of legendary actor Steve McQueen. He didn’t have much of an acting career after The Karate Kid and eventually got into race car driving.
In 2010 he founded McQueen Racing, which “develops and licenses limited edition, high performance motorsport and motorcycle classics and performance accessories.”
Another one of Johnny Lawrence’s Cobra Kai henchmen. What Tommy lacks in physical prowess, he makes up for with mouthy sarcasm.
After The Karate Kid, actor Rob Garrison appeared in St. Elsewhere, MacGyver, Columbo, Coach and The Karate Kid, Part II. His acting career really stalled in 1991, and he didn’t find work again until appearing in The Pledge in 2011.
According to Garrison’s Facebook page, he’s still working today as a freelance actor and seemingly pays the bills as a restaurant manager. He was born in Wheeling, West Virginia, which is where he currently resides.
Second only to headlining-villain Johnny Lawrence, Cobra Kai’s second-best pupil is Bobby Brown.
He’s not nearly as maniacally evil as his cohorts and even apologizes to Daniel LaRusso after injuring him at the All Valley Karate Championships.
Actor Ron Thomas' career really began and ended with The Karate Kid and The Karate Kid, Part II. He appeared in only four other roles until 1987, and he wasn’t heard from again until showing up in an episode of Tosh.0 in 2011.
Thomas was actually very into martial arts before the film, but underplayed his experience so that producers wouldn’t discount him as an actor. In 2010 he spoke to MovieFone.com about his experience.
Jimmy was the strong silent-type member of the Cobra Kai gang. He didn’t say much in the film and his big scene was when Daniel defeated him at the All Valley Karate Championships.
Actor Tony O’Dell didn’t have much of a voice in The Karate Kid films, but you may remember him better as the voice of Scrappy in Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo. He also appeared in Dynasty, Simon & Simon and Murder, She Wrote.
O’Dell’s most famous television role was Alan Pinkard on Head of the Class, a sitcom which ran from 1986-91. More recently, he appeared on Suddenly Susan, George Lopez and Shake It Up!, a TV series he guest starred on in 2011.
Sensei John Kreese is the true villain in The Karate Kid. As owner and operator of the Cobra Kai dojo, Kreese uses the tricks he learned as Special Forces in Vietnam—not to mention the racial bigotry he picked up there—to school the boys in his charge.
Actor Martin Kove has made quite a living for himself as a B-movie actor. He’s starred in dozens of films and TV projects in the last decade, likely none of which you’ve ever heard of.
Kove has been working on the regular since 1971 and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. In fact, he’s got 14 projects in pre-, post-, or current production in 2014, alone.
Freddy Fernandez is Daniel LaRusso’s first friend when LaRusso moves to town—they live in the same apartment complex. Unfortunately, Freddy bails on his new buddy at the beach party after LaRusso gets his butt handed to him by Johnny Lawrence.
Their friendship is on the rocks for a while after the beach incident, but in the final scene of the movie, Fernandez is seen at the All Valley Karate Championships rooting for LaRusso, so presumably all’s well that ends well.
Actor Israel Juarbe acted regularly through the '80s and '90s with small parts in television shows like NYPD Blue, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Sliders and Falcon Crest. He also had bit parts in The Net, Angels in the Outfield and Boogie Nights.
These days, Juarbe works behind the camera in editing. According to his IMDb page, he’s edited two movies since 2010. He has more recent editing work posted on YouTube.
Mr. Miyagi is Daniel LaRusso’s teacher through all three Karate Kid films and even sticks around to teach Julie Pierce in The Next Karate Kid. He’s not just a teacher to Daniel, and Daniel is not just a student to him.
Having lost his wife and child during World War II, Mr. Miyagi’s affection for Daniel is like that of a son, while Daniel obviously considers him a father figure in the absence of his own.
Noriyuki "Pat" Morita
The great Pat Morita enjoyed a long and storied career as an actor, enjoying four decades of success in Hollywood.
Sadly, Morita died of kidney failure at the age of 73 in November 2005. The legendary actor may be gone, but he’ll never be forgotten.
Proof that not all girls go for bad guys, Ali Mills is the ex-girlfriend of Cobra Kai troublemaker Johnny Lawrence and takes an instant liking to the friendly and adorable Daniel LaRusso.
Ali becomes one of Daniel's biggest defenders and cheerleaders when the feud with Johnny escalates.
Actress Elisabeth Shue was the “It Girl” for a while there in the '80s. She followed up her breakout role in The Karate Kid with starring rules in Adventures in Babysitting and the Tom Cruise classic Cocktail.
Shue also landed a supporting role in the second and third installments of the Back to the Future trilogy. Her acting work was sporadic from the late '90s until a two-year stint on the hit CBS drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation from 2012-14 put her back in the game.
One of the greatest bad guys in movie history, the cartoonishly villainous Johnny Lawrence proves a formidable foe for The Karate Kid's hero, Daniel LaRusso. Quite the opposite of his ex-girlfriend Ali Mills, Lawrence takes an instant dislike to the new kid.
The two battle it out throughout the film with Lawrence almost always taking the low road to gain the advantage—something he learned at the evil Cobra Kai dojo.
Naturally, LaRusso plays it clean until the end and eventually takes down Lawrence, ironically on a dirty move.
Billy Zabka played such an amazingly convincing villain in The Karate Kid and Just One of the Guys that he had a very hard time shaking his unlikable screen persona. He was, quite simply, the ultimate '80s teenage badass.
He found occasional work in bit parts over the years, but it was a series of guest-starring spots on How I Met Your Mother, in which he played a fictionalized version of himself, that Zabka really seemed to shake Johnny Lawrence for good.
Daniel LaRusso was the everyman protagonist of The Karate Kid.
A new kid in a new school, LaRusso befriends Ali Mills, which attracts the ire of Johnny Lawrence and, by extension, the Cobra Kai dojo.
Because it always does in the movies, good prevails over evil in the end as LaRusso bests Lawrence in the final act. Even though he wins with a kick to the face and the only rule is...no kicks to the face.
Although he didn’t have quite as difficult of a time shedding Daniel LaRusso as Billy Zabka did shedding Johnny Lawrence, Ralph Macchio’s career definitely took a hit after the Karate Kid films because the audience was either unable or unwilling to separate him from his character.
Believe it or not, Macchio’s resurgence in recent years may have very well been thanks to a cameo on HBO’s Entourage in 2005. Macchio played a fictionalized version of himself who was the real troublemaker at the Playboy Mansion and the reason Johnny Drama was hit with a lifetime ban.
Not long after that, Macchio landed a regular role on the ABC comedy Ugly Betty and starred in the USA series Psych from 2010-14.