Karate Kid Writer Says Studio Wanted to Cut Mr. Miyagi’s Most Important Scene
Pop culture has presented us with many wise mentor-type characters, from Yoda to Gandalf. One of the most beloved characters from that type is Pat Morita as Mr. Miyagi, Daniel LaRusso’s karate instructor in The Karate Kid. The most emotional scene in the movie is when Mr. Miyagi opens up to Daniel about the loss of his wife and son in childbirth at the Manzanar internment camp while he was serving with the 442nd Infantry Regiment during World War II in Europe, for which he received the Medal of Honor. Rober Mark Kamen, the writer of The Karate Kid series, recently revealed to Uproxx that the studio wanted to cut the scene out entirely.
“The big creative battle was to keep the scene with Mr. Miyagi drunk and talking about his ex-wife, which is going to play a very significant part in the stage play. Columbia wanted to cut it out of the movie. And despite what he said later, Jerry Weintraub was all ready to cut it. “I don’t care. It slows the story down, blah, blah, blah.” And I said, “This is the heart of the movie.” John Avildsen and I felt that way. I went right to Frank and I played my mentor card. I said, “Frank, please, I’m begging you. Test it with this. If it doesn’t work, you can take it out.” He did, and it worked. It pissed everybody off. I didn’t go through channels.”
Thankfully, Robert Mark Kamen won that battle, and the scene stayed in the picture. Due to that scene, Mr. Miyagi, who had seemed like an enigmatic character up to that point whose only purpose was to teach Daniel karate, became a flesh-and-blood character with his own past and his own regrets. This attention to emotional character beats is what made The Karate Kid a cult classic, and it is the same lesson that the makers of its spinoff series, Cobra Kai learned as well. According to Kamen, he was surprised to see how closely the makers of the show followed the mythology and interpersonal relationships from the movies.
The genius of the Cobra Kai guys is that they shamelessly stole and mined these movies to fit in with what they wanted to do, which, watching season three and how they got the girl who Daniel saved in the watchtower during the typhoon to be the regional head of whatever the auto dealership was, I just thought that was brilliant. I didn’t even remember that sequence. We needed something to lead up to saving Sato and Miyagi’s relationship and needed something for Daniel to do that was heroic. I just made that stuff up. And when we did it, I looked at it, and I turned to John and said, “This is never going to fly.” And he said, “No, this is great.”
Cobra Kai stars William Zabka, Ralph Macchio, Courtney Henggeler, Xolo Maridueña, Mary Mouser, Tanner Buchanan, Jacob Bertrand, Gianni DeCenzo, Peyton List, and Martin Kove. All three seasons are available to stream on Netflix. This story originated at Uproxx.