‘The Karate Kid’: Jaden Smith’s Potential for Romance in the Remake Concerned Original Star Ralph Macchio

The Karate Kid didn’t just make Ralph Macchio’s career. It has stayed with him for decades. So naturally, the actor — who reprises Daniel LaRusso on Netflix hit Cobra Kai — has always been a bit protective. When news broke that Jaden Smith would lead the 2010 remake, Macchio wasn’t shy about voicing his concerns about this new version of his classic 1984 movie.

Jaden Smith at a red carpet event for 'The Karate Kid'
Jaden Smith at a red carpet event for ‘The Karate Kid’ | Jose Perez GEGUNDEZ/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Jaden Smith starred in the 2010 remake of ‘The Karate Kid’

By the 2000s, The Karate Kid franchise had been dormant for years. Macchio didn’t even return for the fourth film in the original run, 1994’s The Next Karate Kid. Instead, Pat Morita’s Mr. Miyagi took on a new pupil in Hilary Swank’s Julie Pierce. But with Morita’s death in 2005, the time felt right for a fresh start. And in Hollywood, that meant a remake was in the works.

Producers Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith scooped up the franchise rights, which would be reimagined for their son Jaden Smith. Initially, it was unclear if the movie would be a straight remake of the original 1984 film. In the end, the 2010 Karate Kid tells its own story. Smith plays a new character, Dre, who moves to China and learns martial arts from Mr. Han (Jackie Chan).

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Jaden Smith’s age made original star Ralph Macchio worried

Cobra Kai continues the original continuity of The Karate Kid franchise. And because the 2010 remake introduces new characters, its producers have ruled out appearances by Chan and Smith. But before the movie hit theaters, Macchio had doubts about Smith’s casting. As he told MTV News in 2009, it wasn’t the actor specifically he took issue with but his age.

“Listen, here’s my take on it. I think Jaden – you know, Will Smith’s kid — the kid’s got chops. He’s young; he’s like eleven…That story will work forever, when well-told. So, it makes sense in that respect. … I don’t know where the romantic story arc goes at that age. … [The Karate Kid remake is] going to be interesting, from the respect that I think if they intend on copying some of the elements that are still present now (it won’t be easy).”

To Macchio’s point, the love story involving Daniel and Ali (Elisabeth Shue) is a key factor in his rivalry with Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka). And it’s possible at some point that the remake would have aimed to duplicate that dynamic. But director Harald Zwart took the concept in a different direction, customizing The Karate Kid for the much-younger Smith.

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What did Ralph Macchio think of ‘The Karate Kid’ remake?

When The Karate Kid remake finally released, it was a huge commercial success. According to Box Office Mojo, the movie earned $359 million worldwide. As for Macchio, he opened up about his own thoughts on the remake during a 2011 interview on the Covino & Rich Show

“I think that they did a good job of reimagining that story in contemporary times. It is very much the same exact story, very different movie. I will say this though the remake that it did well, only enhanced the legacy of the pop culture of what the original was to the point where that movie is on — the original is on — all the time. Every generation, you know, revisits it.”

While a sequel reuniting Smith and Chan has long been in development, the original cast of The Karate Kid has been revisiting their iconic character. Cobra Kai Season 4 is currently filming and will likely debut on Netflix in early 2022.