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  • - From that earliest age,

  • anytime I would see a movie I would come home and I would,

  • you know, act out my version of it.

  • Yes, I pretended to be Rocky Balboa, okay.

  • It's ironic I was in "The Karate Kid"

  • made by the same filmmaker.

  • Oh, I wanted to be a Michael Corleone,

  • but a nice Michael Corleone, [laughs] not a criminal.

  • So I think it's always been in my bones

  • to perform, to create in that way.

  • [upbeat instrumental music]

  • Hi, this is Ralph Macchio,

  • and this is the timeline of my career.

  • - Okay, here's what you gotta do.

  • Butch Academy is coming over here for the big dance.

  • [bottle screeching]

  • Hey pipe head, this is gonna take a lot of preparation

  • so pay attention.

  • - This was 1979 and there was this film called

  • "Up the Academy" that was casting.

  • And I had done a few commercials,

  • but a couple of Bubble Yum commercials at the time,

  • and this was one of the first movie auditions.

  • And I went in to New York City and I met with the director

  • whose name was Robert Downey Sr.

  • When I did my audition,

  • he just kept giving me more improvisational F bombs to drop.

  • I think he liked my sort of New York kinda young energy,

  • and the fact that I was 17 at the time,

  • I probably looked 12,

  • and I guess the repetitive F bombs coming out of my mouth

  • just had him laughing louder and louder.

  • So I pretty much got the audition saying a lot of F bombs

  • and being a tough New Yorker.

  • - No shit.

  • - It was a crazy time because you know '70s cinema

  • and those directors and that time,

  • there was a decent amount of drugs in the world

  • and on the sets,

  • and "Up the Academy" had its share of that

  • in the behind the scenes moments.

  • And I had no clue what was going on.

  • I was as green as they come.

  • I squeaked when I walked, that's how clean I was.

  • [upbeat instrumental music]

  • - They sure are pretty, aren't they?

  • - Yeah, they are.

  • - I'm really glad I came.

  • - Oh yeah, me too.

  • Sorry the party's such a drag,

  • it's just that the Bradford's know a lot of old people.

  • - I don't mind.

  • - ABC was doing a talent search in New York

  • I guess looking for young faces

  • to plug into their established series.

  • And I got lucky enough to be one that was chosen

  • and plucked from New York and plugged into

  • "Eight is Enough" at the time.

  • And apparently they didn't think eight was enough,

  • but I fortunately got to do 21 episodes that season.

  • It was the final season so I always say

  • I might've been nine was too many.

  • It was a great training ground for me

  • to week in and week out be part of this ensemble

  • and learn from all these experienced actors

  • and sort of be out on my own in Los Angeles at the time.

  • I mean I got the parts before I kinda knew what I was doing.

  • I mean I think I gotta give myself enough credit

  • that I knew enough of what I was doing.

  • So I dove deeper into the craft and studied acting

  • after "Eight is Enough" and right before "The Outsiders."

  • [upbeat instrumental music]

  • - Things would go a lot better if Socials stayed

  • on the south side of town.

  • - Yeah well, don't you worry about that, Johnny

  • because we're going to have it out

  • with them sooner or later.

  • - "The Outsiders" was a book I read in seventh grade

  • when I was 12 years old.

  • It was the first book I ever read without my parents

  • or teacher telling me to read.

  • I always had a great affinity for Johnny Cade,

  • maybe because his description was close to how I looked

  • and maybe because he was the sort of runt of the group

  • and I was kind of the smallest guy in my class.

  • So when I heard they were making the film, now I was saying,

  • "I gotta get in.

  • "I have to have the opportunity."

  • So on the day that I did get the opportunity to audition

  • for Francis Ford Coppola, who directed that film,

  • who directed, you know, "The Godfather" and "Apocalypse",

  • films that I've seen 25 to 40 times before then.

  • This was all beyond the dream come true opportunity for me,

  • and I remember Frances would mix and match actors

  • all in one room together

  • as he was looking for the chemistry and the ensemble.

  • And anytime he picked me to read anything but Johnny,

  • I was like, "Oh man, this is a disaster.

  • "I have to get that part."

  • I was so specifically driven to get that part.

  • And as luck would have it, or fate, or destiny, or whatever,

  • I got to play the role, a dream come true role for me

  • in a film that is, you know, has a pretty good cast.

  • Couple of guys.

  • I run into these guys over the years and we have,

  • whether it's Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe,

  • or Emilio, or C. Thomas Howell,

  • when we see each other there's a kindred spirit.

  • You know, we all kind of started at the same,

  • in the same place.

  • Everyone wanted to be in that movie.

  • It was, you know, the cool movie to get

  • and we were all blessed to have that opportunity.

  • And for me, it's like your first kiss.

  • It's your first girlfriend, you know.

  • You never forget that and that's "The Outsiders" for me.

  • It holds a very special place.

  • [coach chattering] [audience cheering]

  • - Finish him.

  • No mercy, no mercy.

  • Finish him.

  • [crowd cheering]

  • [dramatic instrumental music]

  • - "The Karate Kid" came to me as an audition

  • for John G. Avildsen, the director who had directed "Rocky",

  • among other great films,

  • and I remember hearing the title saying,

  • "'The Karate Kid', this is a terrible title."

  • And I read the script.

  • Not that I wasn't to pursue,

  • "The Outsiders" was just hitting at the time

  • so things were starting to build as far as my recognition.

  • It was the beginning of being taken seriously.

  • But I went to John Avildsen's apartment

  • on the Upper West Side and the whole way was all full

  • of other people who kinda looked remotely like me

  • or in that age range and waited my turn to go in.

  • And I read with him one-on-one,

  • and what's so interesting about that is that video

  • you could see on YouTube of the first time I ever read

  • for Daniel LaRusso,

  • and it's interesting when I watched that

  • because that character was happening there

  • even before I knew he was being developed.

  • I was cast early on and then it was all about

  • who was going to play Mr. Miyagi.

  • They were talking about Toshiro Mifune,

  • the great Japanese actor who didn't speak any English

  • so that would have been a challenge,

  • but all of a sudden, Arnold from "Happy Days" shows up

  • on videotape and Pat Morita

  • and the studio did not want him.

  • The producer did not want him.

  • I was like, "Arnold from 'Happy Days'."

  • You know, but John Avildsen was like, "I read him,"

  • and he said, "I've read you and I'm putting you guys

  • "in a room together."

  • And we, Pat Morita and I got in a room together

  • and just grabbed the pages, started reading.

  • And it was effortless.

  • The magic that happened on the screen

  • happened the first day we picked up the pages.

  • He had Miyagi in his skin, in his mind,

  • in his consciousness and I, for whatever the reason,

  • had the yin to that yang, the balance,

  • literally the balance.

  • Did I say it?

  • Balance that was sort of the beginning of the magic,

  • the cinema magic, that resonate to this day.

  • And the filming of "The Karate Kid" was a lot of work.

  • I mean I was in every scene of the thing

  • and I didn't know how that's ever gonna work.

  • I mean, it's me, you know.

  • You have to reference that the filmmakers knew exactly

  • what they were doing, but outside of that,

  • there still needs to be some lightning in a bottle,

  • some moons in proper alignment for something to stand

  • the test of time like "The Karate Kid" has in cinema

  • and also in pop culture.

  • Looking back, I weathered the storm.

  • It was a good storm and it still is.

  • It still is.

  • It's 36 years and climbing.

  • [crowd chattering]

  • - I'm not gonna be able to break that.

  • The guy who just tried it was twice my size,

  • he only got through two of them.

  • What do you expect me to do?

  • - Focus.

  • - Great, and what are you gonna do?

  • - Pray.

  • - So the point that we had an idea we were gonna be making

  • a "Karate Kid Part Two" happened pretty early.

  • We came out of seeing a sneak preview of "The Karate Kid"

  • and everybody out on sidewalk and the parking lot

  • was doing the crane stance.

  • They all were doing their version,

  • whether they were a 10 year old kid or a 60 year old man,

  • or, you know, it was, everybody was doing their version.

  • And the producer Jerry Weintraub put his arm

  • around my shoulder.

  • He goes, "We're gonna be making a couple of these."

  • That was before the movie ever came out in theaters.

  • It's really amazing.

  • It wasn't until it actually took off in the box office

  • and it became a sleeper hit of that summer

  • that we didn't get the option call

  • that we're making a part two.

  • It was such a smart idea to take the Okinawan culture,

  • Japanese-Sumerian culture,

  • and take Mr. Miyagi back to his homeland

  • and then bring the kid, bring LaRusso there

  • to experience that world.

  • Pat Morita and I, I always describe our on-camera,

  • off-camera as well, but our on-camera work

  • as having a soulful magic to it.

  • There was a great amount of mutual respect for each other.

  • Our relationship wasn't necessarily mentor-student

  • off camera, you know, 'cause he taught me how to eat sushi,

  • but I taught him how to make pasta,

  • you know what I'm talking about.

  • It was a friendship.

  • He's certainly missed but lucky for us

  • we have the legacy of that great performance

  • always and forever.

  • [melancholy instrumental music]

  • - Vin, you graduated from law school six years ago.

  • What have you been doing since?

  • - Studying for the bar.

  • - Six years?

  • - Uh-huh.

  • - Right before "My Cousin Vinny," well, a bit before that,

  • I was on Broadway with Robert De Niro

  • in a play called "Cuba and his Teddy Bear"

  • and Joe Pesci, I had met him 'cause he came to see the play

  • with Scorsese and all those...

  • It was just awesome for me as a young actor

  • in New York on Broadway.

  • And so then when "My Cousin Vinny" came up

  • with Joe Pesci starring,

  • and "Goodfellas" was out at the time, I think,

  • or just ending its run,

  • and I'd seen "Raging Bull" probably 70 times

  • in the theater.

  • Yes, I'm that guy. [chuckles]

  • But "Vinny" came up and I was not, you know,

  • okay, they need a guy, an Italian guy, college age,

  • an Italian American from the East Coast

  • to play Joe Pesci's cousin.