After a 40 minute wait to get in, the panel ended up starting about 20 minutes late because Ralph Macchio, William Zabka, and Martin Kove were stuck in traffic. Everyone was glad when they finally came in and the panelists were glad to be there as well. They first talked about getting involved with The Karate Kid. Kove said that he had been sent the script but didn’t get time to read it ahead of his audition. He was pissed off and used that anger for his audition, and it helped him get his part of John Kreese. Macchio said that he thought the title was silly but still went ahead and auditioned for his role of Daniel LaRusso. He knew he became a frontrunner for the role when he was asked to start taking karate lessons. Zabka first joked that he wasn’t even born when the movie came out and wasn’t sure how he got to be in the movie. He then added, in seriousness, that he had been offered to audition for his part of Johnny Lawrence. He said that the scene for his audition was one that was eventually cut from the film (in it, Zabka hands Macchio a death certificate right before the tournament). Macchio described his work with Pat Morita as “soulful magic.”
Macchio mentioned that producer Jerry Weintraub initially didn’t want Morita but rather Toshiro Mifune to play Kesuke Miyagi. Mifune ended up being unavailable, and it wasn’t until Morita brought the character to life in his audition that Weintraub felt comfortable with him playing the role. Kove mentioned that he loved working with Morita in their few scenes together. Zabka said that they filmed the fence fight with Morita for two weeks, and that Morita had helped him improve during their rehearsal. Macchio talked about the final fight in the tournament. The Cobra Kai merchandise was mentioned (Kove was actually wearing a Cobra Kai T-shirt, which he said he only wears at conventions). Macchio talked about his first reading with Elisabeth Shue (director John G. Avildsen described them as “Strawberry Shortcake and the cannoli”). They mentioned that the major female roles from the first film were essentially dropped from the franchise. Macchio said that he felt Shue had been shortchanged by the franchise. Zabka’s cameo in 2010’s Hot Tub Time Machine was briefly mentioned, as well as his guest appearances on How I Met Your Mother.
Kove talked about how the original film resonated with people back then and still does to this day. He also gave praise to screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen. Macchio liked that the story worked on a human level. Zabka was happy to be a part of a film that has had a cultural impact, praising the various elements that came together to help make the film work. He even said that the film is now our film; that it belongs to us now. Macchio mentioned that he never had to deal with anyone trying to beat him up after the film came out. He mentioned that he had five weeks of training for the first film, and more time for training for The Karate Kid Part II since Daniel was supposed to be better in the sequel. Zabka said he had trained hard for the first film and didn’t need to for his cameo in the sequel. He mentioned the music video he directed a few years ago for the band No More Kings called Sweep the Leg and how he had gotten most of the original cast members from The Karate Kid to make cameos (including Macchio and Kove). Kove talked about the stories he’s heard from people about how The Karate Kid positively affected the world of martial arts and people in general. They then thanked us for coming and being patient with them.