When he first hit movie theaters as the young Daniel Larusso in "The Karate Kid", Ralph Macchio never imagined how much of an impact the role would have on his life. Now, almost 30 years later, the seemingly ageless actor is still being reminded of how he took the tedious task of waxing an automobile and turned it into a part of American pop-culture.
It's his contribution to pop-culture that has earned him a spot as a featured guest at this weekend's Wizard World Chicago Comic Con, which will be running at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont IL.
Prior to coming to Chicago, Macchio spoke with me via via telephone. We discussed what it's like to be remembered for The Karate Kid; having a sense of humor about being "forever young"; his upcoming return to the television series "Psych"; other projects he has in the works; and dealing with cyber bullies. He also answers a question that he has never been asked before!:
(The following is the unedited transcript to the interview featured in REDEYE August, 9 2013.)
Geek To Me: You’re coming to Chicago for Wizard World Comic Con-
Ralph Macchio: Yes, I haven’t done it before, and I hear it’s a great convention. It’s something I normally don’t do. I love meeting fans and stuff, but you get so busy with your schedule that sometimes it doesn’t work out. But this one, timing wise, worked out. I love that city, and so any excuse I can get to get to Chicago, I’ll do it. And I’ll get to meet a bunch of people. It should be a lot of fun.
G2M: The Wizard World convention started as a comic convention, but like many of this type, it has expanded to include all of pop culture. So my question is, how does it feel to be a prominent part of pop culture right now?
Ralph Macchio: It’s interesting. I get asked that and it just feels odd to me that a comic con came to me. They have a bunch of times over the years, and for whatever reason it didn’t time out, but I didn’t understand the concept of someone coming to me, and not like someone who wrote Superman. Or who played some X-Men character. And so it didn’t make sense.
But as time has gone on, when you look at some of these films that I was fortunate enough to be in, whether it be “The Outsiders” becoming a cult-classic - in it’s way and certainly that cast of actors - and “The Karate Kid” for that matter, being certainly a character that’s become somewhat iconic. Speaking to the fact that people feel like they grew up with that character, it’s part of their childhood.
And even now “My Cousin Vinnie” and some of the others, I now fall in a category where you represent a part of someone’s life, a part of someone’s upbringing, that they connected to. With “The Karate Kid” especially, there’s been so many references, and visual images from that film, you know? Who knew that “Wax on, wax off” would become part of the American lexicon? That “Sweep the leg, “Put him in a body bag,” the crane kick, would be something that spans thirty years of time? That generations still knows what it means?
G2M: Speaking of “wax on, wax off” you had a little bit of fun with that with your “Funny or Die” bit -
Ralph Macchio: Yeah, I love that video. (laughs) I had a good time with that. I pitched that to them. I’ve always been asked to play either versions of myself, or poke fun at myself, and I just always knew if I was going to do it, it was going to be on my terms. So I was able to do that and put a great team together and made what I think is a really funny and smart video.
G2M: And how did the bit with Robot Chicken come about?
Ralph Macchio: That came about because Seth Green and those guys just called up. And so many people had done it, sometimes I hesitate because you have to be careful it doesn’t become a tired, one-joke idea. But the Robot Chicken guys, they’re very clever, and asked if I wanted to do it. I had just done “How I Met Your Mother” which sort of touched on “The Karate Kid” legacy, and Neil Patrick Harris’ character’s hatred for me, which I got to share a whole night at his bachelor party, was a whole lot of fun.
So that stuff, when it comes up and it’s smart, I think it’s really worth doing. I think the fans really love it. Just like this comic-con thing. They love to hearken back to that time and connect. It makes you present and feel young again, that’s what it is.
G2M: Since you bring it up, I have to ask: seriously, how do you do it? How do you stay so young looking? Because if you have a secret, you can make a lot of money off of it.
Ralph Macchio: I know, I have to come up with this sort of fictitious product. I need to find one. Yeah, I’ve gotta blame it on my parents, I guess and my grandparents. I sort of tipped the scale (laughs) I break the mold in the youthful appearance thing. It doesn’t always feel that way when I get out of bed in the morning -
Ralph Macchio: I said that in the (Funny or Die) “wax on” video. Maybe I should go with a face cream or something. I do live a decently healthy life. But that doesn’t mean I pass on every alcoholic beverage and glass of wine that comes my way. I enjoy indulging here and there, so maybe it’s that. Maybe it’s moderation, I don’t know. But I’ve always had that youthful energy. I don’t always feel it, my wife and kids are like “why don’t we get that guy that everybody else sees?” (laughs)