» Avildsen’s Underdogs Live On in an Original Karate Kid Reboot

A reason to live: a 21st century update on one of director John G. Avildsen’s most famous underdogs. YouTube Red will present Cobra Kai, a ten-episode sequel to the original 1984 film, The Karate Kid.

The Hollywood Reporter exclusively broke the news of the straight-to-series sequel, with stars Ralph Macchio (Daniel LaRusso) and William Zabka (Johnny Lawrence) reprising their original roles. The two sat for a press conference after making a surprise appearance at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. The actors remained friends during the thirty years that had passed since the original film (which included three successful sequels and a 2010 reboot). Entertainment Weekly called the original Karate Kid one of the 50 best high school films of all time (#40).

Our documentary, John G. Avildsen: King of the Underdogs, includes a behind-the-scenes look at the original Karate Kid, and how its underdog theme forever connected with audiences.

In addition to all three original Karate Kid movies, John G. Avildsen’s films include the original Rocky, as well as Save The Tiger and Joe. His gift for underdog stories inspired millions of filmgoers and influenced popular culture for decades (yet Avildsen is barely a household name). He received a Best Director Oscar for his work in Rocky; in all, he directed seven actors to Academy Award nominations. This includes The Karate Kid‘s Pat Morita, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 1985 for his role as teacher Mr. Miyagi.

The story takes place three decades after the original All Valley Karate Tournament. A down-and-out Lawrence seeks redemption by reopening the Cobra Kai karate dojo, which reignites a rivalry with LaRusso.

The series is written and produced by Josh Heald (Hot Tub Time Machine) along with Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg (Harold and Kumar).

Here is their recently issued statement: “Like everyone who grew up in the 1980s, the three of us are enormous fans of The Karate Kid​. Cobra Kai​ will be a true continuation of the original films — packed with comedy, heart and thrilling fight scenes. We can’t wait to reignite the LaRusso-Lawrence rivalry, and we’re thankful to our partners at YouTube Red, Sony Pictures Television and Overbrook for their shared enthusiasm in making our dream project a reality.”

Macchio zeroed in on the underdog theme of his character, telling The Hollywood Reporter: “[Daniel has] become very successful and maybe has lost a little bit of touch — he needs to have flaws, and he had flaws as a kid and he will have them as an adult. His heart is always in the right place. As I’ve done at 50-something years old, there comes a time where part of your life creates some challenges: raising teenagers, trying to handle your successful business and having your nemesis come back 30 years later [that] keep you up at night just because of the importance of carrying on the Miyagi legacy. Then how Daniel’s wife will embrace or not embrace this new chapter of him now going back to the dojo. I’m looking forward to that evolution.”

Zabka’s character, Johnny Lawrence, is usually depicted as the bad guy, but in this series he will have an underdog story of his own. He tells The Hollywood Reporter: “Through this show, you get to see who he was and where he came from. I never saw Johnny as a bad guy; I always saw him as the antagonist but at his core, he had a good heart. At the beginning of the first movie, he said he had one year to make it all work and that’s what he wanted to do. He was an ex-degenerate. Then LaRusso comes in town and turns his world upside down. At the very end, he hands him a trophy and says, ‘You’re all right, LaRusso.’ He has a good heart and they tap into that in the show. You’re going to empathize with him. He’s still tough and rough around the edges, but it’s a really smart and fun take on it and I think it’ll be really entertaining.”

The ten half-hour episodes are set to stream in 2018.

Click here to find out more about our documentary, John G. Avildsen: King of the Underdogs.

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