It’s always fun to play “what if” with famous actors and films. Like, what if Johnny Depp was never Captain Jack Sparrow and Jack Black was cast instead? It's likely that a VERY different movie would be the result. Almost all movies have the potential to be completely changed with a casting decision, but the stakes seem to get higher when we’re talking about an iconic cult classic film like 1984's The Karate Kid. Apparently, the martial arts drama could have had a few different outcomes if the casting director had chosen differently, and Robert Downey Jr. is one of a few surprising stars who almost played Daniel LaRusso in the movies, instead of Ralph Macchio.
Ralph Macchio has a great deal of love for The Karate Kid and is always open to discussing behind-the-scenes tidbits and clearing up any rumors in the process. For instance, he actor recently explained that although he was cast early on, he wasn’t confirmed for the role until other teen stars auditioned - these stars including Robert Downey Jr and Charlie Sheen. In Macchio’s own words:
I was found early, I was cast very early, but it was like one of those test deals where you’re not in yet. I remember walking by and seeing Charlie Sheen hanging out outside Jerry Weintraub’s bungalow, thinking, ‘What’s Charlie doing here?’ Nic Cage, I think, and Robert Downey Jr. Robert Downey Jr. also did the workshop of the part I did in The Outsiders.
Based on his recent comments on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Ralph Macchio can remember his audition process (and the actors he was up against) clearly. Although all were dark-haired and around the same age, these actors would have been very different Daniel LaRussos. In fact, I would pay so much money to see Nicolas Cage in a full-length alternate Karate Kid film.
When the casting for The Karate Kid happened, all of these major actors were just getting their feet wet in their careers -- except Robert Downey Jr who is a Hollywood marvel and landed his first film credit at 5 years old in one of his father’s films. Macchio, who already had a big role in The Outsiders, was shortlisted for his Daniel LaRusso part.
Even though they missed out on playing in The Karate Kid, Robert Downey Jr, Charlie Sheen, and Nicolas Cage later went off to star in their own iconic movies, Sheen was even cast in the cult classic Red Dawn that same year. Robert Downey Jr. would appear in Weird Science a year later, and Nicolas Cage... well, Nic Cage has been pumping out a few movies a year since then.
Not only would The Karate Kid be drastically different with another casting choice for the titular role, but the sequel series Cobra Kai would have a completely different vibe as well. Could you imagine Tony Stark suiting up in a Karategi? Actually, I’d pay money for that one, too.
Everything happens for a reason though, and we have a great Karate Kid series with Ralph Macchio as the lead, and he continues to play the role impeccably in the new new series. Season 3 of Cobra Kai just released on Netflix earlier this month, but we already know we can expect Season 4 and possibly more. Let's hope the fourth season arrives sometime next year.