NEW YORK, Oct. 14 (UPI) -- Actor Ralph Macchio admits he and producer Jerry Weintraub were initially skeptical that the late Pat Morita would be right to play the title character's sage mentor in 1984's The Karate Kid because of his role as a diner owner on the 1950s-set sitcom Happy Days.
Macchio, now 52, talked about Morita's casting Sunday at a New York Comic Con panel discussion celebrating the 30th anniversary of the beloved movie. Also taking part in the event were Karate Kid co-stars William Zabka and Martin Kove.
Macchio recalled Weintraub saying before Morita came in to read for the part of Kesuke Miyagi, "I don't want this guy -- Arnold from Happy Days -- in this movie."
Macchio then confessed, "I felt kind of the same way," explaining how he thought at the time an actor from a classic Akira Kurosawa film would be more appropriate.
"It was a big character... So, when Arnold from Happy Days walked in with his little pot belly, I said the same thing until they said, 'Action!' and this character just emerged, that had this great humor, and heart and soul, and yet he was the ultimate teacher. He was the human Yoda to my young Skywalker."
Morita played Miyagi in The Karate Kid, The Karate Kid, Part II and The Karate Kid, Part III opposite Macchio, then in The Next Karate Kid with Hilary Swank. He earned an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Miyagi in the first Karate Kid and died in 2005 at the age of 73.