Catching Up With Ralph Macchio
How to explain the duality of Ralph Macchio? One of his first film performances, as raspy-voiced, tentative Johnny Cade in 1983's "The Outsiders," hit a magic sweet spot channeling teen angst, insecurity and purity through the lens of S.E. Hinton's tale of warring gangs in 1960's Tulsa. Macchio became the sacrifice made to the altar of innocence and the performances of a microcosm of young Hollywood talent (Tom Cruise, Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze, Diane Lane, C. Thomas Howell, Emilio Estevez) all spun around his unassuming axis.
But, as we learned in "The Outsiders," nothing gold can stay and Macchio spent the remainder of the '80s utterly subsumed by his role as plucky karate wannabe Daniel LaRusso in the wax on-wax off "Karate Kid" trilogy (except for 1986's guitar-nerd flick "Crossroads"). By 1989's third installment, an initially endearing story was hopelessly corrupted by what became a formulaic underdog tale set to a cheesy Peter Cetera soundtrack.
As other "Outsiders" alums were well on their way to major box office success (Swayze), brat-pack status (Howell) and even bona fide stardom (Cruise), Macchio languished, stuck in a fresh-faced limbo. That's when Macchio defied typecasting to star in 1992's "My Cousin Vinny," ably holding his own on screen with Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei (who won a best supporting actress Oscar for her role).
Then, on the verge of what seemed to be a comeback, Macchio effectively disappeared until a hilariously self-ridiculing surprise cameo on HBO's "Entourage" in 2005.
What else has Macchio been up to lately? I e-mailed him over the weekend to find out. After the jump, read on to find out about his latest project with "Karate Kid" co-star Billy Zabka, a possible return to "Entourage" and more...
Liz: Okay, let's start with the present and work our way back. What are you up to these days?
Ralph Macchio: I've been juggling some projects behind the camera as producer/director/writer. About to pitch a reality series and also focusing on scripted projects for teens and tweens. Some I will be involved on camera as well... depending. Acted in a new series coming this spring on Starz called "Head Case." Also a fun music video (cameo) for those "Karate Kid" fans in the audience. (Sweeptheleg.com)
Liz: How did you end up on "Entourage?" Did you actually know Kevin Dillon from back in the day or does your relationship begin and end with Johnny Drama?
RM: I've know Kevin for years. His brother Matt and I were in "The Outsiders" together... and have remained friends. Drama's a fantastic character and he just nails it. Very happy for Kevin.
Any chance of seeing you make a repeat appearance?
RM: Spoken to the head writer. The door is open... nothing set. I had a blast.
Liz: You also recently acted in Artie Lange's "Beer League." What was it like working with Howard Stern's sidekick?
RM: Artie is a very talented guy. So instinctually funny. I envy that. He's hilarious. How he treats himself... well, that's another story. How he treated me... he was awesome.. Very appreciative toward me for doing the film.
Liz: Artie is struggling with his weight -- pushing 300 pounds. Do you have any advice for Artie on how to stay in shape? You've managed to stay in good shape. What's your secret? Karate?
RM: Wear loose fitting clothes! Karate is too much work and pain. :-)
Liz: Billy Zabka? Jerk or nice guy in real life?
RM: Good guy... He directed and stars in the Sweep The Leg music video... take a look.
Liz: You played a central role in one of the best movies produced in the '80s -- "Up the Academy." I kid. Seriously, I mean "The Outsiders." The movie was one of your earliest film roles -- what was the biggest lesson you took away from the experience and what was it like to be a part of such a talented group of young actors (Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise, C. Thomas Howell, Rob Lowe)? Who did you get along with best?
RM: The main lesson from working on "The Outsiders" was the use of improv during the rehersal process... we stayed with the script on film but in rehersals we really played around and found very real organic elements to bring to our characters... gotta credit Coppola for that. And some big time young talented actors. My favorite role... read the book as a kid and played the part I wanted. A home run for me.
Liz: What Internet sites are daily must-reads for you?
RM: I'm Boring. Industry trades -- Variety, Hollywood Reporter, News... and I do check iTunes to see how my short film is doing -- "Love Thy Brother" ... I wrote and directed a few years back.
Liz: Any advice for younger actors today looking to transition into more adult roles -- for instance Dakota Fanning ("Hounddog") and Daniel Radcliffe ("Harry Potter"), who have recently taken some heat for some racier choices?
RM: It's a tough transition. I can vouch; but keep moving and don't give up. Always have to reinvent, whether as an actor or director. Sometimes I do find a drastic racy choice could backfire as just trying to make noise. Bottom line: It's always about the quality of material at the end of the day.
| February 6, 2007; 10:43 AM ET
Categories: Catching Up With..., Celebrities
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