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Posted at 10:43 AM ET, 02/ 6/2007

Catching Up With Ralph Macchio

By Liz Kelly


Ralph Macchio. (Getty Images)

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.


(Courtesy Warner Bros.)

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.

Resources:
Ralph Macchio at IMDB.com
YouTube: "Outsiders" trailer
YouTube: "Karate Kid" clip

By Liz Kelly  | February 6, 2007; 10:43 AM ET
Categories:  Catching Up With..., Celebrities  
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Comments

Are you sure you didn't mean Estevez for the brat pack member? I know C. Thomas Howell is kind of a member, but you picked him over Emilio

Posted by: Anonymous | February 6, 2007 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Ralph: You're the best around, and I hope that nothing's gonna ever keep you down!

Posted by: Xopher | February 6, 2007 11:55 AM | Report abuse

How could your forget Ralph: The Eight is Enough Years? Am I the only one that remembers he was that show's Cousin Oliver?

Posted by: ep | February 6, 2007 12:41 PM | Report abuse

I saw Macchio on stage in Ohio a few years ago as the lead of the touring version of "How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying." He was surprisingly good.

Posted by: Alexandria, VA Guy | February 6, 2007 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Ralph and family used to live on the North Shore of Long Island (may still) and he brought his kid or kids (I forget) down to the firehouse for the Fire Prevention Open House a few years ago (maybe five or six at this point). Since most of the people there had no clue who he was, he fit right in.

Posted by: Columbia, MD | February 6, 2007 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Oh Liz. Not to nitpick with your intro, but I have to agree with the first poster that C. Thomas Howell does not really qualify as brat pack material and yet, Emilio Estevez is a charter member (Breakfast Club, St. Elmo's Fire). How'd you miss that?

As for the Karate Kid movies - you make it sound as if being subsumed by the Daniel LaRusso character is a bad thing. The Karate Kid was an awesome movie - oscar nomination and all. I'm sucked in every time it comes on cable. Banzai Danielson!!

By the way, the Peter Cetera soundtrack ruined the second movie and the third (and gulp, fourth) movie NEVER HAPPENED!! I repeat, it NEVER HAPPENED!!

Posted by: Dug | February 6, 2007 3:00 PM | Report abuse

I love Ralph Macchio! And he's so hottttt! Thanks for a great post.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 6, 2007 3:41 PM | Report abuse

more nitpicking: Cousin Oliver (Robbie Rist) was on the Brady Bunch, not Eight Is Enough, though Cousin Oliver did have the same hairdo as the youngest kid on EIE.

Posted by: Alex VA | February 6, 2007 7:31 PM | Report abuse

What about Rob Lowe (sodapop)?

Posted by: Gary | February 6, 2007 7:39 PM | Report abuse

Yes EP, you are the only one who remembers Ralph played Cousin Oliver - He played Jeremy. Oliver was a late addition to fill the void of the "cute little kid" when Adam Rich started toward puberty.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 6, 2007 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for this interview!!! I have to admit, I am an unabashed Ralph Macchio fan. I was an 80s kid, so Ralph Macchio was the center of my kid universe.

I am disapointed that Crossroads hasn't been released on DVD, I would buy that in a second -- that movie is a definite guilty pleasure of mine.

And Dug, I totally agree with you, Karate Kid IV never happened. A friend got me those movies for Christmas when they were released on DVD, and had to buy them individually to make sure the 4th was wasn't in my possession -- I would've run it over with the car.

Posted by: Kristin | February 6, 2007 8:00 PM | Report abuse

All you people who said I was wrong -- I WAS MAKING AN ANALOGY. Read it again. I said he was the Cousin Oliver on that show as in the extra kid brought in to save the show. Do you all know that Chicken of the Sea is tuna fish not chicken?

Posted by: ep | February 6, 2007 8:04 PM | Report abuse

I have an even more obscure Ralph Macchio role..he played a compilation character of my husband and all his siblings in a made for TV movie with Beau Bridges around 1980 or so. I think it was called " Dangerous Company" but I'm not real sure about that. It was based on a book called "Too Dangerous To Be At Large" which was written by my husband's stepfather Ray Johnson about his time in and out of prison.

Posted by: Paula | February 6, 2007 10:29 PM | Report abuse

Karate Kid part one transcends generations. It was my favorite movie in elementary school and my four-year-old is now mesmerized by the crane technique Daniel Larusso employs at the end of the movie (now 20 years later). Macchio is still a legend, in my mind, for the performance he delivered in that movie. Long live Karate Kid.

Posted by: Brad Hartley | February 7, 2007 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Kristin - Remember when you were a teen and you hung an 8x10 glossy pic of Ralph on your bedroom wall????

Well, I remember you finding that picture *years* later still on your wall....and I know, even years later, it was hard for you to take it down.

Posted by: Kelly | February 7, 2007 8:49 PM | Report abuse

I think Ralph is GORGEOUS. And a good actor. Deserves more recognition. He looks fabulous.

Posted by: Alexi | February 8, 2007 8:31 PM | Report abuse

For the people who are saying Karate Kid 4 never happened, actually it did but Ralph did not star in it, Pat Morita co-starred with Hilary swank.


And Crossroads is out on DVD but it's kind of hard to find. I know because I have the DVD in my possession. I think maybe some place you can find it are at Best Buy or probably on Ebay.

Posted by: Larissa | February 10, 2007 9:14 AM | Report abuse

I think I know what EP is trying to say. she means Ralph was an extra put in to save the show just as Robbie Rust was put in to save the Brady Bunch. She wasn't saying that Ralph was cousin Oliver.

Posted by: Laura | February 10, 2007 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Glad to see something Ralph related,miss his talent. He is so handsome and so underused.

Carol

Posted by: Carol | February 11, 2007 9:02 PM | Report abuse

I agree with all seniments that KK4 was not even close to being in the same league as the first two. But on the other hand, that was the movie which first introduced Hllary Swank. Of all the actors in the entire series, she is the only one who currently has a solid career.

I'm not saying that is right, but it's just funny how Hollywood works.

Posted by: Mike P | February 14, 2007 11:49 AM | Report abuse

I agree with all seniments that KK4 was not even close to being in the same league as the first two. But on the other hand, that was the movie which first introduced Hllary Swank. Of all the actors in the entire series, she is the only one who currently has a solid career.

I'm not saying that is right, but it's just funny how Hollywood works.

Posted by: Mike P | February 14, 2007 11:55 AM | Report abuse

I love all the Karate Kid Movies-they were great and I enjoy watching each one. Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita were great together-
The 4th one is my least favorite of the set-however, Pat Morita was excellent--He played his character extremely well in all of them. In my opinion, they were wholesome
family movies--it would be nice if today we had more such movies around to watch that are "family viewing" type. Each had a good message as we watched Danny Laruso learn his life's lessons and being mentored by Mr. Myagi.

Posted by: Rebecca Q † | February 20, 2007 12:59 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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