Daniel Larusso was my hero. 
A dorky kid takes matters into his own hands and battles the school
bullies.  In the end, he earns their respect,
wins the competition and gets the girl. 
Not bad for scrawny kid from Jersey. 

It wasn’t until I saw My Cousin Vinny that I realized it
was the same guy from The Karate Kid. 
Ralph Macchio.  It was weird
seeing him after all those years and after all of those horrible Karate Kid
sequels.  Well, come to think of it… I
sort of liked Karate Kid Part 2 simply because of the cheese factor.  In any case, I was sort of heartbroken to see
Macchio again.

Here was a kid who at one point in time (circa 1984) was
regarded as one of the most promising young actors in Hollywood.  I don’t think that was a mistake on anyone’s
part.  It’s hard to envision The Karate Kid
without Macchio because not just any actor could have pulled off the part.  We had to be convinced that he was a fully developed character, so when he finally turned into a Cobra Kai killer, we would
believe it as well.  And we did.  It also didn’t hurt that the film was the
tried, tested and true method of storytelling that revolves around the underdog. 
Everyone loves an underdog story. 

As much as Daniel Larusso was my hero when I was a youngling,
Johnny Cade from The Outsiders was the epitome of cool.  Yes, more often than not his big mouth would
get him into trouble with the rival gang, but the kid was a bulldog and would
never back down from a fight.  The fact
that I remember Macchio most from The Outsiders says a lot about his
abilities as an actor.  I mean, look at
the cast; unknowns at the time, who are now big Hollywood
players.  There are only two actors from
the film who have failed to rekindle the magic from their earlier years for
some bizarre reason.  Macchio is one of

He’s an actor who has seemingly eternal young looks, which in
an industry and profession so obsessed with image, seems like a perfect
match.  Even though his range is limited,
he’s strong enough of an actor to truly impress.  He’s known for playing underdogs.  Even in My Cousin Vinny he was the
underdog, requiring the services of his cousin to deal with a particularly sticky legal battle. 

Perhaps the reason why Macchio can’t burst through the walls
of mainstream cinema is because the roles of Daniel Larusso and Johnny Cade were just as harmful to
his career as they were beneficial.  He
would forever be typecast as the Master of the Crane or as a smart ass greaser,
which I’m sure made it difficult for producers to see him in any other

But at the same time, and maybe I’m completely wrong here, Macchio
should’ve demanded more mature roles as he got older.  I’m sure the payday for the Karate Kid
films were hefty for him (he really needed some convincing in order to return for Karate Kid Part 3),
which probably clouded his decision to think of the long term development of his

Also, how ironic would it be to discover that his boyish looks are what
truly prevented him from becoming an actor on the same level as his Outsiders
costars?  As I’ve said time and time
again, Hollywood is a weird place. 
Certain decisions are made for no particular reason, while careers can
be destroyed just as quickly as they are made. 
Ralph Macchio is an actor stuck in limbo, so no matter how hard he
tries, no matter what job he tackles (actor, writer, director or producer) he
will always be Johnny Cade or Daniel Larusso. 
Not just to me, but to millions around the world.  I don’t know about you, but I find that
incredibly bittersweet.