Addressing his first guest on Tuesday’s Late Show, Stephen Colbert marveled to once and seemingly forever Karate Kid kid Ralph Macchio, “You look like Ralph Macchio.” And say what you will about 52-year-old Paul Rudd, but the Cobra Kai star is, indeed, the spitting image of the gangly Daniel LaRusso, if not from the original Karate Kid, then certainly the 1989 Karate Kid Part III version. Macchio bashfully credited the Ed Sullivan Theater lighting crew for making the now-sexagenarian look like that karate stuff also functions as the fountain of perpetual youth, as Colbert brought out a photo of Macchio and nurse practitioner wife Phyllis, who just celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary.
Colbert (somehow three years younger than his guest) had more than one thing to feel jealous about, however. And while the fact that the long-delayed and improbably successful Karate Kid spinoff series Cobra Kai is Netflix’s number one series and is rocking a 100 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes (and garnering a healthy esteem from The A.V. Club) might be cause for a little late middle-aged envy, it was one particular movie prop that Colbert was especially green over.
That being the 1947 Ford Super Deluxe Convertible that Daniel famously (and unknowingly) practiced his martial arts defense upon in the original film. Macchio recalled hinting around about his love for the gorgeously shiny (thanks to him) vintage automobile around the sets of the first two films, before being presented with the machine after Karate Kid Part III wrapped. And whether you call the Maize Yellow antique the “balance car” (Colbert) or the “wax on, wax off” car (Macchio), the vehicle is apparently just as well preserved as its driver. (Macchio also deferred credit there, too, thanking the Cobra Kai “superfan” showrunners for restoring his prized possession to its wonted glory.)
Nostalgia aside, Macchio joked that returning to the character he first played some 38 years ago was all part of the plan all along. Colbert asked if Daniel-san (so nicknamed by the late Pat Morita’s Mr. Miyagi) is how he’s most recognized these days, with Macchio admitting that Cobra Kai’s unexpected popularity still sees him fending off “Sweep the leg!,” chants on the street from time to time. Still, S.E. Hinton’s enduring popularity on high school reading lists ensures a steady complement of high school girls excited to meet Johnny Cade, while Brooklyn occasionally rings with “youts” from My Cousin Vinny. (It would appear that admirers of Crossroads’ Eugene Martone are much more reticent as a rule.)