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The Valley as Seen in The Karate Kid — Then and Now
(by Jared Cowan laweekly.com 6-16-14)
The Karate Kid shot for 45 days in the fall of 1983 in Los Angeles, primarily on location in the San Fernando Valley. It was the perfect setting for a suburban-based film dealing with the class divide. The 1980s Valley receives a rich and detailed portrayal in the film, and it successfully conveys a strong sense of place. Referring to the locations, William Zabka, who played villain Johnny Lawrence in the film, says, "When you get on a set, all that you did in rehearsal, and all that you do to prep, takes on a new life because that location is almost a character itself and it adds to the energy of the scene, and you feed off that."
To commemorate the 30th anniversary of The Karate Kid, we visited the original L.A. filming locations to see how they look in 2014.
Special thanks to The Karate Kid's executive producer, R.J. Louis, and location manager Richard Davis Jr., as well as Chas Demster of ItsFilmedThere.com and Nick Alaway of Fast-Rewind.com, for providing information and addresses for The Karate Kid filming locations.
Jun 30, 2016
Daniel LaRusso's apartment building, the South Seas at 19223 Saticoy St. in Reseda. After driving around the Valley for a couple of days, director John G. Avildsen and location manager Richard Davis Jr. found the perfect building for Daniel and his mom. "It was the exterior feel [Avildsen] was after; sort of the bleakness," Davis says.
"The owner of the building couldn’t believe we actually wanted to make a movie there," Davis says of the South Seas.
The half-full pool of green water is an image many of the cast members and filmmakers recalled about the South Seas.
"I wanted a pool in the center so I could have dirty water in it and half full with the same swan that I used in Save the Tiger," Avildsen says, referring to his 1973 film starring Jack Lemmon, which also featured a pool with an inflatable swan.
Only a few scenes in the film were done on a soundstage, the interior apartment scenes included.
The apartment set was made to look like the real unit, pictured here.
Daniel goes to find the maintenance man's workshop.
This carport at the South Seas was transformed into Miyagi's workshop.
The South Seas apartment building near the corner of Saticoy Street and Tampa Avenue in Reseda.
Jun 29, 2016
Not only was this scene at Leo Carrillo Beach William Zabka’s first appearance in The Karate Kid (he played Daniel's nemesis, Johnny) but it also was the first scene he shot for the film, and was the first time he appeared on screen in either a movie or TV show.
The Cobra Kai make their entrance in the film at the top of this hill next to lifeguard tower No. 2.
The Cobra Kai pull up on the south side of Leo Carrillo Beach.
"No mercy, man." Elisabeth Shue recalls filming the night scene at Leo Carrillo Beach where Johnny breaks Ali’s radio. "I do remember hitting [Zabka] really hard," she says of the beach confrontation. "I felt like it was all real because I was so new to it ... the way [the Cobra Kai] treated [Daniel] really made me angry, personally, all the time."
Jun 28, 2016
It’s a cruel, cruel, cruel summer." Daniel rounds the corner on his first day of school in the Valley.
In that first day of school scene, Daniel rounded the corner at Capistrano Avenue and Philiprimm Street in Woodland Hills on his Mongoose 24 BMX bike. Mongoose bikes were first manufactured in Chatsworth.
Charles Evans Hughes Junior High School, located at 5607 Capistrano Ave. in Woodland Hills, was used for Daniel's school. It was built in the early '60s and it closed in the early '80s before filming of The Karate Kid. The school also was used in Carl Reiner’s 1987 film Summer School.
Daniel and Ali in the courtyard at Charles Evans Hughes Junior High School.
The main courtyard at Charles Evans Hughes Junior High School.
Jun 27, 2016
Miyagi and Daniel outside of the Cobra Kai dojo on Lankershim Boulevard.
Lucille LaRusso, played by Randee Heller, and Daniel at the Orient Express on Wilshire Boulevard.
This space at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Cloverdale Avenue was used as the Orient Express restaurant where Daniel talks to his mother about Ali.
"There’s an interesting juxtaposition," location manager Davis says. "[His mom's] restaurant was supposed to have a view of [the dojo]." In reality there was a restaurant across the street from the dojo in North Hollywood, but the restaurant didn’t have a view of the dojo. Production ended up shooting in a restaurant on Wilshire Boulevard and re-creating the exterior of the dojo on the next corner.
The exterior of what was the Orient Express restaurant in the film.
Jun 25, 2016
Whole life have balance, everything be better." "Miyagi’s house was an absolute gem to find," says location manager Richard Davis Jr.
The block in Canoga Park where Mr. Miyagi's Asian-inspired home was located. At the time of shooting, there were hardly any other houses surrounding it. Today, the same street is fully developed and there is no trace of Miyagi's house, which then stood out from the monotony of Valley architecture.
This driveway was the entrance into the junkyard near Miyagi’s house. "The [original] concept," says Davis, "was to find the junkyard and build the house." However, after finding this "gem" of a structure, train tracks, a junkyard and a garden were created around the house for filming. The house was torn down sometime after filming the first sequel and it was re-created on the Warner Bros. Ranch for part three.
"The house was picked, pretty much, because it had sort of a tacky, pretentious look," says Davis of the Encino hills house where Shue’s character, Ali, lived.
Shue recalls the actress who showed up at the house to play her mom came to the set in her own Rolls Royce, and the car then was used in the scene.
Macchio says, "I remember the brick that I [accidentally] kick off [the wall] in Encino ... at Ali’s house. We just noticed that during rehearsal and then we put that into the film." There’s the reality Avildsen was going for.
Jun 24, 2016
Daniel and Ali at Golf N' Stuff in Norwalk.
Although the blue signage is different — the sign in the film is red — the actual curved frame is the same. The production shot at Golf N' Stuff, located at 10555 E. Firestone Blvd. in Norwalk, for three days, doing interior and exterior scenes.
Some of the original signs seen in the film, like this one from the arcade, are still up at Golf N' Stuff.
Jun 23, 2016
Balance good, karate good, everything good. Balance bad? Better pack up and go home." Miyagi and Daniel at the Chatsworth Nature Preserve.
Off limits to the public, the Chatsworth Nature Preserve — originally the Chatsworth Reservoir — was used for training scenes in The Karate Kid. In this pond on the north side of the preserve, Miyagi fishes and Daniel practices his balance on the bow of Miyagi’s boat.
Jun 22, 2016
The Grand Plaza Ballroom at the Hyatt Westlake Plaza hotel in Thousand Oaks was the location of the Encino Oaks Country Club ballroom in The Karate Kid.
While laughing about the slap he got from Shue at this location, Zabka says, "The way it looks [in the film] is I’m laughing at [Daniel] with spaghetti on him. What my laugh is really saying is, 'She hit me again. I can’t believe she really hit me again.'"
Daniel waits for Ali at the main entrance of the Encino Oaks Country Club — really the Hyatt Westlake Plaza Hotel in Thousand Oaks.
The main entrance of the Hyatt Westlake Plaza Hotel, where Daniel waits for Ali.
Jun 21, 2016
Miyagi and Daniel check in for the All Valley Karate Championship in the corridor outside the Matadome at Cal State Northridge.
The Matadome at Cal State Northridge has been substantially upgraded since the production shot there. However, the west side entrance looks virtually unchanged.
The All Valley Karate Championship was filmed in the Matadome at Cal State Northridge.
Zabka attended Cal State Northridge as a film major before getting cast in The Karate Kid.
Macchio says that many angles, along with slow motion, were shot for the final kick, but in the end one simple shot worked best: low and wide. "To credit Billy Zabka [who] took an amazing hit, the kick is great, but the hit was even better," says Macchio.
"Hey, Mr. Miyagi, we did it!" Avildsen says The Karate Kid originally was supposed to end in the parking lot after the tournament. (This is where the 1986 sequel picks up.) However, after the crowd carries Daniel off, Avildsen knew there couldn’t be a better ending. "Well, how can I top this? I don’t need the scene in the parking lot," Avildsen remembers thinking at the time. "How can the audience feel better than at that moment? And I feel that's when you always turn on the lights."