The Karate Kid Is Back!
Ralph Macchio Loves His Whip-Cracking 'Dancing' Partner, Waxes Poetic on 'Karate Kid' Days
Ralph Macchio earned some of the highest scores of the night on the season debut of 'Dancing With the Stars' on Monday. Rocking the fox trot, the ageless 'Karate Kid,' who's no-joke closing in on 50, wowed the judges (score: 24) and had the audience in the palm of his hands. He also won lots of fans at home with his self-effacing demeanor. In between grueling rehearsals with his partner Karina Smirnoff (he calls her a "whip-cracker"), the dad of two and Long Island, N.Y., native spoke toPopEater about his fancy footwork, his squeaky-clean image and of course the fame (and female attention) that 'Karate Kid' brought him.
I think you're going to win it.
Listen, that's exciting to hear. We certainly came out of the gate with a nice performance, and the crowd was, I can't [explain] the power of live theater when you have the crowd behind you.
The audience did love you.
When we did that sort of double turn they just roared. It was like a wave, and when you catch that wave it kind of helps propel you forward. It felt great. As far as winning the competition, I can't even...It's such a marathon, it's not a sprint, but it's always nice to be able to deliver.
She's fantastic. She's a whip-cracker, there's no rest for the weary. She's pushing me, and I'm embracing being pushed for the most part. Sometimes I'm just so exhausted.
Were you worried you would vomit before your performance?
No, I didn't. Believe me for the three weeks up to it, every day I was saying what if that happens, what if I have a breakdown, a panic attack. How do you deal? I can honestly say there wasn't a moment when we were on stage performing that I thought, God there are 20 million-plus people watching.
You live on the East Coast, but the show is in Cali.
My parents and my wife flew out for the show. I'm solo out here in LA. I'm not going back and forth because it seems that would be a tremendous stress on top, and to tell you the truth, there's no time, at least with the schedule Karina and I have set up.
Where are you sorest?
Now we're working on the jive which is like zero to one thousand. It's like instant shot out of a cannon. Karina says, "Don't worry about your lower back, next week it'll be your knees and ankles." The lower back is feeling the most strain right now, the inner thighs and groin area from all those long lunges. I have long legs and long arms and also creepy hands as Bruno pointed out. We'll fix that, I think I know what he meant.
Is there a portrait of you in the attic somewhere?
That's aging slowly like Dorian Gray?
Yes, you look maybe 10 years older than when you did 'Karate Kid'!
Oh, that's not true. If you go in for the close up that'll change, but I do carry the boyish thing. My parents are both in their 70s, and they look like they're in their late '50s, so it's their fault.
When you did 'Karate Kid' you must have had thousands of girls throwing themselves at you.
Listen, I came up and one of my first movies was 'The Outsiders,' so there were a lot of great-looking studly actors on it. I don't know if I got the influx of a Matt Dillon or Rob Lowe. Also, I don't know, for the most part I lived in New York back in the 'burbs, so I was pretty boring at home base. But yeah, there was a time when I'd go to a mall on a Saturday afternoon and it'd be not quite the Beatles at Shea Stadium or Zac Efron at a movie premiere, but I did have that time.
Do your kids think it's cool that you're the 'Karate Kid'?
Yeah, they think it's pretty cool so much so they have trouble calling me the original 'Karate Kid' because of the remake. Listen, the legacy started there from that film. It's a credit to the story and what we were able to do that they were able to find another way to tell the story.
How many times were you asked before to do 'Dancing'?
I would say twice there were discussions. It might have been more but twice really on the desk. Not necessarily a hard offer as much as they put feelers out because they jockey the cast trying to find the right balance.
Last year I had a video on 'Funny or Die' called 'Wax On, F**k Off,' that blew up. It was my way of poking fun at myself and the media on how they endorse, if not embrace and reward, bad boy behavior, which is even more relevant today. 'The Outsiders' and 'My Cousin Vinny' are on TV all the time, and it just felt like this show now, their key demographic may very well be people who grew up with my movies. It just felt like the right time to do it.
You're a nice Italian boy. Favorite pasta sauce?
It's going to sound lame, but if the tomatoes are ripe and it's all about the tomatoes, a classic marinara sauce. I also like Aio e Oio, which is basically just olive oil and garlic, a nice side of broccoli rabe to make sure it's not too bitter and some cheese and black pepper on top.