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The '80s Martial Arts Classic That Almost Starred Nicolas Cage

Thanks to the popularity of the sequel series Cobra Kai, the '80s martial arts film The Karate Kid has been enjoying a renewed moment of popularity. On the series, two stars of the original film, Ralph Macchio and William Zabka, return to reprise their roles as Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence. Seeing them pick up the parts again after nearly 40 years is a testament to how the actors themselves helped make the movie so iconic. However, as Macchio recently illustrated in an interview on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, there's a not-too-distant alternate reality where everything is different.

Speaking with Fallon about how he came to get the leading role in the film, Macchio was asked to confirm some rumors about who else was in the running. Fallon asked specifically about Nicolas Cage and Macchio confirmed that, indeed, the Wicker Man and Mandy star was in the mix. It may be a little too reality-bending to imagine The Karate Kid (or, as Macchio revealed it was almost called, East Meets West in West) with Cage as Daniel, but considering all the other alternate casting choices for the movie that have since come out, it's really only a taste of how wildly different things could have been.

Here's what the cast of a Nicolas Cage-starring The Karate Kid could have looked like.

Charlie Sheen or Crispin Glover could be starring in Cobra Kai right now

In the thread of the multiverse where Cage landed the role of Daniel in The Karate Kid, who then plays his rival, Johnny? It's hard to imagine a more perfect sneering face than Zabka's in the part, but during casting, there were a few other notable options.

During his Fallon interview, Macchio alluded to the fact that another possible choice for Daniel was an actor now famous for losing it on live TV, Charlie Sheen. According to an oral history of The Karate Kid published in Sports Illustrated, Sheen wasn't only up for the lead. The history includes a casting sheet from the movie's production that shows that Sheen was also being considered for the role of Johnny, the film's principal antagonist.

He wasn't the only alternate option. The casting sheet also indicated that Crispin Glover was up for the part. While Sheen seems like a more natural choice for the bad boy role, Glover's particular brand of uncanny creepiness may have actually been inspired casting. Plus, imagine logging into Netflix right now and putting on an episode of Cobra Kai starring Crispin Glover and Nicolas Cage.

The Sex and the City star who was almost in The Karate Kid

Spoilers for season 3 of Cobra Kai follow

Season 3 of Cobra Kai saw another original The Karate Kid actor returned to reprise her role. When future Oscar nominee Elizabeth Shue was cast as headstrong Ali Mills in The Karate Kid, she had little more than a popular Burger King ad campaign on her résumé. But even though she was a relative newcomer, casting director Bonnie Timmermann told Sports Illustrated that Shue was "one of the most intelligent young actresses I had met in a long time." Before she swept casting off their feet, Demi Moore and Helen Hunt were apparently being considered for the part.

The Karate Kid is seen as the movie that put Shue on the map, but it wasn't her first feature film. That would be a small part in the 1983 teen psychodrama Somewhere, Tomorrow, which starred another famous actress who was considered for a role in The Karate Kid: Sarah Jessica Parker. Although Parker is most well known for the very grown-up role of Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City, she started her career as a child star both on screen and Broadway in the '70s and '80s. According to the oral history, she came close to being cast as one of Ali's friends in the film.

The Karate Kid almost went in a very different direction with Mr. Miyagi

There are performances where you think, "They did a great job," and then there are times when an actor owns a role so completely you can't imagine anyone else in the part. The late Pat Morita's turn as Mr. Miyagi (who was inspired by a real person) is definitely one of the latter. So, it's shocking to hear that not only was he not the first choice to play the karate master, some working on the film were specifically against the idea of him being cast at all.

According to the Sports Illustrated oral history, the powers-that-be wanted a superstar of Japanese cinema in the role of Mr. Miyagi, specifically the star of films like Seven Samurai and Rashomon. Production coordinator Susan Ekins revealed, "They brought in Toshiro Mifune ... but he didn't speak a word of English." While California native Morita's first language was English, his work as a comedian was seen as a dealbreaker. 

First assistant director Clifford Coleman explained, "Nobody wanted Pat Morita; he had a horrible background. He was the type of stand-up comic who got up on stage loaded, dirty, and foul." Considering Morita received an Oscar nomination for the role, it's probably a good thing that the first choice didn't pan out, and even though there are some intriguing casting options in the alternate reality The Karate Kid, we're pretty happy with the cast we ended up getting.