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The MCU Star Who Almost Played The Karate Kid's Daniel LaRusso

You wouldn't inherently think a movie about karate from the 1980s would go on to spawn multiple sequels, a reboot, and an incredibly popular Netflix series several decades later, yet here we are. 

The Karate Kid has remained a cornerstone of American cinema for a generation of kids who grew up in the '80s and '90s. To this day, people know what you mean when you quote the best lines from the film — things like "Sweep the leg" and "Wax on, wax off." The franchise has been particularly good for star Ralph Macchio, who returned to the role that made him famous on the show that's been blowing up on Netflix ever since the streamer acquired it from YouTube — Cobra Kai. With a fourth season already on the horizon, it's clear Macchio isn't going to be hanging up the gi or the headband any time soon, and for fans that's just about the best news possible. 

Considering how synonymous Macchio has become with the role of Daniel LaRusso, it's hard to imagine anyone else performing the controversial crane kick in the first film. However, the studio actually considered other actors before getting the cameras rolling. There were even some future Hollywood A-listers auditioning for the chance to compete at the All-Valley tournament, with the likes of Charlie Sheen and Nicolas Cage in the mix.

Additionally, Macchio revealed that an actor who would go on to become a household name in the Marvel Cinematic Universe also threw his hat into the ring. Can you guess which Avenger was almost the karate kid?

A young Robert Downey Jr. also auditioned for the part of Daniel LaRusso in The Karate Kid

Back in the 1980s, both Ralph Macchio and Robert Downey Jr. were young stars on the rise, and in an interview on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Macchio revealed that his contemporary was also in the running for the part of Daniel LaRusso. While Macchio was cast early on in development, he explained to Fallon, "It was like one of those test deals where you're not in yet." As such, the studio had other actors read for the role, including future Iron Man star Robert Downey Jr. 

Macchio also revealed another surprising connection he has with the superstar: "Robert Downey Jr. also did the workshop of the part I did in The Outsiders." Apparently, the two ran in similar circles back in the day with Macchio going on to say, "I was doing pretty good with Downey Jr. at that point and then ... [laughs] like Iron Man, just took off."

It's interesting to ponder what The Karate Kid and Marvel franchises would have looked like had Downey Jr. landed the part of Daniel LaRusso. Could it have resulted in an alternate universe where Downey Jr. comes back for Cobra Kai and Ralph Macchio ends up saving the world by crane-kicking Thanos in Avengers: Endgame? In all likelihood, there's no reason why Downey Jr. couldn't have starred in The Karate Kid and then joined the MCU two decades later. But that just means he probably would've been too busy to star in Cobra Kai, depriving us of seeing the continued rivalry between Daniel and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka). 

As is often the case, everyone ended up where they needed to be.