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The Real Reason Ralph Macchio Didn't Have A Love Interest In The Karate Kid 3

The Karate Kid movies have become enduring classics in large part because they so effectively capture the angst, awkwardness, and karate fights of adolescence. (Okay, so maybe that last part isn't typical of the average teen's experience.) In The Karate Kid, Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) goes through the kinds of ups and downs common to so many teens: moving to a new town, running afoul of the local bullies, and taking a somewhat complicated interest in Ali (Elisabeth Shue), the prettiest girl in school. In The Karate Kid Part II, Daniel deals with the aftermath of his first big breakup, then travels abroad to discover that the world is a far more complex place (sometimes dangerously so) than he had previously thought. Oh, and while he was at it, he found another potential girlfriend in Kumiko (Tamlyn Tomita), the prettiest girl in Okinawa.

Then, in The Karate Kid Part III, Daniel was forced to reckon with all of his life experiences so far, and to resist the temptation of the dark side in the form of a new sensei, Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith), who manipulates him into going against the teachings of his beloved mentor Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) and becoming, at least temporarily, what he hated and feared the most. It's a compelling three-film arc, and one that resonated strongly enough in the popular consciousness that it was mined for the ongoing Netflix series Cobra Kai, which catches up with many of the same characters over three decades later. In the third Karate Kid installment, though, fans were a bit surprised to discover a missing element: a love interest for Daniel. Sure, he has a meet-cute with Jessica Andrews (Robyn Lively), an employee at the pottery shop across the street from Miyagi's new bonsai tree business — but it remains a purely platonic relationship. 

So, what's the score here? After crushing it with the ladies in the first two movies, why wasn't Daniel allowed to continue his streak in The Karate Kid Part III?

The producers of Karate Kid Part III had a pretty good reason for making Jessica and Daniel platonic

The reason is actually pretty simple, and it has to do not with the characters, but with the actors. Macchio, as it turns out, doesn't just look shockingly young for his age today; he always has. In The Karate Kid, which took place in 1984 (the year of its release), Daniel was supposed to be 17 — although at the time, Macchio was 22. The Karate Kid Part II took place later in 1984 — but was released in 1986, making Macchio 24 at the time. The Karate Kid Part III took place in 1985, making Daniel only 19 — but it didn't come out until 1989, at which point Macchio was 27.

It was Macchio's age that effectively torpedoed Daniel's shot with Jessica in The Karate Kid Part III. During a conversation with the Below the Belt podcast (via Showbiz Cheat Sheet), Lively revealed that she was only 16 at the time of filming — and that the flick's producers apparently (and rightfully) were uncomfortable pairing up the teenage actress onscreen with a leading man who was pushing 30, so the screenplay was rejiggered to keep their relationship a platonic one.

Fortunately for Daniel, it was a rare strikeout. Per the events of Cobra Kai, he's been married to the gorgeous and wise Amanda (Courtney Henggeler) for somewhere in the neighborhood of a couple decades — long enough, at any rate, for him to now have a teen daughter of his own, Samantha (Mary Mouser). If not for Macchio's baby face, though, Daniel-san might be remembered as one of the biggest, most improbable ladies' men of the entire neon decade.