“Wax on, wax off”, almost every single generation is familiar with Mr. Miyagi’s famous words from The Karate Kid. Pat Morita, often known for his memorable role as the above-mentioned sensei, was a man of many talents, and what he managed to achieve during his life was incredible.

The Karate Kid made Morita into a Hollywood star, but behind closed doors the actor’s life was filled with suffering, loss and an unfortunate case of substance abuse. And to understand the man’s private and professional life, one has to watch More Than Miyagi: The Pat Morita Story, directed by an independent filmmaker, Kevin Derek. 

Born in California in 1932, Pat Morita struggled with his health since he was two, however, his life changed when, at the age of 11, he received an experimental operation that enabled him to walk. Growing up, he dreamed of studying medicine, but this dream declined as he had to work at his parents’ restaurant where he also began to perform comedy. Another dream was born, Morita decided to pursue acting.

Photo © More Than Miyagi: The Pat Morita Story 

It was not until 1967 that Morita made his debut in the musical Through Modern Millie. Although Hollywood wasn’t keen on employing Asian actors at that time, he made it. The actor never expressed that he felt burdened by the stereotypical roles of his ancestors or himself for that matter; Morita always managed to turn the grotesque ‘Hollywood’ portrayal of Asian people into a joke. The actor achieved his first success after portraying Arnold in Happy Days in 1975. Nine years later, he came to play the acclaimed Mr. Kesuke Miyagi in The Karate Kid, a role that won him an Oscar nomination in 1985. What was more interesting is that he never trained in the martial arts due to the surgery and tuberculosis he suffered as a child, in the film itself he used Fumio Demura as his stunt double. 

Even though Morita experienced a lot of discrimination and suffered the death of loved ones during World War II, he sought ‘help’ from the entertainment industry. With its carefully selected fragments and scenes from various TV programmes and films, Kevin Derek’s documentary is a perfect production that sheds a new light on Morita’s entire career. More Than Miyagi: The Pat Morita Story shows the actor from a completely unknown perspective proving that, as the title itself suggests, Pat Morita was more than just Mr. Miyagi. 

Photo © More Than Miyagi: The Pat Morita Story 

The documentary features many celebrities, friends and family members, including Morita’s wife Evelyn Guerrero and The Karate Kid actors William Zabka and Ralph Macchio. There is no doubt that, whether it was through work or just friendship, the actor impacted many lives. While Morita’s career ended with his death in 2005, his spirit is still alive through his classic performances as Arnold and Mr. Miyagi. After watching the documentary, one ends it with a huge dose of new knowledge about Pat Morita, and although the actor’s life was overshadowed by addiction, he still managed to become one of Hollywood’s legends. 

Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Written by Maggie Gogler

View of the Arts is a British online publication that chiefly deals with films, music, arts and fashion, with an emphasis on the Asian entertainment industry. We are hoping our audience will grow with us as we begin to explore new platforms such as K-pop, and continue to dive into the talented and ever-growing scene of film, arts and fashion, worldwide.

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Documentary, Film

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