By Elaine Bergstrom
Ralph Macchio was in his 20s when he played a bullied teen in The Karate Kid. Jaden Smith — best known for his role alongside father Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happyness —was just 11 when he took on the role in the remake, which makes the bullying his character endures far more painful to watch. But Smith had a pair of allies on his side who aided his transformation in the film: Wu Gang, the stunt coordinator of the Jackie Chan Stunt Team, and Chan himself, who plays the role made famous by Pat Morita.
“When I first met Jaden, I liked him, but … I wasn’t sure if he’d really be up to the task,” says Wu. “He proved himself; he is very talented and he worked very hard, and it wasn’t easy. I loved training Jaden.”
Chan was also a mentor to the star on the set as well as in the film. “He is amazing. He was always teaching me things — how to stretch correctly, how to be in a scene, how to focus. He was right there with me the whole time,” Smith says of his costar. “I watched a lot of Jackie’s movies and even copied some of his moves.” And a scene in which the two spar with sticks is a reference to one of Chan’s earliest and most famous fight scenes.
Smith enjoyed the training so much that he asked Wu if he would continue to train him after the filming ended. “I was honored,” Wu says.
“Yeah, I want to stay buff,” Smith jokes. “If Taylor Lautner ever needs a stunt double, I’m ready for action.”
“The Karate Kid” is now showing on Video On Demand. Check your cable system for availability.
© 2010 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.