Noted producer Jerry Weintraub died on July 6 in Santa Barbara at the age of 77.
His numerous credits include “The Karate Kid” (1984), “The Karate Kid Part II” (1986), and “The Karate Kid Part III” (1989), all starring the late Pat Morita as Mr. Miyagi and Ralph Macchio as Daniel; a 1989 animated TV series loosely based on the films; “The Next Karate Kid” (1994) with Morita and future Oscar winner Hillary Swank; and the 2010 reboot of “The Karate Kid.”
In a tribute to Weintraub written for Variety, Macchio recalled, “After the first ‘Karate Kid’ screened and everybody was doing the crane kick in the parking lot, he put his arm around me and said, ‘You’re going to be making a few of these.’ I was contracted for three …
“A big debate early on was that Jerry didn’t want Pat Morita to play Mr. Miyagi. He supposedly said, ‘There’s no way Arnold from “Happy Days” is going to be in the movie.’ Jerry would never admit that he was wrong. But he later came to Pat and said, ‘I almost made the mistake of my life.’”
Morita said in a 1986 interview that he was billed as Noriyuki (Pat) Morita in the film because Weintraub wanted him to sound more ethnic. Noriyuki was Morita’s given name.
The first “Karate Kid” earned an Oscar nomination for Morita and rejuvenated his career.
In a 2011 interview, Weintraub said he was reluctant when approached by actor Will Smith about doing a remake of “Karate Kid,” which is regarded as a classic, but was persuaded when he saw the script. Set in Beijing, the new version starred Smith’s son, Jaden, and Jackie Chan as his mentor.
Weintraub produced TV specials for Frank Sinatra, John Denver, Dorothy Hamill, Neil Diamond and The Carpenters; produced tours for Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan; and managed such singers as the Pointer Sisters and Dolly Parton.
His other movie credits include “Oh, God,” “Nashville,” “Cruising,” “Diner,” “My Stepmother Is an Alien,” and “Vegas Vacation.” He produced and appeared in “Ocean’s Eleven,” “Ocean’s Twelve” and “Ocean’s Thirteen,” and also acted in “The Firm,” “Full Frontal,” and “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.”
Weintraub’s most recent TV credits as producer or executive producer include the Liberace biopic “Behind the Candelabra,” the climate-change documentary series “Years of Living Dangerously,” and the political comedy series “The Brink.” Two of his projects, the science fiction TV series “Westworld” and a “Tarzan” movie, are in post-production.