A Talent Well Beyond the Dojo

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The life of Pat Morita is explored in the new biographical film “More Than Miyagi.”

As a standup comic, Pat Morita (pictured in 1966 on “Hollywood Palace”) billed himself as “The Hip Nip.”

A new documentary, “More Than Miyagi: The Pat Morita Story,” directed by Kevin Derek, will be streaming worldwide from Feb. 5 on such platforms as iTunes and Apple TV.

While he is known for his iconic role as Mr. Miyagi in the “Karate Kid” movies, Morita’ career spanned decades on film, TV and stage.

The makers of the documentary shared a summary and other insights about the late actor:

“Pat Morita is no longer with us, but fortunately for his multitude of adoring fans throughout the world, he left behind a painfully revealing autobiographical record of his much-too-brief time here on earth. And what a high-flying time it was!

Pat Morita and Susan Blanchard starred in the short-lived sitcom “Mr. T and Tina” (1976).

“Pat’s life story might be best described as a journey from one ‘prison’ to the next – beginning with his early childhood, the first decade of which he spent in a charity hospital ward, encased in a rigid body cast from his neck to his knees.

“Miraculously able to walk once more, he was then locked behind the barbed wire enclosure of a World War II Japanese American internment camp for the next three years.

“After the war, he found himself imprisoned within the narrow confines of matrimony and parenthood, while desperately pursuing a comedy career in the ghetto-like world of show business. One in which he was constantly told that ‘Japs ain’t funny.’

“But the most formidable prison of them all – one that he’d built himself and could never escape from – was his ever-increasing addiction to drugs and alcohol.

“People seeing Pat Morita on television or in films would invariably endow him with those same positive traits of Mr. Miyagi, that all-knowing Zen master of the ‘Karate Kid’ films, who could catch a fly in mid-flight with a pair of chopsticks; a transcendental guru with a twinkle in his eye, who had the solution to any of life’s challenges.

“In truth, the real Pat Morita was quite the opposite. For deep inside that sweet, generous, multi-talented performer seethed an army of demons, taunting him with every temptation known to man. Some days, Pat could grapple with, and even defeat these demons. Most days, he couldn’t.

“Pat Morita’s never-completed autobiography (in reality, more of a ‘confessional’ than a ‘memoir’) recounts the truly extraordinary events of both his private life and his professional career – which might help to explain the conflicting forces that forever plagued this complicated, beloved ‘funny man.’”

Pat Morita with “Karate Kid” co-star Ralph Macchio, who is again playing Daniel LaRusso in “Cobra Kai.”

Derek’s other films include “The Real Miyagi” (2015) and “Empty Hand: The Real Karate Kids” (2011).

In addition to archival footage of Morita himself, “More Than Miyagi” includes interviews with:

Pat Morita with Hilary Swank, who played the title role in “The Next Karate Kid” (1994).

“Karate Kid” cast members Ralph Macchio (Daniel), William Zabka (Johnny), Martin Kove (Kreese) and Ron Thomas (Bobby), current stars of “Cobra Kai”; Fumio Demura, Morita’s stunt double; Pat E. Johnson, stunt coordinator; Sean Kanan and William Christopher Ford from “Karate Kid Part III”; Christopher Cain, director of “The Next Karate Kid”; and Robert Mark Kamen, screenwriter.

“Happy Days” cast members Henry Winkler (Fonzie), Marion Ross (Mrs. Cunningham), Anson Williams (Potsie) and Don Most (Ralph Malph).

Comedians Larry Miller and Tommy Chong.

Asian American actors James Hong, Julia Nickson, the late Elizabeth Sung, Diana Tanaka and June Angela (who played Morita’s daughter on “Mr. T and Tina”); Guy Aoki and George Johnston, co-founders of Media Action Network for Asian Americans and former Rafu Shimpo columnists.

Pat Morita starred in a short-lived police show, “Ohara” (1987).

Pat Morita (1932-2005) was known as a standup comic, self-described as “The Hip Nip,” and a comic character actor before he was cast as Mr. Miyagi in “The Karate Kid” (1984), a role that earned him an Oscar nomination. He reprised the role in “The Karate Kid Part II” (1986), “The Karate Kid Part III” (1989) and “The Next Karate Kid” (1994).

Morita is an honorary cast member of the Netflix series “Cobra Kai,” which shows what the “Karate Kid” characters (and their kids) are doing today. Miyagi has passed away, but he appears in flashbacks and is frequently mentioned.

Morita played Arnold on “Happy Days,” reprised the character on “Blansky’s Beauties,” starred in his own sitcom, “Mr. T and Tina,” and cop show, “Ohara,” and was a cast member of the children’s shows “Adventures with Kanga Roddy” and “The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo.”

His other TV credits include the TV movies “Farewell to Manzanar,” “Hiroshima: Out of the Ashes,” “Babes in Toyland,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “Blind Alleys” (with the late Cloris Leachman); and such series as “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father,” “M*A*SH,” “Columbo,” “Sanford and Son,” “Chico and the Man,” “The Love Boat,” “Magnum, P.I.,” “Lou Grant,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” “Murder, She Wrote,” “Diagnosis: Murder,” and “The Hughleys.”

Pat Morita, pictured with Henry Winkler (left) and Ron Howard, played Arnold on the sitcom “Happy Days.”

His other film credits include “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “Hito Hata,” “Midway,” “When Time Ran Out,” “Honeymoon in Vegas,” “Collision Course,” “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues,” “Mulan,” “Mulan II,” “Captive Hearts” and “Only the Brave.”

Morita received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1994. It is located at 6633 Hollywood Blvd.

For ordering information, go to: https://www.morethanmiyagi.com/

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