Saturday, February 24, 2024

‘Karate Kid’ Found: ‘American Born Chinese’ Actor Ben Wang Nabs Lead in Sony Movie (Exclusive)

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The new Karate Kid has been found.

Sony Pictures has cast Ben Wang, best known as the star of Disney+ series American Born Chinese, to star in its latest installment of the coming-of-age martial arts franchise.

The casting comes after a global search that saw thousands of submissions from around the world, with 10,000 entries reported in the first 24 hours alone. According to studio insiders, Wang delivered a standout audition that demonstrated his deep connection to the character. It also helped that he is fluent in Mandarin and highly skilled across many forms of martial arts, including karate, wing chun/kung fu, gumdo, kempo and taekwondo. Some of those skills were already showcased on American Born Chinese, the well-regarded adaptation of the acclaimed coming-of-age fantasy graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang that also starred Michelle Yeoh.  

The new Karate Kid will have Jackie Chan and Ralph Macchio reprising their iconic characters from previous Karate Kid films.

Plot details are being kept under a bonsai tree but the new installment will bring the story to the East Coast and focus on a teen from China who finds strength and direction via martial arts and a tough but wise mentor (or maybe even two).

Jonathan Entwistle, known for his well-regarded and award-winning teen television dramas I’m Not Okay with This and The End of the F***ing World, is directing the feature that has a script by Rob Lieber, whose credits include Sony’s Peter Rabbit and Disney’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day

Karen Rosenfelt is producing.

Sony has slated the film for Dec. 13, 2024.

The Karate Kid launched in 1984, with the original movie becoming an unexpected hit. It starred Macchio as Daniel LaRusso, a Brooklyn kid who moves to California and finds himself an unlikely karate champion under the tutelage of Mr. Miyagi, an apartment handyman who is quite proficient in karate. Miyagi was played by the late Pat Morita, who earned a best supporting actor Oscar nomination his work.

The movie kicked off three sequels — Macchio appeared in two of them, while Hilary Swank took on the titular mantle in a 1994 outing — with the franchise seeing a resurgence in recent years thanks to the the YouTube and Netflix series Cobra Kai. Sony also revived the title in 2010 with a remake that updated the story for more modern and global times, focusing on an American kid, played by Jaden Smith, who moves to Beijing and is mentored by a handyman/martial arts master played by Chan.

The films have earned over $618 million globally over the decades while the series earned several Emmy nominations.

Wang can currently be seen in a role in the Mean Girls musical movie. He is repped by Stewart Talent, Artists First and Schreck Rose.

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