Daniel LaRusso and Mr. Miyagi are nowhere to be found, but the “Karate Kid” franchise is most certainly back in business. The Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith-starring reboot arrived in theaters over the weekend and kicked its way to a first-place trophy worth $56 million, surpassing the movie’s production budget by more than $15 million.
“It far exceeded my expectations,” director Harald Zwart told MTV News of the film’s success. “I’m from Scandinavia and we are in no habit of letting our dreams get the better half of us. We keep our feet on the ground and wait until we see the reality, and this time it just really exceeded what I had hoped for. It was just amazing!”
Zwart caught the film in theaters opening weekend, watching it alongside complete strangers. Fortunately, these anonymous moviegoers seemed to love the martial arts adventure.
“You get worried when you sit there at the premiere and go, ‘Oh, this is amazing. They love the movie.’ Obviously, they would,” the director said of his industry peers. “Going out to see it completely with an audience that you don’t know and they also cheer in the end, you know you’ve done something right,” he explained. “You live in a bubble as a filmmaker and no one can tell you the real truth, you just try to gauge it with tracking and everything. But until you’re in a random movie theater that’s packed … I tried to go into the 11:00 show and I couldn’t go! They were sold out! I was going to do the whole ‘I’m the director of the movie’ thing, but I figured they wouldn’t believe me.”
With “The Karate Kid” having established itself as a box office hit, there’s already talk of a possible sequel. Zwart said that while another installment has been discussed, he and his team have only loosely tossed around the idea up until now — so as to avoid jinxing anything.
“Every now and then we discussed it,” he said. “But the truth is, when you see Jackie and Jaden, they’re like a really good film couple. On and off camera, I was watching how they were pulling practical jokes on each other and throwing rocks in the lake, and you just want to keep looking at them because they have a great dynamic and great humor. We have just been playing with a few different ideas, but we haven’t landed on anything at the moment.”
Zwart, speaking only for himself he said, would like to see another “Karate Kid” film explore an all-new story rather than follow in the cinematic footsteps of the ’84 flick’s two sequels. “I personally think it’s now so much on its own two feet, given the success, that it would be interesting to see where we could take it without ever thinking about the old ones.”
And Zwart said he would love to be the one at the helm of a “Karate Kid” sequel. “If they think I’m appropriate for it,” Zwart added. “I think Sony has been fantastic for me. They’re the best studio to work for. They’re such a filmmaker-friendly studio. And [Will Smith's production company] Overbrook, in my opinion, is by far the coolest company. So, yes, I would love to work with them again.”
For now, the director is happy enough that his flick is resonating with moviegoers.
“I’m just really happy that a really good film [was also] a success,” Zwart said. “It’s a movie where we decided to take our time to tell the story; we didn’t compromise. Both the studio and the production company gave me, the filmmaker, the support and freedom to do the movie that I believed was right.”
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