The Real Story Behind Martin Kove's Karate Kid Audition

Actor Martin Kove has enjoyed many high-profile roles over the course of his career, from "Death Race 2000" to "Rambo: First Blood Part II," but his name will forever be synonymous with John Kreese, the formidable villain from "The Karate Kid" series (via IMDb). Kove proved just how iconic the character is when he reprised the role in the hit Netflix spinoff "Cobra Kai." 

As the actor told The Hollywood Reporter, he wasn't concerned about retreading old ground because Kreese has deeper layers to explore. "I wanted to come back to the role," he said. "I was quite leery to do it as written for the movies, but my basic insistence to the ['Cobra Kai'] writers was, 'Are you going to write this character vulnerably? Are you going to give him some versatile situations?' And they did." 

He elaborated, "You've got to have excellent writing to draw you in and keep you there. ... You can not recreate and do sequel after sequel unless you have good writing." 

Clearly, Kreese still means a great deal to him. However, as Kove freely admits, if things had gone differently, his initial audition might have been the end of the road for him and "The Karate Kid" franchise. 

Martin Kove went full John Kreese in his 'Karate Kid' audition

According to For the Win, actor Martin Kove took a huge risk while auditioning for "The Karate Kid." The beloved character actor admitted he didn't have much time to prepare for the reading, originally being told he'd have a week to get ready before suddenly being summoned before he could even memorize the script.  

"I was really angry and venomous and at the time my wife said to use all this venom in that morning," he recalled. When the casting person called him, Kove was very annoyed. "Bottom line is I just used all this venom and anger and vented on [director] John Avildsen and told him how we get rid of our agents and managers to find directors like yourself to read for and you don't give me any time," he explained. "I said, 'You're an [expletive],' and so are you to the casting woman, I said, 'You're an [expletive], too.'" 

The actor memorably finished up his rant with the classic line, "Mercy is for the weak! In here or on the street!" He was supposed to drop that line in the audition anyway while stalking back and forth through the dojo. "I completely berated them," he said. "It worked." 

Clearly, they saw a little John Kreese in him that day since, according to Kove, everybody loved it, and veteran producer Jerry Weintraub even admitted that the actor was perfect for the role (via YouTube). And, clearly, he still is.