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Former teen heartthrob beloved for his role in The Karate Kid, actor Ralph Macchio has appeared in movies, theater and on television. He is also a producer.
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Ralph Macchio was born in Huntington, Long Island, New York, in 1961. He was discovered while performing at a dance recital at age 16 and was quickly cast on TV’s Eight is Enough, and in the films The Outsiders and The Karate Kid. But roles dried up for the baby-faced actor, and his next big hit was 1992’s My Cousin Vinny. In 2011, he competed on Dancing with the Stars and took on new acting and producing roles.
Ralph George Macchio Jr. was born on November 4, 1961 in Huntington, Long Island, New York. He’s the older of two boys born to Rosalie and Ralph Macchio Sr.
Macchio started taking tap dancing lessons at the age of 3, and was discovered while performing an Eddie Cantor impression in a local dance recital at age 16. An agent approached him and began sending him on auditions for commercials. Macchio, however, wasn’t sold on the idea of becoming an actor. Once, when an audition conflicted with an invitation to a beach party that seemed too good to pass up, he sent a friend to the audition in his place.
In spite of his ambivalence, Macchio landed the part of Betty Buckley’s rough-and-tumble nephew on the TV series Eight is Enough, and instantly became a teen heartthrob. When the series ended, he auditioned for—and won—the role of Johnny Cade in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1983 film, The Outsiders, starring with Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Rob Low, Emilio Estevez and Matt Dillon.
In 1984, Macchio appeared in his most well-known role, as Daniel LaRusso in The Karate Kid. The movie launched the baby-faced actor to stardom, but despite the film’s success and Macchio’s newfound fame, he found it difficult to get quality roles. Although he played a high school student, Macchio was 22 when he made The Karate Kid, and while his youthful appearance worked well in the film, it made it difficult for him to transition to adult parts.
In the next several years, Macchio appeared in two sequels to The Karate Kid and a few box office flops such as Teachers, Crossroads and Distant Thunder. With his movie career stalling, he turned to the theater, making his off-Broadway debut in Cuba and His Teddy Bear with Robert DeNiro in 1986. The show was a hit, and it quickly moved to Broadway. He appeared in another off-Broadway show, Only Kidding, in 1989.
Macchio scored another big screen success in 1992, with My Cousin Vinny, starring alongside Marisa Tomei and Joe Pesci. Though the movie was well received, it failed to result in additional leading roles in major motion pictures. He continued to act, though, performing in a road production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and making small appearances in TV shows like Entourage in 2005 and Ugly Betty in 2008.
In 2011, Macchio competed on the 12th season of ABC's dance-competition show, Dancing with the Stars, ultimately placing fourth. The actor credits the show as being a shot in the arm to his career. Since then, he produced a series for the National Geographic Channel, American Gypsies, and starred in the film He’s Way More Famous Than You with Ben Stiller, Jesse Eisenberg and Vanessa Williams.
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The famous dance-competition show Dancing with the Stars has seen more than a dozen seasons and a gamut of stars, including Apolo Anton Ohno, Kirstie Alley, Joey Fatone, Jennifer Grey, David Hasselhoff, Buzz Aldrin, Brandy, Wynonna Judd, Dorothy Hamill, D.L. Hughley and Aly Raisman. Learn more about the show's contestants, who, for a period, swapped their skills as athletes, actors, musicians, comedians, TV personalities and politicians for a chance to show off their footwork on national TV.
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