The actor Pat Morita has died:
LOS ANGELES (AP) – Actor Pat Morita, whose portrayal of the wise and dry-witted Mr. Miyagi in “The Karate Kid” earned him an Oscar nomination, has died. He was 73.
Morita died Thursday at his home in Las Vegas of natural causes, said his wife of 12 years, Evelyn. She said in a statement that her husband, who first rose to fame with a role on “Happy Days,” had “dedicated his entire life to acting and comedy.”
In 1984, he appeared in the role that would define his career and spawn countless affectionate imitations. As Kesuke Miyagi, the mentor to Ralph Macchio’s “Daniel-san,” he taught karate while trying to catch flies with chopsticks and offering such advice as “wax on, wax off” to guide Daniel through chores to improve his skills.
Morita said in a 1986 interview with The Associated Press he was billed as Noriyuki “Pat” Morita in the film because producer Jerry Weintraub wanted him to sound more ethnic. He said he used the billing because it was “the only name my parents gave me.”
He lost the 1984 best supporting actor award to Haing S. Ngor, who appeared in “The Killing Fields.”
Morita was quite a guy. The son of migrant workers, he had spinal tuberculosis as a kid, was interned in Arizona during World War II, and worked as a computer technician for a while.
It’s extremely tough for an Asian performer to break into show biz in the United States but he managed to do it. He had hundreds of movie and television appearances to his credit over a career that spanned nearly forty years.
UPDATE: Shakespeare’s Sister remembers Mr. Myagi.