Posts Tagged ‘Karate Kid Part II


HIFF 2011: Interview With Traci Toguchi

Traci Toguchi with Ralph Macchio (aka Daniel-son) from The Karate Kid Part II.

In this special to The Red Band Project, Guest Manager Valentino Valdez sits down for an interview with local ‘renaissance chick’ (and actress) Traci Toguchi.

When the Hawaii International Film Festival (HIFF) announced they were bringing The Karate Kid Part II back to the big screen for the 25th anniversary (as part of HIFF), I was stoked. It’s such a cult hit, especially here in Hawaii, and I have fond memories of watching it with my family in the back of our shag-carpeted Chevy Malibu station wagon at Kam Drive-In, as well as re-enacting every scene with my sister and nephew. I was compelled to seek out the only person I knew, personally, that was in the movie–-local ‘renaissance chick’, Traci Toguchi—to get some behind the scenes scoops. Her role in the film (she’s credited as ‘Girl Ringing Bell’) was not only a turning point in the movie (Sato sees the light!), but a turning point in her career. I sat down and talked with Traci (and by “sat down and talked”, I mean, emailed her questions and waited for her to reply) about her experiences on The Karate Kid Part II, as well as catch up on her other projects.

Was The Karate Kid Part II your first film? Was it your first “Hollywood” job?

Yes, it was. It’s how I got my SAG (Screen Actors Guild) card. 🙂 (My first acting job was a Japanese commercial for Mitsubishi of Japan when I was 8.)

What was it like working on such a popular movie? Can you describe some personal experiences you had with the stars of the film?

It was a dream come true. My sister and I kept Karate Kid posters of Ralph Macchio on our bedroom walls, so everything – from the audition process (standing and crying, hitting an imaginary bell in a room at the Ilikai Hotel), to the callbacks (on set with many other kids – all needing to climb the tower and cry), to the filming process (did some of my own stunts and had a stunt woman!) , to the premiere in Hollywood (my mom and I got to attend!) – was surreal.

From Day One, Ralph was so kind, thoughtful and professional. We shot that bell tower scene a zillion times (not only in Hawaii in Kahalu’u, but also in Los Angeles in a movie studio parking lot). That required much rehearsal and getting wet, cold, and muddy. After every take, everyone would rush to Ralph, but he’d tell everyone to help me first, and let me to go first to take a hot shower (and clean off for the next take). He made sure I had hot cocoa. I’ll forever be grateful for his kindness.

One of Traci's scenes from The Karate Kid Part II.

When my part was extended, and my mother and I went to LA to continue filming. We were in the Shuri Castle set as the shot was being set up, when the line was created for me, and Pat was enlisted to help me pronounce the line, “If not for you, I not be here” with the appropriate accent. He was funny, professional, focused… I recall seeing him many years later at a Perry and Price morning radio show appearance after I sang. He was shocked to hear me sing for the first time. He made some one liner joke like he did when he played “Al” in Happy Days that made me crack up. He was and still is classic.

Although this was Tamlyn’s first film too, she was incredibly relaxed, professional, fun, and encouraging. It excites me to see how much she continues to brightly lead the way for Asian American actresses, as she is beautiful, kind, professional, and talented. Nobu McCarthy and Danny were also incredibly warm, kind, helpful, professional, and supportive, as were Yuji and Joey and Mark, though I think they needed to stay in their bad boy characters. 😉

Being able to have been directed by Rocky director John Avildsen continues to be one the biggest honors of my life. He took a chance on me, and gave me the opportunity to do more in the film than what was originally scripted (a featured extra part). He was incredibly helpful, warm, and as you can see from his work, brilliant.

The qualities I mentioned in the handful above were recurring and consistent on the set. I was fortunate to have worked as an extra many days to see some aspects of the movie making business at a young age. Even the extras shared a bond, because of the spirit of the cast and crew, but also because of the spirit and nature of Hawaii people.

What other local actors were in the movie besides you and Danny Kamekona?

Interesting question. Quickly Googled. Looked through the IMDB list, but uncertain if any of the others were from Hawaii (perhaps some of the G.I.’s?). 

Unfortunately, many large principal roles for big productions – both film and TV – are typically not cast in Hawaii, which means Hawaii actors don’t have the opportunity to audition for the larger roles. In LA, actors can stay “fit” by auditioning for big productions – depending on the time of the year – every week, if not every day. When large productions like Hawaii Five-0 stay for a bit, they provide Hawaii actors the opportunity to work on their craft. We are immensely grateful when this happens.

Were all your scenes filmed in Hawaii?

No. Additional “bell tower” scenes, as well as the bon dance scene were shot in Burbank (Los Angeles, California). I missed my elementary school “graduation,” but had my own tutor. (Sweet, huh? 😉

You and Tamlyn Tomita were also in Picture Bride. Was that a coincidence or did the Karate Kid connection have something to do with that?

Total coincidence. 🙂 Also around that time, we had come to share another thing in common — winning a pageant. Tamilyn was a Nisei Week Queen before starring in The Karate Kid Part II.

Please tell me about your role in Bait [a short film featured as part of ‘The Short List’ at HIFF].

I played “Rhonda,” the daughter of the characters played by the great Hawaii actors Dann Seki and Blossom Lam-Hoffman. It was such an honor to be amongst this small cast (other actors included Pomai Brown of 50 First Dates and veteran singer Marlene Sai).

The producers Jason Lau, and John Ching (who was also the director of Bait) were awesome to work with, including producer Angela Laprete, who is Production Supervisor for Hawaii Five-0. 

In fact, many that worked on that crew work on Five-0, so it was seamless, and such an enjoyable experience for me. 

After the premiere at HIFF the other night, I was surprised to learn my classmate (same Kaiser High grad!) wrote the screenplay. I had seen his name on the title page, but thought the name could be very common. Grant Ching came up to me (hadn’t seen him since graduation many moons ago), and told me he was happy I was in his film! Small world. 🙂

Please tell me about your upcoming Hawaii Five-0 guest spot. What was the experience like on the set?

My character is Mrs. Lasko. My husband (played by Kevin Yamada, who’s also from Hawaii, but also resides in New York City) and I are victims of a home invasion. Our scene is with McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) and Lori (Lauren German). The director was the talented Larry Teng.

Larry was professional, articulate, and helpful. Alex and Lauren were so easy to work with. They were also professional, funny, kind, and as you can see on the show, very talented. 

Like Bait, I knew many of the crew from other local (film, TV, commercial) productions, so it was like being at home.

The entire experience from Day One much like The Karate Kid II (and Bait, come to think of it), was incredible. The people were professional, kind, and bright individuals who work well as a team. 

I feel so blessed to be a part of it.

Any other film or TV projects in the works?

Nothing I can mention now. Regardless, I’m always studying and applying different acting techniques and learning as much as I can (I also teach these techniques to kids, which helps me a lot too).

You’ve also had success on Broadway. Would you do Broadway again if given the opportunity? What roles would you love to tackle?

My dream role would be playing Fantine in Les Miserables (which is not currently running, though is my favorite story/Broadway musical). I used to practice a song she sings – “I Dreamed a Dream” when I had the musical on cassette tape as a kid. 🙂 Singing it still resonates in my gut. Les Miz was part of the Cameron Mackintosh family of iconic musicals with Miss Saigon and the Phantom of the Opera. We got to see and support each other while on the road.Would love the opportunity to perform on Broadway in Manhattan. Being in the national (Broadway) tour was awesome, but since New York is my second home, it would be incredibly awesome.Heard rumors about a Broadway musical of Disney’s Enchanted (or maybe it was in one of my dreams, lol). It’s one of my all-time favorite musical films. Would love to play Giselle (Amy Adams’ character), as I tend to be gullible like her. 😉

Supergator! Tell us how you got involved with this project and any interesting experiences you had on the set. Were you scared of the Supergator? And what happened to that guy you were tending to at the end? The girl never came back with that first aid kit!

Hahaha! Actually, this was a great project for me, as I didn’t have to audition. One of the producers contacted me (or my agent, can’t recall which came first), and said I didn’t have to audition with the credits I already had.

 Flew and got to spend the night in Kauai after the filming, so it was über sweet.

Thankfully, I didn’t need to “interact” with the gator, as others did. I felt bad for those that needed to act like they were being attacked by something that was digitally created post-filming. Was the gator scary in the film? (I’m asking, lol.) It looked scary from what I saw on the online promotional material. 🙂 A highlight was getting to shoot a rifle between scenes, which was quite an experience.

I never got to see the film (though people including my mom and aunt kept telling me they’ve seen it), so I didn’t know that about the girl not coming back with the first-aid kit!! That’s hysterical.

There seems to be a bit of a cult following for the film though it is not highly thought of in regards to the overall quality of the production. Perhaps it’s due to all those SyFy airings, I’m not certain. 🙂 I recently received an autograph request stating how I made the movie better when I appeared. I’m sure he wrote that to the rest of the cast too though! 😉

Most of the autograph requests I (still) receive come from LOST fans. Besides Five-0, LOST was one of the best TV filming experiences I’ve had. Although it seemed to be a brief exchange with Dr. Shepard (Matthew Fox), the filming process was rare for a TV show in my experience, because this process was like shooting a film where telling the story took precedence. Blocking was consciously considered and rehearsed so it made sense in the story. By the time we filmed, it was second nature. I feel the success of that show (besides the incredible talent and imaginative storylines) were due to the efforts made to tell the story. After having auditioned for 4 seasons without any callbacks, to have been a part of LOST history (not to mention Lostpedia 😉 continues to be a blessing, as the program continues to air throughout the world.

BTW, my Hawaii Five-0 episode – 2.6 “Ka Hakaka Maikai” airs October 24, 2011. <fingers crossed>

Reposted with permission from ValenTumblr.

Tamlyn Tomita, Valentino Valdez, and Traci Toguchi at the HIFF screening of The Karate Kid Part II .

Graphic artist, movie geek, and awesome dad are probably the best ways to describe Guest Manager Valentino Valdez. You can find more of Tino’s work over at and follow his exploits on Twitter @valdezign


HIFF 2011: Must See Preview Pt 2

So since today is going to be kind of a “long blog post” kind of day, we’re going to just jump right into things. Be sure to check out part 1 of the Must See Preview for my number 4-10 most anticipated films at this year’s HIFF.


Top 3 Most Anticipated Films

1) Elite Squad: The Enemy Within

Trailer // HIFF Page // Official Website // Facebook // Twitter

The Enemy Within is a sequel to the 2007 film The Elite Squad. The film is a continuation of the semi-fictional account of the Special Police Operations Battalion of the Rio de Janeiro Military Police. The plot resolves around the maturing Lt Col. Nascimento, who, after a disastrous operation on a prison riot, gets caught in a bloody political dispute that involves not only the Public Safety Departament, the State governor, State Military Police, and paramilitary militia groups. The movie also shows the family issues of Nascimento, with his now adolescent son gradually moving away from him due to his job and the influence of his stepfather. (via

Why I Want to See It:
Everything I have read and seen about this film points to it being really awesome. The trailer is pretty enticing with the right amount of action and basic story setup. The HIFF description talks up its popularity in its home country of Brazil and supports what’s in the trailer by talking about the good mix of action and drama. The film was so popular in Brazil that they’ve submitted it as their selection for the Best Foreign Language Film category for next year’s Academy Awards. It’s also played on the festival circuit this year, and while it hasn’t really won awards, it’s gotten a ton of praise from movie bloggers (/Film, Film School Rejects). With the film being talked up so much, it’s no wonder that director Jose Padilha has been tapped to helm the long gestating Robocop reboot. With all the praise this film and the filmmaker is getting for Elite Squad: The Enemy Within, this definitely my top choice for this year’s fest.

2) Headhunters

Trailer // HIFF Page

An accomplished art thief risks everything to obtain a valuable painting owned by a former mercenary. (via

Why I Want to See It:
Leave it to the Norwegians to give us more gritty crime thrillers. Headhunters is actually adapted off of a book by a Norwegian author that was adapted into a Norwegian film. Stop me if that sounds familiar. While the film’s pedigree shares a lot in common with the Millennium Trilogy (the same production company that produced the Norwegian version of that series also produced Headhunters), to me it seems as if Headhunters is a lot more action packed and a lot more gripping. Usually for a lot of these trailers for HIFF films, they are mostly in the native language that the film is from (meaning no English subtitles). As is the case you mainly have to infer and absorb what is going on in the trailer just from a visual perspective with the actors’ inflections as your only additional clue as to what might be going on. That’s not the case for the Headhunters trailer. The entire time I was transfixed and felt that I knew exactly what was going on even though the entire thing was in another language.

3) Red Dog

Trailer // HIFF Page // Official Website

Based on the legendary true story of the Red Dog who united a disparate local community while roaming the Australian outback in search of his long lost master.

Why I Want to See It:
Ok, so I’ve already talked about this film in my initial blog post about the first 14. However, I’ll simply say this . . . anyone who is a pet owner can back up the fact that a pet can be just like any human. Pets have feelings, they have moods, they even speak to you without having to say anything. This is the biggest reason why I really want to see this film. Red Dog illustrates why humans have pets and why we are so attached to them. From everything I’ve just described about pets, you get a great sense of that from seeing Red Dog in the trailer. This is more than just seeing a cute dog in a movie. It’s about identifying with this special bond that people have with animals.


Just Missed the List

These next few films just missed making the cut for my top ten list. Don’t think these films are bad because they didn’t make it, I actually think they’re still pretty good and would still see these as well. It’s just one of those things when you’re making lists . . . where do you draw the line? I liken these three picks to being Oscar nominees, in the end only one person/film can win. Being in the conversation is definitely not a bad thing.

Paradise Broken (right, top)
Not going to lie, the trailer for the film is pretty sexy. It’s actually quite weird to have a trailer that “looks” like it’s for a Hollywood film, but then you see Waikiki or the Ala Wai in the background and then you’re like, “hey, that’s here.”// Trailer // HIFF Page // Official Site

Why It Just Missed the Cut:
Granted, the subject matter isn’t something an island resident likes to think about (or maybe I just don’t want to), but the story just isn’t speaking to me enough (enough to get in the top 10 anyway). However, the visuals are great and I’m definitely intrigued by the film.

The Forgiveness of Blood (bottom right)
What really struck me was that this film is from the director of Maria Full of Grace. The man can up and shoot just about anywhere. The trailer isn’t anything too special, but you can definitely see similar workmanship between ‘Blood’ and ‘Maria.’ What this film also had going for it was that up until Monday it was Albania’s Oscar submission for the Foreign Language category. I say was because a petition was filed against the film and now it’s been DQ’d from Oscar consideration. // Trailer // HIFF Page

Why It Just Missed the Cut:
This decision came down to pure scheduling conflicts. There’s only one screening of this film and it just happens to coincide with Elite Squad. Since Elite Squad is my first pick, I dropped this one off the list. I know it’s kind of a flimsy argument, but like I said, when you’re whittling down your list, sometimes it’s all you have to go by.

Knots (left)
Aside from Red Dog, this was the only other title in contention that was more on the lighthearted side. Everything else has been a pretty serious pick up until now. Shot locally and starring some notable actors, I can’t decide if it’s a romantic comedy, or a dramatic comedy. // Trailer // HIFF Page // Facebook

Why It Just Missed the Cut:
While I like the story and the people in it, something about the trailer just didn’t connect with me. I can’t really put my finger on it but it just didn’t pull everything together. Now I know that it’s really harsh to judge a film by its trailer. However, this is a film festival we’re talking about here and there are over 200 films to see. How do you stand out in a crowd like that? Show me a mind blowing trailer.


Other Film Notes

So after the top ten, after the films that were just left off the list, these bunch of films were briefly looked over, but ultimately didn’t make it into contention.

33 Postcards–interesting dramatic story and it’s got Guy Pearce in it.

Butter–a last minute addition to HIFF, the film is about a butter carving competition in Iowa that has political undertones. The film is a Hollywood picture that stars Jennifer Garner and Olivia Wilde that premiered at the Toronto Film Festival just last month to lukewarm reviews and a media dust up due to a statement by Wilde on behalf of its distributor, The Weinstein Co;

The Bengali Detective–interesting hook about how people hire private investigators because the police in India are overwhelmed, also focuses on one detective who has a job moonlighting as a dancer?

Bullhead–”Animal feed thriller.” I never knew there was such a thing. Whatever the case the film definitely has a taut and suspenseful vibe to it. Oh yeah, it’s also Belgium’s submission for the Foreign Language Oscar as well.

Cannonball Wedlock–A Japanese RomCom that looks pretty funny and quirky. Myong Choi, Nonstop Honolulu’s resident movie guy, has it on his list of films to see at HIFF. We’re definitely interested as well, and could be a fun date movie at the festival.

Delhi Belly–Could be an interesting action comedy.

Kill List–Freaky deaky hitman movie from across the pond. Once you’re in, there’s no backing out.

Le Havre–I keep hearing good things about this movie. HIFF programmer Anderson Le has it on his list of films to see at HIFF and it even got a shout-out from Chicago film critic Michael Phillips. It’s gotta be pretty decent with all that praise and being France’s Oscar Foreign Language submission to boot.

Punished–Chinese revenge film. Not sure it’s the same as a Korean revenge film, but it’s got some action and one pissed off dude in it.

Smuggler–Part of the HIFF Extreme section, the movie looks like it could be a fun Japanese action flick.

Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale–It’s über long (290 minutes), but looks über awesome. Kind of reminds me of a Taiwanese version of Braveheart . . . just without Mel Gibson.


Must See Events

The Karate Kid Part II

1980s nostalgia seems to be everywhere these days and what better way to showcase it than with a film that was shot in Hawaii. Every time I drive by a certain stretch of road along Kam Highway at the beginning of Kahalu’u, it always gets me thinking of Karate Kid II (certain outdoor scenes were shot out there and you can see it from the highway). While I haven’t seen the film in ages, it should be fun to see it again in a theater with people who enjoy the film. Actress Tamlyn Tomita, who played Daniel-san’s love interest in the film, will be on hand to do a post film Q&A.

Super 8 + Michael Giacchino

This is actually a pretty interesting screening to attend. While Super 8 was the JJ Abrams’ summer nostalgia movie that was just in theaters as little as four months ago, it’s actually the post film Q&A with Giacchino that I think is going to bring out people to this film. While Giacchino might not be as recognizable of a name as John Williams (composer for Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Superman), Giacchino is definitely making a name for himself and building a solid resume with composing credits on LOST, a number of Disney Pixar films, Mission Impossible 3 & 4, and obviously Super 8. The man does have a unique style (not to mention an Oscar for his work for original Score in UP) and hearing what he has to say about the Super 8 production and JJ Abrams should enhance the film experience.

Roundtable Discussion with Top Composers
Music and score definitely add a lot to a film. It can set the mood, convey feelings, and it can also take you out of a movie as well. With that in mind, HIFF has gathered five composers with cinema background to discuss what it’s like to compose music for a motion picture and the decision and planning that’s involved. Should be really insightful.

An Afternoon with Hawaii 5-0
Saving the best for last, I’m not sure what’s going to be bigger at this year’s fest: the closing night film The Descendants with Alexander Payne Q&A, or the Hawaii 5-0 panel at the Halekulani. I won’t be surprised if it’s the latter. I’m of the opinion that the local Hawaii 5-0 fan base has a more devoted and rabid following than our other most recent TV series LOST. As of this posting, I’m actually kind of surprised that the free panel hasn’t yet sold out (you still need to go online and get tickets). I’d figure the 5-0 fans would have snatched up all the seats to grab a glimpse of their favorite stars and potentially lead producer Peter Lenkov talk about what it’s like to put on this series. One thing I will guarantee, if you don’t get your ticket sooner rather than later, this panel will sell out.


Phew. After all that there’s nothing really left to do but go out and see some movies. Through the ten days of the fest, I hope to work four, maybe five days as a festival volunteer. If you’re lucky you might catch me out on the front lines working Theater Ops–it’s the only place to be and it’s where all the action is. For the other five days, I’m not quite sure. I have a few work commitments that will take me away from the festival for a few days, but if I can help it, I’m going to try to see as much as I can.

The festival starts tomorrow and like many, I still haven’t determined what I’m going to be seeing. Yeah, I made up this list of films ‘I’d like to see,’ but reality doesn’t always meet expectations I’ve come to learn. You just have to make most of what you have. If you’ve followed me this far through the post I’d love to know what you’re going to see at this year fest OR if there’s something I blatantly left off my list I give you full permission to set me straight in the comments below.

So, until next time, happy HIFFing!

Red Band Feed

Contact Red Band Project