Sean Kanan became one of Hollywood’s most beloved actors after playing Daniel LaRusso’s rival and tormentor Mike Barnes in The Karate Kid Part III in 1989. As it turns out, the actor’s career almost came to an early end when he suffered a near-fatal injury while shooting the movie.
Sean Kanan played Mike Barnes in ‘The Karate Kid III’
In The Karate Kid Part III, Kanan portrayed Mike Barnes, a skillful and brutal karate fighter who competed in competitions around the country and won more than he lost. Dubbed the “Karate’s Bad Boy,” Barnes was Terry Silver’s hired gun, and was picked out of a karate magazine for his reputation as a consistent winner and ruthless competitor.
Silver made Barnes his top Cobra Kai student while pretending to be Daniel LaRusso’s friend and offering him a 50% part in his plan to expand Cobra Kai. All the while, Silver was manipulating LaRusso in an attempt to drive a wedge between him and his sensei, Mr. Miyagi.
Barnes complied with Silver’s orders to fight dirty and harm LaRusso during their championship bout at the 1985 All Valley Under 18 Karate Tournament. However, when the fight came down to the last point, LaRusso scored on Barnes to win, ruining Terry Silver’s plan.
The actor nearly died from an injury he got while working on ‘The Karate Kid Part III’
After Season 5 of Cobra Kai premiered, Kanan gave an interview to The Daily Mail where he spoke about a near-fatal injury he suffered while filming The Karate Kid Part III. According to his account, it all started with a dull ache in one leg that he initially dismissed as typical muscle tension. However, after it caused him to pass out, a doctor figured out that he was bleeding internally.
“I passed out in the Dunes Casino, and it turned out that the pain in my leg was internal bleeding, and it was the blood dripping down on my femoral artery. They said, ‘We don’t know if we can save your life — we’re going to try’”, Kanan explained.
Kanan not only made it through the operation, but he specifically asked for the surgeon to avoid cutting any of his abdominal muscles so that he could heal more quickly. This turned out to be necessary because a studio rep told Kanan that his role would be given to someone else if it took him more than what Kanan remembers as 12 days to get better.
With director John Avildsen’s help, Kanan continued performing his own stunts despite his injury. “I wound up being able to do all my own stunts with the exception of, I think, one driving stunt I didn’t do,” he said. Kanan’s 15-inch scar runs the length of his abdomen to this day. Kanan says he wouldn’t give up one of the “most defining moments” of his life — his brush with death in The Karate Kid — for anything.
Sean Kanan reprised his role as Mike Barnes in ‘Cobra Kai’ Season 5
After his success in the martial arts movie, Kanan went on to become a household name thanks to his leading appearances on daytime soap operas like The Young and the Restless, General Hospital, and The Bold and the Beautiful. When the Karate Kid spinoff series Cobra Kai premiered in 2018 on YouTube and then transferred to Netflix, Kanan anticipated he would be invited to join the cast. And it finally happened for Season 5.
Kanan got to play Mike Barnes again in a few episodes of the fifth season of Cobra Kai. However, the Barnes who shows up in two episodes of Season 5 is not the same person who was once called “Karate’s Bad Boy.”
In Episode 3, LaRusso hunts down Barnes, suspecting that he is once again working with Silver, only to discover that he has turned his life around since his 1980s humiliation at the tournament. Barnes eventually found love and settled down to run a furniture store. Unfortunately, Silver ends up burning down the store, prompting Barnes to return for revenge in the season finale. Cobra Kai’s five seasons are all currently available to watch on Netflix.