Born In: Brooklyn, New York, United States
Martin Kove is a renowned American actor best known for playing the role of John Kreese in the 1984 cult film The Karate Kid. Born and raised in New York City, Martin was a martial arts enthusiast as a kid and became well versed in numerous martial art forms. Following his college graduation, he became a substitute maths teacher at a high school in New York and later moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting. He played numerous small supporting roles in films throughout the 1970s and in the early 1980s in films such as Savages, The Wild Party, and Capone. He achieved a career breakthrough in 1984 when he was signed on to play John Kreese, the main antagonist, in the cult classic film The Karate Kid. He reprised his role in the two sequels, The Karate Kid Part II and The Karate Kid Part III as well as in the 2018 series Cobra Kai. He has been mostly known for his action roles in several films from the 1980s through to the 2010s. He has also appeared playing major roles in TV series such as Code R, The Edge of Night, Cagney & Lacey, and Hard Time on Planet Earth.
Spouse/Ex-: Vivienne Kove (m. 1981–2005)
children: esse Kove, Jesse Kove, Rachel Olivia Kove
Born Country: United States
U.S. State: New Yorkers
education: ITT Technical Institute, Valley Stream Central High School
Martin Kove was born on March 6, 1946, in Brooklyn, a borough of New York City. He was born to a Jewish American family and was raised as the only child in the family. He had been an extrovert since his early years, and he was a strong young man. He began learning martial arts when he was still a young lad, and by the time he was in his late teen years, he was well versed with many martial art disciplines.
He completed his high school graduation from the Valley Stream Central High School. After his high school graduation, he enrolled at the ITT Technical Institute in Maumee.
Post completing his education, he began working as a substitute math teacher at the Ward Melville High School, New York. However, by then, he had developed strong interest in working in films, and hence, in the early 1970s, he moved to Los Angeles hoping to start his professional career as an actor.
After giving many auditions, he eventually made his film debut with a small part in the 1971 film titled Little Murders, in which he played an uncredited role. In the same year, he appeared playing another small role as Marty in a satire film titled Women in Revolt, produced Andy Warhol.
Over the next few years, he was seen playing several small and supporting roles in films such as The Last House on the Left, Cops and Robbers, and Capone.
He also started receiving TV show offers, and he made his television debut in the mid-1970s with a guest appearance as Guthrie in the American drama series titled Gunsmoke. He later appeared playing many small guest roles in single episodes of series such as The Streets of San Francisco and The Rockford Files.
In 1977, he earned the first major supporting role of his career in the adventure series titled Code R, where he appeared as George Baker for 12 episodes. It was a meaty part, but the series did not receive the desired response, either from the critics or the fans. Hence, it was cancelled after 13 episodes of the first season.
In the same year, Martin took a break from playing serious roles and appeared in the American sitcom titled We’ve Got Each Other, where he played a supporting character as Ken Redford, which was one of his notable roles. However, due to the low ratings and a very slow critical response, the sitcom didn’t last long and was cancelled after just 13 episodes.
Toward the late 1970s, he was further seen in series such as Barnaby Jones and The Incredible Hulk.
In 1980, he portrayed the role of a hitman named Romeo Slade in the mystery crime drama series titled The Edge of Night. It was a supporting role, and the series turned out to be a major critical and commercial success. It was his most successful project to date, and by then, Martin began gaining a reputation in the industry.
In 1982, he was cast in a supporting role in the British horror film titled Blood Tide. The film, which starred James Earl Jones in the lead role, garnered critical and commercial success.
In the same year, he was seen playing a supporting role in the made-for-television horror film titled Cry for the Strangers. He followed in the same year with another supporting role in the long-running police procedural drama series titled Cagney & Lacey, in which he played the role of a police detective Victor Isbecki. His association with the series lasted for 113 episodes, from 1982 to 1988, which was his longest television appearance thus far.
Being a part of the critically acclaimed drama helped him bag one of the key roles in the martial arts drama film titled The Karate Kid, wherein he signed to essay the role of the main antagonist and the head teacher of Cobra Kai dojo, Sensei John Kreese. He played the role of a karate instructor who also happened to be a Vietnam War veteran. His character became iconic, and for his highly appreciated performance as a stoic karate instructor, Martin received a lot of appreciation.
While he had a full-fledged appearance in the first instalment of the franchise, he was also seen in the sequels to the cult classic film, The Karate Kid Part II and The Karate Kid Part III. He took intense training in karate before he began working on the franchise.
He immediately followed The Karate Kid with a supporting role in the 1985 action adventure film titled Rambo: First Blood Part II. The film was critically successful and a box office blockbuster.
Following these successes, Martin’s film career received the necessary push as he appeared playing the first lead role of his career in the 1987 action film titled Steele Justice. However, the American action war drama film turned out to be a failure at the box office and received poor critical reception. Martin played the central role of an ex-police officer John Steele in the film, but his performance was heavily criticized and was discarded as “laughable.”
The failure of the film pushed Martin many steps back in his career. Later, in 1992, he appeared as DeSilva in the science fiction TV film titled Project Shadowchaser which was also a critical failure.
In the 1990s, he further resorted to playing supporting roles in films such as Wyatt Earp, Future Shock, and Mercenary, among others.
In 1989, he starred in the lead role as an alien named Jesse in the science fiction TV series titled Hard Time on Planet Earth. The series received harsh criticism for poor VFX, bad performances, and shoddy storyline. Also receiving negative TV ratings, the series was cancelled after a single season, and only 13 episodes of it were aired.
In 2002, he further appeared playing a supporting role in the horror film titled Crocodile 2: Death Swamp, and in the rest of the 2000s as well, he was seen in minor supporting roles in several films that did not gain any prominence.
His television career also trod the same path in the 2000s, as he appeared primarily in TV films such as Hard Ground and Barbarian, without creating any fuss regarding his work.
In the more recent years, however, he has found some success. In 2018, he was seen reprising his role of John Kreese from The Karate Kid, in the martial arts comedy series titled Cobra Kai. The series is set 34 years after the events of the original film took place and brought most of the original cast back. The series has received a good response, and it is currently streaming on the YouTube Premium platform.
In 2019, he portrayed the role of a sheriff in the “TV show within a film” section of the period comedy-drama film titled Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, directed by American film director Quentin Tarantino.
Martin Kove married actress Vivienne Kove in 1981. They ended their 24 years of marriage by officially divorcing in 2005. They had two children together, a son and a daughter.
He currently serves as the honorary marshal of Tarzana, California.
Martin claimed that despite his on-screen persona of an action star, he always wanted to do more artistically fulfilling roles, but “business gets in the way of art.”
How To Cite
People Also Viewed