The group of those speaking out against the upcoming reboot is growing as original Super Mario Bros. movie star John Leguizamo is slamming the animated film’s non-inclusive cast. Leguizamo starred in the 1993 adaptation of Nintendo’s game franchise as Luigi Mario, an Italian-American plumber and brother to the titular character who find themselves transported to the bizarre alternate dimension of Dinohattan, led by Dennis Hopper’s King Koopa. The Super Mario Bros. Movie will act as a launching point for an interconnected cinematic universe of Nintendo characters, with Chris Pratt leading the ensemble cast of Mario, though not all are on board for the casting.
In a recent interview with IndieWire, Leguizamo reflected on his time making the original Super Mario Bros. movie adaptation. While looking towards the upcoming animated film, the former Luigi actor slammed the decision to go for a white actor in the titular role, feeling it to be a step “backwards” in POC representation for film. See what Leguizamo expressed below:
I’m O.G. A lot of people love the original. I did Comic-Con in New York and in Baltimore, and everyone’s like, ‘No, no, we love the old one, the original.’ They’re not feeling the new one. I’m not bitter. It’s unfortunate. The directors Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton fought really hard for me to be the lead because I was a Latin man, and they [the studio] didn’t want me to be the lead. They fought really hard, and it was such a breakthrough. For them to go backwards and not cast another [actor of color] kind of sucks.
Leguizamo Is Right About Mario’s Backwards Casting
Pratt’s casting as Mario in The Super Mario Bros Movie has come under fire for a variety of reasons, ranging from the lack of an actual Italian-American in the role to the lackluster performance heard in the recently released trailer. Prolific voice actor Tara Strong has spoken out against the casting, feeling that longtime Mario game voice actor Charles Martinet should have reprised the role for the animated film instead of the Jurassic World star. On the flip side, Khary Payton, who voices the Penguin King, has spoken in defense of Pratt’s work in The Super Mario Bros. Movie, indicating that the actor is bringing a Sopranos-style approach to the character instead of the voice audiences have come to know and love.
Whichever side of the argument audiences fall on in regard to Pratt’s work, many are sure to feel that Leguizamo is ultimately right in his Super Mario Bros. Movie casting criticisms. Even if Pratt’s full work in the role doesn’t prove as terrible as the trailer made it seem, casting a solely white actor in the part instead of someone with genuine Italian roots creating a disappointing lack of inclusivity in the film’s roster. Though Leguizamo may not have any Italian heritage of his own, he at least brought a sense of diversity to the character in the otherwise terrible Super Mario Bros., while the decision to cast Keegan Michael-Key in the role of Toad shows the producers were open to the idea of an inclusive cast, but failed to properly capitalize on it.
Will The Super Mario Bros. Movie’s Backlash Hurt Its Box Office?
Given the division towards the film with less than a year remaining, the question now becomes whether The Super Mario Bros. Movie will suffer at the box office due to the casting backlash. Unlike Sonic the Hedgehog before it, the animated Nintendo film doesn’t have the benefit of completely redesigning its titular character to better suit audience expectations, and with the weeks prior seeing the releases of John Wick: Chapter 4, Shazam! Fury of the Gods and Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, it will have a lot of competition to overcome to prove to the game publisher that a new film adaptation was a good idea. Only time will tell when The Super Mario Bros. Movie hits theaters on April 7, 2023.