Even by the low, low standards of movies based on video games, Super Mario Bros. is terrible. The 1993 film, starring a barely-trying Bob Hoskins as Mario Mario and John Leguizamo as Luigi Mario, stripped away everything Nintendo fans enjoyed about the video game (like, colorful personalities and an adorable Yoshi), and replaced it with something that’s both boring and confusing. To quote Paul Scheer on the wonderful How Did This Get Made podcast, “Can you make a movie out of a video game? In this case, no!”
Even the movie’s co-director, Rocky Morton, is well aware that he gave birth to a monster. In an interview with SciFiNow, Morton, who’s one of the co-creators of Max Headroom, explained why Super Mario Bros. turned out as terribly as it did. For one thing: “We [Morton and co-director Annabel Jankel] were with CAA, the agency, and our agent set over the script for Super Mario Bros. and I read it and I hated it.” But Morton “loved the concept.” He also loved Danny DeVito as Mario (!). Unfortunately, he “turned us down. Mario was the main character in the cast, and Bob was available. It was basically about availability.” So, bad script and wrong leading man? Got it.
Morton, Jankel, Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais wrote a new script that was more “sophisticated,” but the studios rejected it for being too dark, and a new writer was brought in. “The new writer wrote it in about a week and a half and then we were presented with the script,” Morton said. “That was about a week before the start of principle photography… Annabel and I almost walked off the film at that point.” They probably should have, considering Morton described the mood on set as being “angsty and uppity” over the new script, which the actors hated. Especially King Koopa himself, Dennis Hopper.