When The Super Mario Bros. Movie hits theaters in the spring, it won’t be the first big screen take on the classic Nintendo game. But it will be the first animated one. Back in 1993, Hollywood spent nearly $50 million — almost $100 million today — on a live-action adaptation (that bombed and was hated by one of its leads). For Mario and Luigi, they didn’t cast two Italians. Instead they chose a Brit (Bob Hoskins) and a Colombian with Spanish and African roots (John Leguizamo). It’s the kind of diverse casting you see today — which is why Leguizamo is pretty disappointed that the new one stars two white actors, namely Chris Pratt and Charlie Day.
“I’m O.G. A lot of people love the original,” Leguizamo told IndieWire. “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.”
He recalls his casting being rare for the time. “The directors Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton fought really hard for me to be the lead because I was a Latin man, and [the studio] didn’t want me to be the lead,” Leguizamo said. “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.”
It’s not the first time Leguizamo has criticized the new Mario Bros. for its non-diverse casting (although it does have Keegan-Michael Key voicing Toad). Last year, when Pratt’s casting was first announced, he sounded off on Twitter.
So glad #superMariobros is getting a reboot! Obviously it’s iconic enuff. But too bad they went all white! No Latinx in the leads! Groundbreaking color-blind casting in original! Plus I’m the only one who knows how to make this movie work script wise! pic.twitter.com/lNokmdpwMq
— John Leguizamo (@JohnLeguizamo) September 27, 2021
“So glad #superMariobros is getting a reboot! Obviously it’s iconic enuff,” he wrote. “But too bad they went all white! No Latinx in the leads! Groundbreaking color-blind casting in original! Plus I’m the only one who knows how to make this movie work script wise!”
Leguizamo isn’t the only one critical of Pratt’s casting. Pratt had promised that his voice in the film would be “unlike anything you’ve heard in the Mario world before.” When the first trailer dropped, people had lots of jokes, though perhaps the best one was that he sounded less like an Italian plumber and more like Linda Belcher from Bob’s Burgers.