In 1993 the iconic Mario Bros game franchise received its film debut with Super Mario Bros. Despite an off-the-wall plot centering around the underground city of Dinohattan, a fair amount of Mario fans enjoyed the quirky film and it’s enjoyed a cult following since.
However, with the upcoming animated Mario film in the works, John Leguizamo, who played Luigi in the 1993 adaptation, is airing his displeasure with the choice to predominantly cast white voice actors.
“So glad #SuperMarioBros is getting a reboot! Obviously, it’s iconic [enough]. ‘But too bad they went all white! No Latinx in the leads! Groundbreaking color-blind casting in original,” Leguizamo said in a tweet. “Plus, I’m the only one who knows how to make this movie work script-wise!’
Super Mario Bros: The Fight For Diversity
Leguizamo, known for various roles, including voicing Bruno in Disney’s Encanto, rose to fame as Luigi Mario in the original Super Mario Bros film. The actor praised the film’s directors for fighting to cast him as Mario’s younger brother, despite the studio’s resistance.
“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, Leguizamo told Indiewire in a recent interview. “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.”
While white-washing is always problematic, the Mario Brothers are meant to be Italian, leading some to feel Leguizamo shouldn’t be complaining.
“I mean, technically, John is a Colombian actor who took the role of Luigi from Italian actors…Not sure he should be casting stones here,” tweeted user @DuckedOut84.
(And let’s not mention the very UK-based Bob Hoskins as Mario…)
Could do better
While white actors Chris Pratt and Charlie Day are voicing Mario and Luigi, respectively, in the upcoming movie, the cast also includes black actors Keegan-Michael Key and Kevin Michael Richardson as Toad and Kamek.
“I’m O.G. A lot of people love the original,” Leguizamo added. “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.”
While Super Mario Bros, with its inventive, quirky plot, wasn’t entirely well-received, the film certainly has its following. Some of us, ahem, were raised on the fantastical film.
However, the 90’s flick did suffer the typical pitfalls that plague a video game film adaptation. It’s these same pitfalls that Bioshock director Francis Lawrence is trying to avoid. And while Leguizamo might not be happy about it, thus far, the trailer for The Super Mario Bros. Movie has been well received, meaning the film is likely to draw a crowd when it releases next year.