John Leguizamo has criticised the “backwards” casting in The Super Mario Bros. Movie.
The actor, who played Luigi in the 1993 live-action film Super Mario Bros. opposite Bob Hoskins’ Mario, shared his thoughts on the casting in the upcoming animated film from Illumination (Despicable Me). In the film, Mario and Luigi are voiced by Chris Pratt and Charlie Day respectively, who are both not of Italian descent.
Speaking to IndieWire at the premiere of The Menu, Leguizamo said: “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.”
When discussing Pratt and Day’s casting, Leguizamo highlighted the efforts taken by directors of the 1993 film, Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton, in casting him as Luigi.
“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,” he said. “They fought really hard, and it was such a breakthrough. For them to go backwards and not cast another [actor of colour] kind of sucks.”
Leguizamo was previously critical of the casting on Twitter in September last year. “So glad #SuperMarioBros is getting a reboot,” he wrote.
“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!”
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
The Super Mario Bros. Movie also stars Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach, Jack Black as Bowser, Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong and Keegan-Michael Key as Toad. The film is directed by Aaron Hovarth and Michael Jelenic (Teen Titans Go!).
Illumination Studios founder and CEO Chris Meledandri previously addressed concerns over Pratt’s casting earlier this year. “When people hear Chris Pratt’s performance, the criticism will evaporate, maybe not entirely – people love to voice opinions, as they should,” he said (via Deadline).
“I’m not sure this is the smartest defence, but as a person who has Italian-American heritage, I feel I can make that decision without worrying about offending Italians or Italian-Americans… I think we’re going to be just fine.”
The Super Mario Bros. Movie is scheduled to be released in cinemas on April 7, 2023.