John Leguizamo played Luigi opposite the late Bob Hoskins’ Mario in the 1993 live-action comedy “Super Mario Bros. Movie” and he’s sharing his thoughts about the casting for the upcoming animated “The Super Mario Bros. Movie”.
In the new film, Chris Pratt voices Mario while “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” star Charlie Day voices Luigi, casting choices that Leguizamo sees as “going backwards.”
“I’m O.G. A lot of people love the original,” Leguizamo said in a recent interview with 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,” Leguizamo added. “I’m not bitter. It’s unfortunate.”
As Leguizamo recalled, 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 colour] kind of sucks.”
Last year, the film’s producer, Chris Meledandri, addressed skepticism about casting the non-Italian Pratt as the iconic video game character.
“We are collaborating with Chris and his experienced team to not just create a character-licensed film, but a new piece of entertainment which brings ‘Super Mario Bros.’ to life on the screen and allows everyone to enjoy whether or not they know about the game,” Meledandri said, as reported by Deadline.
“When people hear Chris Pratt’s performance, the criticism will evaporate, maybe not entirely — people love to voice opinions, as they should,” he added. “I’m not sure this is the smartest defense, 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.”