We’re still five months away from the release of the animated The Super Mario Bros. Movie, but actor John Leguizamo is already pulling the plug.
The reason: Leguizamo, who starred as Luigi in the 1993 live-action movie Super Mario Bros., isn’t too keen on the lack of diversity for the two lead roles. Chris Pratt (Jurassic World) is lending his voice to play Mario, while Charlie Day (Always Sunny in Philadelphia) is playing Luigi.
“For them to go backwards and not cast another [actor of color] kind of sucks,” Leguizamo told IndieWire.
Leguizamo said when he was cast in the role of Luigi in the original movie, directors Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton “fought really hard” for him to get the role because he was Latino. “[The studio] didn’t want me to be the lead,” Leguizamo said.
In the 2017 book Lights, Camera, Game Over!: How Video Game Movies Get Made, Jankel said she and Morton were immediately on board with casting Leguizamo after they saw him perform with improv comedy troupe Second City.
“[Leguizamo] had a wonderful combination of empathy and irreverence but was entirely without guile,” she said. “[The role of Luigi] was not specifically scripted to be cast with a Hispanic or Latino actor, but it made perfect sense that the Mario Bros. themselves should be this contemporary, unconventional family, so the small unit of just two couldn’t be pegged as one thing or another.”
For Leguizamo, the fan base for his original video game movie is still strong after nearly 30 years. He doesn’t think the new movie will do well with Super Mario Bros. admirers.
“I’m O.G.,” he said. “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. I’m not bitter. It’s unfortunate.”