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John Leguizamo explains “dark vision” behind ’90s Super Mario movie

The Super Mario Bros Movie is currently the biggest movie of 2023, but 30 years ago another attempt was made to adapt the video game, with dark results.

Super Mario Bros

John Leguizamo has played many iconic roles during his career – from Chi-Chi in To Wong Foo and Tybalt in romance movie Romeo + Juliet, to popular kids movie roles – Sid in Ice Age and Bruno in Encanto. But one role that has come up a lot recently, for obvious reasons, is Luigi in 1993’s Super Mario Bros. While the film was not a critical or commercial success, it did help make Leguizamo a bigger star.

Leguizamo recently broke down some of his iconic roles for GQ, and said of working with Bob Hoskins (who played Mario); “I couldn’t understand him, really. Unless I was drinking, then I thought I could understand him.” In retrospect, casting Leguizamo (who is of Colombian origin) and Hoskins (who is of Cockney origin) as famous Italian brothers was not an obvious choice.

“The directors, who created Max Headroom, were the biggest commercial directors of the era. They had this dark, dark vision that Disney was not OK with. So there was all this head-butting that was incredible. In that party [nightclub] scene, those were all strippers from North Carolina that they put on the set. They had them in the most revealing clothes and Disney was not happy, they had to cut a lot of it out.” Super Mario Bros is definitely not your regular Disney movie.

Leguizamo concluded; “But I loved those directors, and they gave me an opportunity. They stuck their neck out to have a Latin guy as the lead, as Bob Hoskins’ brother. That was unheard of at the time, it was so innovative and I was so grateful to them for that.”

Despite the initial controversy over the casting of Chris Pratt, 2023’s Super Mario Bros animated movie has been a massive box office success. It’s by far the highest grossing movie of the year, and has made $720 million and counting. The 1993 Super Mario Bros was the first major video game movie, and it has taken 30 years for them to start being successful. There are now an alarming number in development.

Check out our guide to the best family movies.