John Leguizamo Continues to Criticize Super Mario Bros Chris Pratt Casting

By Anthony Lund
November 16, 2022

When the voice cast of Illumination’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie was announced, one person who was less than pleased with some of the casting choices was former Luigi actor John Leguizamo, who portrayed the character in 1993’s live-action Super Mario Bros. In a recent interview, Leguizamo doubled down on his opinion that the casting of Chris Pratt in the lead role has taken a step back regarding diverse casting.

The reveal that Pratt would be voicing the iconic game character Mario in the new animated movie from the studio behind the Despicable Me franchise was met with a mixed reception. While Pratt is a major star name to be attached to the project, voice artist Tara Strong slammed the production for not employing long-term voice actor Charles Martinet, who has portrayed Mario and his brother and characters such as Wario since the early 90s. However, even that casting would probably not have pleased Leguizamo, who feels it should have been an actor with Italian heritage taking on the role. He told IndieWire:

“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. I’m not bitter. It’s unfortunate. The [1993 movie] 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 color] kind of sucks.”

Should Super Mario Bros. Movie Have a More Diverse Cast?

The question of diversity in movies does not seem to have a simple, or even complex, answer. No matter what casting decisions are made, there will be many people who are not happy with it one way or the other, and that is something that Hollywood will probably never be able to complete negotiate successfully.

Leguizamo’s claims of the movie not being diverse have been made before and have been questioned by fans of Pratt, who have pointed out that the original Super Mario Bros. film had an Englishman playing Mario and a Colombian playing Luigi, with neither actor having any kind of family history with Italian roots. In addition, many have argued that the same can be said of Martinet, an American with family roots in France, who voiced Mario in games and animated TV shows for three decades.

Diversity is always brought up when it comes to live-action movies and TV shows, but when it comes to voice acting, there is a whole different bridge to cross, as the actors not being seen on screen makes some people believe that it doesn’t matter who is behind the voice. That also works both ways, as it could be argued that having big names like Chris Pratt and Jack Black behind the voices doesn’t necessarily mean much when no one can see them. The debate continues.

From Society of Voice Arts and Sciences