New Super Mario Bros. movie casting “backwards”, former Luigi actor says

Actor John Leguizamo, who played Luigi in the 1993 adaptation of Nintendo’s Super Mario franchise, has said he believes Illumination’s upcoming CGI film is “backwards” in its casting.

Speaking to IndieWire, Leguizamo recalled how his directors Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton “fought really hard for [him] to be the lead because [he] was a Latin man”.

The actor stated that the studio had not initially wanted him to be a lead, but the directors’ push to cast him eventually worked – something Leguizamo called “such a breakthrough” for the industry.

As such, Leguizamo said he felt Illumination’s decision not to cast another actor of colour in the lead roles for the upcoming Super Mario Bros. Movie was “backwards” and “kind of sucks”.

This is not the first time Leguizamo has made his feelings about the upcoming film’s casting known. Per the Daily Mail, earlier in the year Leguizamo tweeted: “So glad #SuperMarioBros is getting a reboot! Obviously, it’s iconic [enough].

“But too bad they went all white! No Latinx in the leads! Groundbreaking colour-blind casting in original! Plus I’m the only one who knows how to make this movie work script-wise!”

In the new film, which is set to release next year following a delay, Mario will be voiced by Chris Pratt, while Luigi will be voiced by Charlie Day. They are joined by Anya Taylor-Joy as Peach, Jack Black as Bowser, Keegan-Michael Key as Toad, and Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong.

Pratt’s casting as Mario has been controversial from the start, with many believing the role should have gone to Mario’s in-game voice actor, Charles Martinet.

This includes voice actor Tara Strong (whose performances include those of Harley Quinn, Batgirl, and Fairly Odd Parents’ Timmy Turner). Last month, Strong shared a series of tweets lamenting the studio’s decision to not cast Martinet in the film’s titular role.

“Voice actors – I’m gonna put my heart and soul in this for at least 20 years, help sell billions in merch, make the studios millions of dollars and make generations around the world happy. Hollywood – We don’t care,” she wrote.