John Leguizamo is saying mamma mia to the new “Super Mario Bros.” casting.
Leguizamo, who played Luigi in the 1993 live-action film opposite Bob Hoskins’ Mario, exclusively told IndieWire at “The Menu” premiere in New York that casting is “going backwards” with the upcoming animated feature film “Super Mario Bros.” The movie made waves after it was revealed that Chris Pratt would be playing Mario opposite Charlie Day’s Luigi. Neither actor is of Italian descent.
“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,” Leguizamo told IndieWire. “I’m not bitter. It’s unfortunate.”
Leguizamo recalled his turn as Luigi in the 1993 “Super Mario Bros.” movie. “The 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.”
Leguizamo’s “The Menu” co-star Anya Taylor-Joy voices Princess Peach in the upcoming animated revamp, with Jack Black as Bowser, Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong, and Keegan-Michael Key as Toad. The movie premieres April 7, 2023.
Producer and Illumination Studios founder and CEO Chris Meledandri curbed any casting doubts over lead star Pratt and his lack of Italian ethnicity earlier this year.
“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 during the CineEurope convention via Deadline. “When people hear Chris Pratt’s performance, the criticism will evaporate, maybe not entirely — people love to voice opinions, as they should.”
Meledandri continued, “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.”
Reporting by Vincent Perella.