John Leguizamo, who has been outspoken about Hollywood's lack of ethnic diversity regarding leads, took his latest ire to The Super Mario Bros Movie animated film from Illumination and Universal. The actor played Luigi opposite the late Bob Hoskins' Mario in the 1993 loose live-action feature adaptation of the Nintendo video game franchise. In the upcoming film, those roles are now voiced by Charlie Day and Chris Pratt. While promoting his latest film, The Menu, Leguizamo shared his thoughts on the studios' casting decisions while reflecting on his own experience as a lead and pushback from Disney under their Hollywood Pictures label.
Leguizamo: Super Mario Bros Cast Leads Go "Backwards"
"I'm O.G. A lot of people love the original. I did Comic-Con in New York and 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." Reflecting upon his own experience with the cult classic. "The directors Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton fought 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 hard, and it was such a breakthrough. For them to go backward and not cast another [actor of color] kind of sucks."
In the 1993 film, the plumber brothers travel to an alternate world to try to stop King Koopa (Dennis Hopper) from taking over the world. The live-action movie changed him from a complete reptile to a human with reptilian features. Rather than Mario saving Princess Toadstool in the games, it was Luigi trying to save Daisy (Samantha Mathis). Leguizamo's The Menu co-star Anya Taylor-Joy voices Princess Peach in the new SMB film with Jack Black as Bowser, Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong, and Keegan-Michael Key as Toad. The movie premieres on April 7, 2023. Searchlight's The Menu is currently in theaters.