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With his big mustache, red overalls and gawky brother, Mario of Super Mario Bros. has been an icon of video gaming since the 1980s. His adventures rescuing Princess Peach while collecting coins, and trouncing grimacing Goombas, made little narrative sense yet made for countless hours of entertainment for gamers old and young. So following the successful release of Super Mario Bros. 1-3, it made perfect sense for some enterprising producer to attempt a movie spin-off. Of course, the result was the totally ludicrous Super Mario Bros., which starred Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo as two Brooklyn plumbers who haphazardly enter a portal to another dimension where dinosaurs have evolved into human-life creatures. You know, nothing like the game!
If you've ever wondered how the filmmakers strayed so far afield from what the games were known for, Game Informer has got the answers, detailing the Super Mario Bros. bizarre and bumpy path from pitch to one of the worst movies of 1993. The whole tale is pretty incredible, but below you can check out some bewildering behind-the-scenes facts.
1. Danny DeVito, who had recently helmed the dark comedies Throw Momma from the Train and The War of the Roses was initially approached to direct Super Mario Bros., and star as Mario. When he passed on the project, Turner & Hooch-era Tom Hanks was considered, but hot off such kid-friendly blockbusters as Hook and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, producers decided Bob Hoskins would be a more "bankable" star.
2. Before Dennis Hopper signed on to play King Koopa, '80s A-listers Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michael Keaton were considered for the role. Yep, The Terminator and Batman. Obviously, both passed.
3. Producers commissioned several scripts to decide on a direction for the project, and before they settled on co-directors Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton's vision of a dystopic cyberpunk-styled, dinosaur-populated Manhattan, they considered a light-hearted adventure in the vein of The Wizard of Oz or Alice in Wonderland, an action-packed Die Hard-inspired version that would ideally feature a Bruce Willis cameo, and a Mad Max-styled riff complete with death races.
4. The studio wanted a kid-friendly flick, so when they felt Jankel and Morton's vision was skewing too dark, they called in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure scribe Ed Solomon to do a pass on the script just weeks before production. Morton recounts, "We were forbidden to work with that writer. And that was only a couple of weeks before we went into principle photography. I’d already had the set built and a lot of characters with prosthetics had already been made, so that script came in and a lot of it didn’t match what we’d already started working on.”
5. While only three writers ultimately got credit from the Writers Guild of America, Game Informer says at least nine worked on the script, accounting for the mess it became.
6. With so many script changes, the screenplay was in flux during production, adding to stress all around, resulting in some monumental bad behavior like Morton reportedly pouring coffee over an extra he decided didn't look "dirty" enough for Dinohatten, and Leguizamo drinking on set while driving, resulting in an accident that cause Hoskins to get a cast that can be seen randomly throughout the final film.
7. With havoc on set and the schedule ballooning from 10 weeks to 15, producers scrapped the original finale that would have had Mario scaling the Brooklyn Bridge and defeating Koopa by "dropping a Bob-Omb down Koopa’s throat then kicking him into the river before he exploded." Instead, he is shot by a gun that devolves him into slime.
8. When principal photography wrapped, Morton and Jankel weren't only barred from the editing bay, but also kept out of second-unit reshoots that aimed to add more action to the narrative.
Ultimately, Super Mario. Bros. Bob-Ombed at the box office, earning only $20 million, $28 million less than its budget, which doesn't account for print and advertising costs. It was also loathed by critics, and arguably crippled Hoskins' career. So, let's leave the recently retired actor—who will always be remembered with fondness as Smee and Eddie Valiant—with the last word:
"The worst thing I ever did? Super Mario Bros. It was a f---in’ nightmare. The whole experience was a nightmare. It had a husband-and-wife team directing, whose arrogance had been mistaken for talent. After so many weeks their own agent told them to get off the set! F---in’ nightmare. F---in’ idiots.”
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