Why Super Mario Alum John Leguizamo Feels Casting Went ‘Backward’ For The Chris Pratt Movie

John Leguizamo as Luigi in Super Mario Bros. and the animated Mario from The Super Mario Bros. Movie, pictured side-by-side.
(Image credit: Hollywood Pictures/Universal & Illumination)

Upon the announcement that Chris Pratt was leading the cast of The Super Mario Bros. Movie, there was some backlash from the interwebs. As one of potentially most exciting 2023 movie releases, it’s a decision that’s still hotly debated by fans. However, O.G. Super Mario Bros. star John Leguizamo has been criticizing the movie's casting for other reasons, and recently explained why he feels Pratt’s casting is “backward.”  

As he was on hand for the New York premiere of The Menu, Leguizamo spoke with IndieWire about the matter on the red carpet. He's called out the lack of diverse talent in the cast, the man who once brought Luigi to life in live-action expanded upon his feelings with memories of how he nabbed the role in the first place: 

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 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.

John Leguizamo’s specific issue with the lack of Latin leads is clarified a little more with this background information. While the '90s Super Mario Bros. movie may not have been perfect, the casting of Luigi was a pretty big deal. Looking at the new film’s casting choices could definitely be seen as a step backward when compared to how The Super Mario Bros. Movie’s predecessor handled assembling its team.

Though the initial release of Super Mario Bros. was a disaster, time seems to have brought a new fanbase to the film. Even the actor seems to have softened in his views, as the stories behind the film’s infamous production paint some interesting pictures. All seems to be forgiven, because Leguizamo is grateful for the opportunity that movie gave him early on in his career.

To want that opportunity for the current generation of diverse talent is square in the wheelhouse of what John Leguizamo has tried to draw attention to throughout his career. His upset that The Super Mario Bros. Movie is failing to vary its lead casting in a manner that the ‘90s live-action adaptation actually achieved is totally understandable. 

It’s a lesson that more video game projects, as well as entertainment productions in general, can stand to learn from as we move forward on the subject of diversity. For now, we'll have to wait and see what the overall reaction to The Super Mario Bros. Movie happens to be, as it's scheduled to hit theaters on April 7, 2023. 

Meanwhile, fans of John Leguizamo can see him return to the big screen in the upcoming movies The Menu and Violent Night. Those films open November 18th and December 2nd, respectively. 

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.