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The Super Mario Bros. movie is one of the most infamous attempts to adapt a video game for the screen. Over 20 years after the fact, we learn that the movie almost had a very different leading actor. It turns out that instead of casting Bob Hoskins in the lead role, the part of classic video game plumber Mario could have gone to Cheech Marin. In a discussion of all of the various roles that Marin and his longtime partner Tommy Chong said "no" to over the years, Marin revealed he almost played the popular video game character. According to the actor...
I turned down a few video games when they were first starting out. They wanted me to be this character and it turned out the character they were asking me to be was Mario of the Mario Bros.
At first glance, it may seem slightly bizarre to cast Cheech Marin as a character named Mario, who has always been portrayed to be as Italian as his name implies. Then, of course, one realizes that the actual Super Mario Bros. movie ended up casting John Leguizamo as Mario's brother Luigi, and all of the sudden casting Marin makes a lot more sense, at least for that movie. Cheech tells Forbes that the reason the studio was apparently interested in casting him was that Mario 's most iconic feature was his mustache, and Marin, it must be admitted, is capable of one impressive mustache himself.
Cheech Marin doesn't go into detail about why he turned the role down, though odds are he's glad he did. The movie is utterly terrible and Bob Hoskins, who was the man who eventually took the role that Cheech Marin passed on, called it the worst thing he ever did. It has little to do with the actual Super Mario Bros. video game beyond the names of the characters and everything about it is just ridiculous, especially Dennis Hopper as King Koopa. Somehow the idea that Cheech Marin could have been cast solely because of a mustache doesn't seem like the craziest thing that could have happened during the production of this movie.
We all hope the second time will be the charm as Nintendo recently closed a deal with Illumination Entertainment to make an animated Mario Bros. movie at some point down the road. At least with an animated movie over the top performances will feel more at home and roles don't need to be cast solely based on facial hair.