Always ready and searching to find an identity politics-based lens through which to view any event in Hollywood, actor John Leguizamo has once again leveled criticism at the casting in Illumination’s upcoming The Super Mario Bros. Movie, this time over its lack of an “actor of color” in the title role.
Leguizamo, who portrayed Luigi in the disastrous 1993 Super Mario Bros. movie, regurgitated his tired opinion on November 15th while speaking to IndieWire on the red carpet of his latest film, The Menu.
Weighing in on Chris Pratt and Charlie Day’s respective succession of the late Bob Hoskins and himself as cinematic versions of the moustachioed video game heroes, the Encanto star recalled how “[the 1986 film] 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,” lamented Leguizamo. “For them to go backwards and not cast another [actor of color] kind of sucks.”
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As noted above, this is not the first time the actor has had words for Illumination and Nintendo’s animated endeavor.
Shortly after the September 23rd, 2021 announcement of The Super Mario Bros. Movie‘s development, an upset Leguizamo took to his personal Twitter account to decry, “So glad #SuperMarioBros is getting a reboot! Obviously it’s iconic enough, but too bad they went all white!”
“No Latinx in the leads!” he further exclaimed before letting his ego get the best of him. “Groundbreaking colorblind casting in original! Plus I’m the only one who knows how to make this movie work script wise!”
It should be clarified that despite Leguizamo’s outrage, the cast of Illumination’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie is far from “all white”.
Rather, in addition to its white cast members such as Pratt, Day, Jack Black as Bowser, and Anya-Taylor Joy as Princess Peach, it also features a number of non-white actors on its talent list, including Kevin Michael Richardson (Principal Lewis, American Dad) as Kamek, Khary Payton (Cyborg, Teen Titans (2003)) as the Penguin King, and Eric Bauza (the current voice of Bugs Bunny) in an as-of-yet unrevealed role.
Of course, Leguizamo’s grievances with what he perceives as Hollywood’s racist casting habits has not been limited to just the grandfather of video games.
In light of the August 2022 announcement that original Spider-Man trilogy star James Franco had been cast as former Cuban leader Fidel Castro in director Miguel Bardem’s upcoming Alina of Cuba, Leguizamo took to Instagram to question, “How is this still going on? How is Hollywood excluding us but stealing our narratives as well?”
“No more appropriation Hollywood and streamers!” he bellowed. “Boycott! This F’d up! Plus seriously difficult story to tell without aggrandizement which would be wrong!”
“I don’t got a prob with Franco but he ain’t Latino!” the actor concluded.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie is currently slated to hit theaters on April 7th, 2023.