Cheech Marin has revealed he was offered the lead role in the Super Mario Bros movie. Super Mario Bros was Hollywood’s first attempt at adapting a video game into a movie, but the production was famously messy from day one. Directors Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel decided that instead of the sunny, kid-friendly visuals of the game, they wanted to set the movie in a dystopian, Blade Runner-style city. After a long casting search Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo and Dennis Hopper were chosen for Mario, Luigi and Koopa respectively.
The cast clashed with the original directors, leading to them being fired and a further two directors taking over production. The script was also being rewritten constantly, with the tone veering wildly between dark and kid-friendly. The movie was critically reviled upon release and was a box office bomb. In the years following pretty much everyone involved with Super Mario Bros spoke out against it; Hoskins labelled it the worst thing he’d ever made, and Nintendo refused to license any of their titles for movies for over 20 years.
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It took a while to find a suitable cast for Super Mario Bros, with Danny DeVito and Tom Hanks being suggested for Mario and Arnold Schwarzenegger being tipped for Koopa. Cheech Marin and comic partner Tommy Chong recently sat down for a career retrospective with Forbes, and Marin revealed he was also approached about the role – seemingly because he had a mustache at the time.
Cheech Marin: 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.
Tommy Chong: What? Are you kidding?
CM: No. It was because he had this mustache, ya know?
TC: Holy ****! You could have been Mario?
CM: Yeah, for real. They were going to give me a cut of the royalties and everything.
TC: Oh my God! I didn’t know that.
The duo also commented on last year’s reveal that the concept of a Friday The 13th/Cheech and Chong crossover was briefly touted by Paramount in the 1980’s for the seventh entry. The idea never went beyond a pitch, since the franchise producer felt it wouldn’t be scary enough for horror fans or funny enough to please comedy fans. It seems neither comedian was even approached about the idea, based on their response:
CM: That’s the first I’ve heard of it but I’d love to do one of those. I’d have loved to do a horror movie.
TC: I’ve always thought that the one thing we missed in our repertoire is a horror movie. It would have been nice.
The Super Mario Bros movie set the tone for future video game movie adaptations, which is a subgenre littered with bad or disappointing movies. Netflix’s Castlevania is – to date – the only adaptation with a fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Dwayne Johnson’s Rampage is the next high-profile adaptation, and the actor has some experience with the so-called video game movie curse, having previously starred in 2005’s Doom.
There are signs Nintendo are finally healing from the wounds of Super Mario Bros, as they’re partnering with Illumination Entertainment (Despicable Me) to make a new animated Mario movie. If the movie does well, it could also lead to future movies based on Metroid and The Legend Of Zelda.
More: The Video Game Movie “Curse” Doesn’t Exist