Based on one of the great video game successes of all time, 1993’s “Super Mario Bros.” movie is notorious both for disasters on set and the catastrophe that is the finished product.
Starring Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo, it’s widely credited with turning Nintendo off live-action features for the past 20-plus years. But as a cultural artifact, it’s rather fascinating, and an interview with director Rocky Morton revealed another new wrinkle to the film’s tangled history: He and his directing partner Annabel Jankel (“Max Headroom”) had asked Danny DeVito to play Mario.
“Danny DeVito turned us down,” Morton recently told SciFiNow when asked how Hoskins landed the role. “Mario was the main character in the cast, and Bob was available. It was basically about availability.”
Morton said he expected a great comedy dynamic between Hoskins, who had recently starred in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” and Leguizamo, who played Luigi. However, a last-minute rewrite threw off his plans.
“The new writer wrote it in about a week and a half and then we were presented with the script,” he recalled. “That was about a week before the start of principal photography. We were given a script that was completely different, and Annabel and I almost walked off the film at that point.”
Even with all the drama, Morton said, “I’m proud of the achievement in the face of what Annabel and I had to go through to make that film.”
Would DeVito have been able to overcome the off-camera conflagrations to salvage the Mario family? Given his string of successes around that time, including “Twins,” “Batman Returns” and “Hoffa,” he might be as happy never to know.
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