Casting of Chris Pratt in Super Mario Bros Faces Backlash

Super Mario Bros won’t be released until April 2023, but the film is already facing some casting criticism. The animated feature film’s titular brothers are voiced by Chris Pratt (Mario) and Charlie Day (Luigi). Per Deadline, film producer Chris Meledandri addressed internet backlash for casting American actor Chris Pratt as the voice of Italian character Mario in the upcoming animated film during the CineEurope convention. Meledandri, who is also the founder and CEO of Illumination studios, said:

“We are collaborating with Chris and his experienced team to not just create a character-licensed film, but a new piece of entertainment which brings ‘Super Mario Bros.’ to life on the screen, and allows everyone to enjoy whether or not they know about the game. When people hear Chris Pratt’s performance, the criticism will evaporate, maybe not entirely — people love to voice opinions, as they should.I’m not sure this is the smartest defense, but as a person who has Italian-American heritage, I feel I can make that decision without worrying about offending Italians or Italian-Americans…I think we’re going to be just fine.”

Charles Martinet, known for voicing Mario and Luigi in the video game series since 1992, is of French descent.

The upcoming Universal and Nintendo animated film also stars Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach, Jack Black as Bowser, Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong, Keegan-Michael Key as Toad, Fred Armisen as Cranky Kong, Kevin Michael Richardson as Kamek, and Sebastian Maniscalco as Spike. Super Mario Bros. is directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic and written by Matthew Fogel. Super Mario Bros. game creator Shigeru Miyamoto serves as producer alongside Meledandri.

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The video-game adaptation has been pushed back from its original December release date to April 7, 2023 in North America. A Japanese release will follow on April 28.

Pratt, himself, is no stranger to backlash. In 2019, Elliot Page (then Ellen Page) called out the actor for attending “infamously anti-LGBTQ” Hillsong church. Pratt took to Instagram to defend the church stating that “nothing could be further from the truth.” In 2021, the actor faced more public scrutiny after fans felt that a birthday post for his wife, where he thanked her for a “healthy daughter,” was a dig at ex-wife Anna Faris and their developmentally disabled son.

The Iconic Super Mario Bros.

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Super Mario Bros. is the best-selling video game franchise of all time, with more than 758.06 million copies sold. The first video game within the franchise was released for Nintendo in 1985.

The iconic characters first made their way to the big screen in 1993, in a live-action film (also titled Super Mario Bros.) that starred Bob Hoskins as Mario, John Leguizamo as Luigi, and Dennis Hopper as King Koopa. The film was directed by Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel, and written by Parker Bennett, Terry Runté, and Ed Solomon. The live-action film was not a success, grossing just under $39 million worldwide (with a budget upwards of $42 million) and negative critic reviews. At the time, Miyamoto stated that he felt the film tried too hard to replicate the games.

Mario and the gang have also made their way onto TV and film, amusement park attractions, clothing, toys, and even Band-Aids.

In a statement released in 2021, Meledandri spoke about the characters and upcoming film:

“Mario and Luigi are two of the most beloved heroes in all of popular culture, and we are honored to have the unique opportunity to work so closely with Shigeru Miyamoto and the widely imaginative team at Nintendo to bring these characters to life in an animated movie, unlike any film Illumination has made to date.”