Actor John Leguizamo, who starred as Luigi in the 1993 live-action “Super Mario Bros.,” slammed the casting of the upcoming adaptation of the movie, starring Chris Pratt.
The Emmy award-winning actor, 62, said he didn’t understand the reasoning behind not having any diversity in the cast, calling the decision “backwards.”
“I’m O.G. A lot of people love the original,” he told Indiewire Tuesday. “I did Comic-Con in New York and in Baltimore, and everyone’s like, ‘No, no, we love the old one, the original.’ They’re not feeling the new one. I’m not bitter. It’s unfortunate.”
“The Super Mario Bros” animated film will also star Charlie Day as “Luigi;” Anya Taylor-Joy as “Princess Peach;” Jack Black as “Bowser” and Keegan-Michael Key as “Toad.”
“The 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,” Leguizamo told the outlet. “They fought really hard, and it was such a breakthrough.”
“For them to go backwards and not cast another [actor of color] kind of sucks,” he added.
Fans of the iconic video game series were angered after Pratt, 43, was announced as the voice of the titular character.
The film’s producer Chris Meledandri defended the decision to cast non-Italian Pratt as the voice of the stereotypically Italian Nintendo plumber Mario.
Meledandri sought to assure fans that Pratt did a superb job as the iconic character and that when fans hear his voice, skepticism “will evaporate.”
“When people hear Chris Pratt’s performance, the criticism will evaporate. Maybe not entirely — people love to voice opinions, as they should,” he said.
“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.”
The film was initially set to jump into theaters on December 1, 2022, but Nintendo’s head designer, Shigeru Miyamoto, said the film will now open in spring 2023.