John Leguizamo Won’t Watch Super Mario Movie Over Lack of Latino Representation
John Leguizamo, 62, is a fierce proponent of Latino representation onscreen, famously using his Hollywood platform to push for inclusion. For one, he recently spoke out against the casting of James Franco as Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in the upcoming movie “Alina of Cuba,” and even wrote an op-ed for the L.A. Times where he wrote about Latinos still being “stigmatized” and “rarely” being cast.
Consistently calling out those in power for ignoring Latino talent, Leguizamo is now focusing on another movie with vastly-white casting: this month’s “The Super Mario Bros. Movie.”
Leguizamo once played the role of Luigi — which is exactly why the new movie’s casting disappointed him
The Colombian-American star is no stranger to questioning execs when they cast white actors instead of people of color. In fact, Leguizamo is all about paving the road for young Latinos, saying he owes it to “la cultura” after his difficult come-up in Hollywood.
Talking to the Academy Awards’ Seen Series last year, he remembered studio execs once telling him “Latin people don’t want to see Latin people” on television, and even admitted to staying out of the sun to keep his skin whiter to land roles. As he puts it, castings were never “an equal playing field” as a Latino actor, and today, Leguizamo uses his power to make it as level as possible.
Of course, this is where the “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” comes in. TMZ caught up with Leguizamo in NYC this week and asked him about his thoughts on the new animated film. Why? Well, Leguizamo actually once played Mario’s brother Luigi in 1993s cult-classic “Super Mario Bros,” which can only be described as kooky, sort-of-awesome, and the plot includes human-dinosaur adversaries in brown suits. Cool.
While much of the cast in the 1993 film was white, Leguizamo describes being cast in it as a “groundbreaking” move back then. The 2023 movie’s decision to cast Chris Pratt and Charlie Day as Mario and Luigi? Not so groundbreaking.
Will Leguizamo watch the new animated movie? As he put it, “Hell no”
Leguizamo told TMZ he “will not” watch “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” mostly because they “could have included” a Latino character. He explained, “I was groundbreaking and then they stopped the groundbreaking. They messed up the inclusion. They dis-included.”
He continued, focusing on his call for more diversity in Hollywood across the board. “Just cast some Latin folk! We’re 20% of the population. The largest people of color group and we are underrepresented.”
When asked again whether he would still watch the movie, Leguizamo replied, “Hell no.” Well, that settles that!
This isn’t the first time the “Moulin Rouge” actor speaks out against “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” — in fact, he told Indie Wire in November that the film’s casting was a “backwards” decision.
He described himself as the “O.G.” Luigi, talking about how “a lot of people love the original” and many have told him, “We love the old one, the original.” As he puts it, many are “not feeling” the new movie… or its casting. While some people could accuse him of being a bit salty for not being cast as a voice actor this time around, Leguizamo asserts that’s not the case. “I’m not bitter. It’s unfortunate.”
As he recalls, the 1993 movie’s directors “fought really hard” for Leguizamo to be the lead, because studio execs weren’t sure about casting a Latino. Describing it as “such a breakthrough” at the time, it’s exactly the reason why the actor thinks not casting another actor of color in the 2023 movie “kind of sucks.”
“The Super Mario Bros. Movie” has received backlash since its first trailer
As you may recall, this isn’t the first time the new animated movie has come under fire for its casting. Back in October 2022, fans immediately reacted viscerally to Chris Pratt’s voice as Mario in the trailer— and not in a good way. With one Twitter user questioning whether Pratt was doing “a bad Italian accent or a bad Brooklyn accent,” the consensus was that it was just… bad. So much so, that Latino voice-over actor Carlos Morillo actually replaced Pratt’s voice with his own… and it was actually amazing:
Think what you will about Pratt’s voice in the trailer, that controversy plus Leguizamo’s recent comments are enough to make many question the film’s casting decisions. Still, not everyone wholeheartedly agrees with Leguizamo’s opinion. Many on Twitter are actually pointing out that Mario and Luigi being “Italian to the extreme” and not Latino, makes the casting okay:
Others are bringing up the casting of Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach, since the actress is part-Argentine. Still, we can all agree that Latino representation is great to see on screen, and who can blame Leguizamo for looking out for his community?