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Super Mario Movie’s Seth Rogen On Donkey Kong Advice He Received: "Yell More!"

Rogen’s got ideas about DK’s big-screen future…and they definitely require the wardrobe department.

By Benjamin Bullard
The Super Mario Bros. Movie Trailer

He’s the original Mario antagonist, the Nintendo ape at the tip-top of the heap. And now that Donkey Kong’s taken a big bite out of Hollywood, he’s kind of gone bananas over his new movie-sized celebrity status.

Yep, even though Bowser (Jack Black) is the real baddie of The Super Mario Bros. Movie, Bowser and everyone else with eyes on the Mushroom Kingdom have good ol’ Donkey King to thank for helping push Nintendo’s plucky plumber hero into the blockbuster-headlining pop culture icon he's become. Back in the 1980s when Donkey Kong was in arcades and Nintendo was still calling Mario “Jumpman,” DK already had a monopoly on being obsessed with stolen princesses — though for the movie, the creators were more than happy to step back and let Seth Rogen, who voices Donkey Kong in the film, do his thing with a minimum of extra fuss.

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The Super Mario Bros. Movie makers talk Seth Rogen’s Donkey Kong ‘genius’

“He’s always thinking about the larger scene and all the other things that come into play,” says co-director Michael Jelenik in a new behind-the-scenes look (above) that comes bundled in with the movie’s just-arrived “Power Up” collectible home edition. “Our job has to be like, ‘Which hilarious line are we gonna pick for the movie?’ — and then take credit for his genius.”

Rogen actually had a bit of liberty in bringing big-screen life to the gonzo gorilla, as Rogen himself notes in the clip. “I was given a lot of freedom to kind of make the character my own,” he confides. “They generally told me that Donkey Kong was angry and yelling a lot…and so most of the direction they gave me was to be angrier — and to yell more!”

Going ape behind the mic was a mission Rogen apparently took on with a kind of calculated craziness, happily mastering the challenge of channeling Donkey Kong’s famous loony aggression. "He sort of seems like he was born to play Donkey Kong in this movie," says editor Eric Osmond. But, as writer Mathew Fogel explains, Rogen always kept an eye out for how the movie folds the character into its larger story: “More than any other actor I’ve worked with," explains Fogel, "he thinks like a writer… He’s offering a ton of improv.”

Hey, if Rogen has the comedic chops to help write comedy classics like Superbad and Pineapple Express, it’s probably a safe call for Universal Pictures and Illumination to hand him a decent share of the creative reins to unleash DK’s pent-up pugnaciousness. And while he’s on an improvisational roll with the character, Rogen even has a fresh idea for how he’d evolve Donkey Kong’s image in any potential future Mario movies. “It’s a fun character, it’s a fun world,” he says. “I would be thrilled to see Donkey Kong go on more adventures… [But] maybe give him some pants this time?!”

With DK and the rest of the Mushroom Kingdom gang fresh from a $1 billion haul at the box office, The Super Mario Bros. Movie — including tons of fun behind-the-scenes bonuses in the collectible “Power Up” edition — is ready to bring home now on digital, 4K Ultra HD, Blu-Ray, and DVD.

Ready for more movie madness from Rogen? Catch Superbad streaming on Peacock right now!