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Cheech Marin could have played Mario — if only he’d jumped at the chance

Contributed by
Apr 11, 2018

It’s hard to envision how different our hindsight take might be on Super Mario Bros., the so-bad-it’s-good movie adaptation of the game franchise featuring Nintendo’s star player, if Cheech Marin and his excellent mustache had agreed to take on the role.

And while pop culture history will continue to throw good-natured barbs at Bob Hoskins’ performance as the platforming plumber in the original movie, at least we now know that Hoskins wasn’t the studio’s first choice.

Speaking with Forbes recently for an interview surveying their careers in film and comedy, Marin and his partner Tommy Chong revealed a number of interesting cinematic near misses, including Marin’s admission that he turned Hollywood Pictures’ offer down when they approached him to star in the ill-fated 1993 Mario movie.

“I turned down a few video games when they were first starting out,” Marin said. “They wanted me to be this character and it turned out the character they were asking me to be was Mario of the Mario Bros.”

Marin said the studio’s criterion for singling him out as a casting choice was about as straightforward as it gets: they liked his mustache. “It was because of the mustache, ya know?” he told Forbes

Super Mario Bros. was among the very first significant attempts to recreate the success of a sensationally popular video game franchise by adapting its setting and characters for the big screen. Fan consensus regards it as a laughably silly, narratively unfocused mess of a movie, with uncommitted performances from otherwise fine actors like Hoskins, John Leguizamo (as Luigi), Samantha Mathis (as Princess Daisy), and Dennis Hopper (as King Koopa).  

In light of Richard Edson’s recent revelation that much of the cast allegedly stayed high throughout Super Mario Bros.’ production, it’s some kind of idle fun to speculate about how much loopier the performances might have been if none other than the co-star of Up in Smoke had played the leading role.

Super Mario Bros. wasn’t the only memorable casting move the duo sidestepped. In another “what might have been” reflection, Chong said he regrets not accepted a part (he didn’t say which part) in Disney’s The Lion King.

He also said he wishes he and his partner had taken a chance on the horror genre. “I've always thought that the one thing we missed in our repertoire is a horror movie,” he said. “It would have been nice.” (And no, Nintendo fans, Super Mario Bros. wouldn’t have counted as Marin’s ‘horror’ movie.)

Let’s hope things are more focused as legendary Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto helps develop the recently-announced movie reboot of Nintendo’s flagship franchise. Development on a new, still-unnamed Mario movie — sans Cheech Marin, sadly — has just gotten underway.

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