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Chris Pratt is saying, “It’s-a-me, Mario!” and weighing in on the response to him voicing the iconic video game character in The Super Mario Bros. Movie.
“It makes sense, I was pretty nervous when they offered it to me. I thought, ‘Wow, let’s not screw this up,'” Pratt told The Hollywood Reporter of the fan investment in his voice performance at the film’s L.A. premiere on Saturday. “That’s where it all comes from, I think. People are passionate about this character and they’ve probably seen some of their favorite IP getting screwed up. It’s kind of a cynical business. People make movies just because a title has reach.”
“I saw it with the Lego Movie. I was like, ‘How are you going to make a movie about Legos? What is that?’ And then Chris [Miller] and Phil [Lord] made this incredible movie, I was part of it, I loved it,” he continued. “So it’s a big challenge. Just because something has reach doesn’t mean it’s going to be a good movie and there’s instances of people making bad movies and ruining people’s childhoods. So the pressure was on to not do that and, thankfully, we didn’t. I think the movie is fantastic and I think your childhood is firmly intact.”
The Universal film, based off of the famous Nintendo games, follows brothers Mario and Luigi, plumbers from Brooklyn who are transported down a mysterious pipe and into a magical new world. The two are separated and Mario sets off to find Luigi, alongside classic characters Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy), Bowser (Jack Black), Donkey Kong (Seth Rogen) and Toad (Keegan-Michael Key).
“We wanted to make sure that Mario felt like a real character in this movie, that he’s a real guy with a real family, really flesh him out. He’s this everyman. He’s a plumber, he goes to a magic world and becomes this great hero, and Chris Pratt plays that character so well,” director Aaron Horvath said of casting the star in the lead role. “He’s funny, he’s down-to-earth and he’s also superheroic, so he really checked all of the boxes for us.”
Horvath addressed the decision to not give Mario the Italian accent that he’s typically had in the games, explaining, “Our feeling was you wouldn’t believe that he was a real character doing that accent for the entirety of the film. We grew up with the  Super Show! and the movie where part of it is they’re from Brooklyn, so it just felt like a natural course for us to take.”
He also acknowledged some of the negative reaction online over Pratt’s casting after the initial trailer revealed the actor’s voice, saying, “It was hard for us to sit back and everybody’s like ‘Uhh’ and we’re like, ‘You just have to wait.’ Five minutes into the movie you’re in it and you’re not even like, ‘Oh it’s Chris Pratt.’ It’s Mario and you’re on this journey with him.”
Charlie Day, who voices Luigi, admitted he “didn’t really think about how iconic the character was until after we completed all of the sessions.” And rather than the Italian accent, he teased, “My guy might slip into a little Rhode Island here and there,” nodding to where Day grew up. But he “was trying to get as much Brooklyn as I can.”
Day also explained the process behind many of the movie’s action sounds, which like the video game include grunts, yells and exclamations as the characters run around the Mushroom Kingdom.
“Oddly that’s the more grueling thing that you do,” he said. “You get all the dialogue and the lines and then they say, if you’ve got any gas left, can you just give us a lot of what they call ‘efforts,’ and you do a lot of grunting and groaning and moaning and oohing and aahing. You make yourself dizzy but that’s half the fun.”
The Super Mario Bros. Movie jumps into theaters on April 5.
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