'Super Mario Bros.' Producer Defends Casting Chris Pratt, Calls His Mario Voice in Movie 'Phenomenal'

"You'll have to wait to hear the voice, but we've been working hard at it," Chris Pratt previously said of his performance, calling the role a "dream"

Chris Pratt, Mario
Photo: Rich Fury/WireImage; Nintendo

One of the producers behind the upcoming animated Super Mario Bros. film is defending Chris Pratt's casting in the title role.

Nintendo and Illumination announced in September that the Guardians of the Galaxy actor, 42, was cast in the animated movie to play Mario, the traditionally Italian plumber from the popular video game franchise that originated in Japan.

The voice cast also includes Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach, Charlie Day as Luigi, Jack Black as Bowser, Keegan-Michael Key as Toad, Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong, Fred Armisen as Cranky Kong, Kevin Michael Richardson as Kamek, and Sebastian Maniscalco as Spike. It is being directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic.

After being asked about some fans questioning why Pratt was cast in the role, Illumination founder and CEO Chris Meledandri told TooFab that viewers will be pleasantly surprised by the star's performance.

"All I can tell you is the voice that he's doing for us and Mario is phenomenal. Yeah I can't wait for people to hear it," he told the outlet, adding of the accent that usually is portrayed with the character, "Well, as an Italian American myself, I understand. You know, I understand the comments."

"We cover it in the movie, so you'll see we definitely nod to that," Meledandri explained of the accent, though he said, "That's not the tenor of the performance throughout the film."

In a September Instagram post, Pratt referenced the memorable "It's-a me, Mario" tagline and said of his voice for the project, "You'll have to wait to hear the voice, but we've been working hard at it." He also added that "dreams come true," while explaining his childhood connection to the games.

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Pratt has voiced lead roles in animated movies like Onward and The LEGO Movie. He was also recently cast to lend his voice to Garfield in an upcoming animated film based on the grumpy comic cat.

In a September press release about Mario, Meledandri said, "Mario and Luigi are two of the most beloved heroes in all of popular culture, and we are honored to have the unique opportunity to work so closely with Shigeru Miyamoto and the widely imaginative team at Nintendo to bring these characters to life in an animated movie, unlike any film Illumination has made to date."

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Miyamoto, creator of several iconic Nintendo properties, told NPR back in 2015 about how he came to create Mario.

"When I was younger, I used to enjoy comics and drawing comics as well. And among the comics that I read, some were Italian comics. And if you think about it, the big nose and the mustache is not a facial feature that's characteristic of Japanese people," he said at the time, via an interpreter. "So I think that my connection to those Italian comics — probably I drew on that inspiration when we first drew the character."

"When we first drew the character in Donkey Kong, he was drawn using pixel dots in a 16x16 grid. So it was a very small space in which to draw the character, and it was a very small character on the screen," he continued. "In order to emphasize the unique characteristics of the character, we made the big nose and the mustache and the overalls to make it easy to understand what the character was doing on the screen."

"When we sent the game to the U.S. to sell the Donkey Kong arcade games in America, in the warehouse that the Nintendo was operating out of in America at that time, there was somebody related to that warehouse whose name was Mario," Miyamoto said. "The staff at Nintendo in America said that the character looked like the individual named Mario. So they started calling the character Mario, and when I heard that I said 'Oh, Mario's a great name — let's use that.' "

Super Mario Bros. is set to hit theaters Dec. 21, 2022.

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