‘Super Mario Bros.’: Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo Were So Drunk While Filming the 1993 Box Office Flop That Hoskins Broke His Finger
Film adaptations of video game franchises have had a bad reputation for a long time, and Super Mario Bros.: The Movie is the chief reason why. The 1993 film exists as a cautionary tale about how not to manage a universally beloved IP.
Sometimes, these sorts of disasters sneak up on the filmmakers, but in the case of Super Mario Bros., the movie took such a chaotic route to theaters that no one had any confidence that the final version would be worthwhile. Actors Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo’s way of dealing with the fact that they were part of this instant calamity backfired so spectacularly that they ended up injuring themselves in the process.
The production of the Super Mario Bros movie was doomed from the start
The rights for the project were purchased by Roland Joffé off the back of two million dollars, a promising pitch, and a promise to Nintendo to give them all the merchandising products from the movie.
Joffé was an acclaimed director thanks to The Killing Fields and The Mission, and wanted to get into film production. His idea for the movie was that it wouldn’t be a “sweet little lovey-dovey story,” hoping to entice a wider audience than kids or hardcore fans. Joffé’s quest was much easier said than done.
At different points, Harold Ramis, Danny DeVito, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Tom Hanks all agreed to be in Super Mario Bros., but they all dropped out in part due to concerns over the script.
The first writer to have a go at it was Rain Man scribe Barry Morrow, then it was passed to Jim Jennewein and Tom S. Parker, who’d worked together on The Flintstones and Richie Rich.
There was also the issue of finding someone to direct this increasingly ungainly vehicle. The job was eventually given to the British couple Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton, who were innovative with music videos and commercials, but only had one movie under their belt, a little-seen Dennis Quaid vehicle called DOA.
Their vision was decidedly more cyberpunk and just plain weird (Bowser is the president in an alternate dimension where humans evolved from dinosaurs) than the games or the script ever were, which worried producers. “I wanted to make a film that would open it up and get parents interested in video games,” Morton told Game Informer in 2011, according to The Guardian.
Joffé had no interest in that and hired Ed Solomon to rewrite the script again – without telling the directors. The script became an amalgamation of several different points of view, and the directors didn’t have the experience or command to keep production on a coherent track.
“I don’t think it’s any secret that it was a troubled shoot,” says Samantha Mathis, who played Princess Daisy.
“I would say Bob didn’t suffer fools gladly – he was an artist, he could see the chaos swirling around the set and the lack of clarity. I think it’s a rare thing to have two people directing a movie together well – I certainly haven’t experienced it. The production just took on a life of its own.”
Hoskins and Leguizamo’s attempt to drink away the pain only made everything worse
The cast and crew were very aware that they were working on a bad movie. John Leguizamo, who played Luigi, admitted in his autobiography that he and Hoskins drank whiskey between takes as a coping mechanism.
They learned the hard way that drinking on the job is never a good idea. Hoskins broke his finger during the shoot, reportedly after a drunk Leguizamo accelerated a van too quickly, causing the sliding door to close on Hoskins’s hand.
Amid all the chaos on set, keeping people safe stopped being a priority. In a 1993 interview with Entertainment Tonight, Hoskins revealed that he was stabbed four times, electrocuted, and nearly drowned during the production, according to Screenrant.
Can Nintendo replicate its gaming success in the film world?
The process and fallout from Super Mario Bros.: The Movie put Nintendo off from adapting any of their franchises for obvious reasons.
They returned to theaters 26 years later with Detective Pikachu. The success of that movie and the live-action Sonic the Hedgehog series convinced Nintendo to adapt Mario again in the hopes of much better results.
The movie was delayed to next year and no footage has been publicly shown yet, so it’s hard to get excited about the project yet.
All the information we have is the eyebrow-raising cast list led by Chris Pratt and Anya Taylor-Joy. We’ll have to wait and see if this version of Super Mario Bros. will be better than the first one. It couldn’t be worse.