When Nintendo announced that a movie adaptation was in the works for their beloved Super Mario Bros. series, fans everywhere rejoiced. Like most blockbusters, there was an incredible amount of hype built around the film. Production cost a then-whopping $40 Million dollars to make. For reference, Jurassic Park cost $63 Million. So its safe to say Nintendo had a lot riding on the success of this film.
With a big budget and big stars like Dennis Hopper, the film seemed like a surefire hit. Unfortunately the film should have been titled Super Mario Bros. vs Murphy's Law because everything that could go wrong during the production of a movie literally went wrong for this ill-fated film. Between a bizarre husband-wife team of directors who were not aloud to speak to the writers, a script that had been passed through way too many hands, and a cast of disgruntled stars, there was no way this film could have ever congealed properly.
The sad thing is, when the project began, it looked like Super Mario Bros. was going to be an awesome adaptation. Barry Morrow wrote up the first treatment for the film's story. That's the same Barry Morrow who won an oscar for penning the screenplay of a little film called Rain Man. Morrow envisioned a film which explored the complex relationship between the brothers Mario and Luigi. Much like the film for which he won an oscar, Mario would be a sort of guardian/hero to his lower functioning, second-playing brother Luigi.
An early test shot with Dustin Hoffman as Mario and Tom Cruise as Luigi.
To make things even more promising, Dustin Hoffman had been approached by Nintendo and agreed to play the part of Mario. Let's take a moment to let that sink in. At one point Super Mario Bros. had an Academy-Award-Winning actor slated to play the titular character, playing out scenes written by an Academy-Award-Winning writer. It would have been a slightly darker more nuanced version of the plumber brothers, you know just like the games on which the movie was to be based.
That's dark and nuanced as shit!
Sadly, Nintendo of America's president Minoru Arakawa did not think Dustin Hoffman fit the part. The next person up for the role was Tom Hanks, but the production feared he would not be able to anchor a serious film so they passed, giving the part to Bob Hoskins after Danny DeVito turned it down.
Hanks, whose career never fully recovered from this rejection, went on to have a marginally successful career as a serious actor, only managing to grab two Oscars for hiladelphia and Forrest Gump. Nintendo definitely made the right call.*
*The preceding paragraph contained dangerous amounts of sarcasm.
Hanks did bring a certain level of lightheartedness to Saving Private Ryan though.
Sadly, Nintendo ultimately decided to throw away the script written by Morrow in favor of a more lighthearted story that involved dinosaurs evolving into people, a raptor named Yoshi and whatever the hell this abomination is:
Just imagine what this film could have been had they stuck with Hoffman and the story Morrow wrote. Ah well, some things were never meant to be.
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