While the Super Mario Bros. movie has gone down as something of a cult classic with Nintendo fans, its production was troubled, reviews were uniformly terrible and it bombed at the box office.
Director Rocky Morton had to deal with a shifting script, difficult actors and a studio which kept interfering, and the end result is a bit of a mess. The late Bob Hoskins - who played Mario - couldn't stand the film, but his co-star John Leguizamo has happier memories.
Speaking to SciFiNow, Morton explained that issues with the movie began right from casting the lead star:
Danny DeVito turned us down. Mario was the main character in the cast, and Bob was available. It was basically about availability. There are all these stories about the way people are cast but it's normally about availability… Then we saw lots of different Luigis and John stood out because of his comic timing, his ability to be real but also be funny at the same time. Bob had that ability too.
However, Morton points out that the original script wasn't as comedic as the final film:
We wanted it to have a reality to it, especially the relationship, and we wanted it to be funny but not just a series of gags. We didn't want it to be a broad comedy – although some of it clearly is a broad comedy – but the original script wasn't like the final script. The original script was written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, and it was much more of a family film that appealed to adults as well as kids. It was more sophisticated and the story of the two brothers was a lot stronger.
But it was an independent film and the producers needed more money and a studio behind them, and the studios rejected the script because they thought it was too dark. That threw them into complete panic, and instead of sticking with the script that Annabel and I wrote with Dick and Ian, they threw it out and told us to work with a new writer. The new writer wrote it in about a week and a half and then we were presented with the script. That was about a week before the start of principle photography. We were given a script that was completely different, and Annabel and I almost walked off the film at that point. The problem was that they'd build all the sets and created the prosthetics, and the cast was together and they'd found this great place to shoot it… We really thought we'd end up walking, but we decided to try to make the new script work as we were shooting.
To add to Morton's problems, Dennis Hopper - who was cast as the lead villain - was problematic on set:
I don't think he had a clue what was going on. There was one particular incident; we had to shoot out of sequence because of the script changes, and we had to shoot on one of the sets that wasn't ready yet, and we had to shoot on a long lens. I had to position Dennis in a certain way because if I shot off, I would be shooting off the set, so I had to change his position and he said, 'Rocky, that's a big change!' and I said, 'All I want you to do is instead of walking here I want you to walk there,' and because of the whole mess he just couldn't handle it. I said, 'Yeah, but we're shooting off the set if you walk that way.' It was stuff like that. On and on. It was mind-blowing.