The Original Super Mario Bros. Movie Was A Nightmare To Make, Hear The Insane Stories

The behind-the-scenes stories from 1993's Super Mario Bros movie are more exciting than the film itself.

By Jessica Goudreault | Updated

super mario bros

With the release of The Super Mario Bros Movie. coming later this week, let’s take a moment to cringe and remember the original Super Mario Bros. from 1993. It was the first live-action movie to be based on a Nintendo video game, and Inverse reminds us just how much of a nightmare this film was.

The original Super Mario Bros. seemed like a promising film, especially since video game adaptations were a very new concept 30 years ago. The original script was fun and magical, but after many rewrites, it was transformed into a completely ridiculous story that nobody could follow, especially children, who were the target audience. The film’s final version looks nothing like the video game, with unknown villains, different worlds, a cyberpunk society, and weird mushrooms that do not resemble Toad at all.

The cast featured big names like Bob Hoskins, known for his roles in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Long Good Friday, and Mona Lisa; and Dennis Hopper, known at the time for Easy Rider and Blue Velvet. The film also starred a young John Leguizamo, who had only been in a handful of movies at that point. The talented cast was so frustrated by the chaotic film that they needed to cleanse themselves from the set by performing Shakespeare at a nearby beach.

After all the on-set drama, script rewrites, and crazy special effects, the film’s director, Rocky Morton, believes that one important scene could have salvaged the whole movie. The scene, which was filmed but later cut out by the producers, featured two Nintendo executives meeting Mario and Luigi and pitching the idea of the video game to them based on their wild story. This scene would have helped explain why the movie was so different from the video game and could have helped to justify the disconnect between the two.  

As for what happened to the scene, well, Morton and Ed Solomon — the latter a writer brought in later to help re-write the script — both recounted how even the crew designing sets were confused over what was in the movie, what wasn’t, and even which characters were in each scene. The experience was so chaotic and hard to deal with that Hoskins and Leguizamo took to drinking before showing up on set. Understandably, day drinking didn’t combine well with driving vehicles on set, resulting in Leguizamo crashing a van during filming and breaking Bob Hoskins’ hand.

super mario bros movie
John Leguizamo and Bob Hoskins in Super Mario Bros

Despite the original Super Mario Bros. being a total nightmare, it has still managed to gain quite a cult following. Quentin Tarantino, who is a big fan of the movie, recently screened a 30-year anniversary to a packed crowd at his theater in Hollywood. Cheers and laughter erupted from the theater, probably because the film is now praised, often ironically, as being a good movie in the “so bad it’s good” camp occupied by Street Fighter, another early 90s video game adaptation.

While 2023’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie will be completely animated and feature all new voices from stars like Chris Pratt, Jack Black, and Anya Taylor-Joy, audiences may still feel a tinge of nostalgia. The film will bring to life many of the Nintendo characters that audiences have grown up seeing and playing, like Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Donkey Kong, Bowser, and Toad.

The new film will follow a (hopefully) less complicated storyline than the original, though it will offer a unique take on the video game plot. We can expect Mario to team up with Toad and Princess Peach to travel through the Mushroom Kingdom to find his brother, Luigi, to save the world from Bowser. It will be refreshing to see Princess Peach as a hero rather than a damsel in need of rescuing.