Illumination CEO Defends Casting Chris Pratt As Mario: 'I Love His Performance'

Hey, so remember the September 2021 Nintendo Direct when the English voice cast for the untitled "Super Mario Bros." film was revealed, and it was announced that Chris Pratt would be voicing Mario? We certainly do, because it was just so out of left field and surprising that we're still trying to wrap our heads around it to this day.

Needless to say, we weren't the only ones puzzled by this announcement, as it became the subject of confusion and mockery across the Internet — largely because Mario is known for his cartoonish Italian accent, and Chris Pratt's most notable voice acting roles (in "The LEGO Movie" franchise and "Onward") featured him basically speaking in his normal voice. Even worse, it eventually became the catalyst for Pratt getting cast as the voice of Garfield in a new movie. Is anything sacred any more?

In the eyes of Illumination, the studio collaborating with Nintendo on the film, the answer is yes. Chris Meledandri spoke today at the CineEurope event in Barcelona (via Variety) about the backlash surrounding Pratt's uncharacteristic role as Mario. According to Meledandri, we've got nothing to worry about, as the actor apparently has a great performance as the world-saving plumber lined up for the world to hear.

He's so cool

In the new interview, Meledandri explained that Pratt was cast as Mario for a very simple reason, with that being that he, Illumination, and Nintendo thought that he could bring "a great performance" to the screen.

"I love [Pratt's] performance as Mario," he continued. "I think we're gonna be just fine. Especially because he's given such a strong performance."

The producer had previously told the online outlet TooFab that the character's signature Italian accent will be a self-referential joke within the movie. This is a pretty bold choice given that longtime Mario voice actor Charles Martinet, who helped craft that signature accent in the first place, will also appear in the film.

But if you were fearing that this casting was anti-Italian discrimination, Meledandri thinks differently. He explained that given his own Italian heritage, he believed that "he could make that decision without worrying about offending Italians or Italian Americans." While I'm not entirely sure whether people were actually being serious or whether they were making jokes about Pratt's lack of Italian heritage, at least Meledandri's heart is in the right place.

The as-of-yet untitled "Super Mario Bros." movie was originally supposed to be released on December 21, 2022, but was delayed to April 7, 2023, in North America. Looks like we're going to have to wait a little while longer before we hear the masterful performance that's been promised.