'Super Mario Bros.' Movie Producer Defends Casting Chris Pratt as Italian Video Game Hero

”That’s not the tenor of the performance throughout the film,“ Chris Meledandri says about the ”It’s-a-me, Mario!“ accent

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Chris Meledandri, the producer for Illumination who is working on the “Super Mario Bros.” movie starring Chris Pratt, defended Pratt’s voice casting as the Italian plumber hero Mario and said you shouldn’t expect the film to lean into the thick, Italian accent of the video game character.

In a video from celebrity site TooFab, Meledandri said that as an Italian American himself, he understood the concerns that Pratt, who is not from an Italian background, would be voicing an Italian cartoon and video game character. And asked if the movie would lean heavily into Mario’s accent from the original games and his catch phrase, “It’s-a-me, Mario!,” Meledandri explained that while the film addresses that, it’s not how Pratt intends to voice the character.

“We cover it in the movie,” Meledandri said. “So you’ll see we definitely nod to that, but that’s not the tenor of the performance throughout the film.”

“All I can tell you is the voice that he’s doing for us, and Mario, is phenomenal,” he continued: “Yeah, I can’t wait for people to hear it.”

Meledandri also noted that Charlie Day, who is playing Mario’s brother Luigi in the “Super Mario Bros.” cartoon, does come from Italian heritage.

Illumination, which is behind the “Despicable Me” franchise, is partnering with Nintendo on the “Super Mario Bros.” film, and the film’s voice cast also includes Anya Taylor-Joy, Keegan-Michael Key, Jack Black, Seth Rogen, Fred Armisen, Kevin Michael Richardson, Sebastian Maniscalco and a special cameo from Charles Martinet, who is the original voice of Mario, Luigi, Wario and more.

The “Super Mario Bros.” movie arrives in theaters on December 21, 2022, from Universal, Nintendo and Illumination Animation.

Pratt, in addition to voicing Mario, will also get voice the character of Garfield in another animated project. He’s previously been the lead voice actor in “The Lego Movie” and its sequel.

Check out Meledandri’s full comments here.

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