Chris Pratt and Charlie Day talk about the responsibility of getting The Super Mario Bros. Movie right

The Super Mario Bros. Movie
(Image credit: Nintendo and Universal Studios)

The video game to big screen adaptation is a well-trodden path, from HBO’s gritty The Last of Us to the comedy Detective Pikachu. Now, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is hoping to do justice to arguably the most popular game in history as it reimagines the origin story of the popular plumbing duo Mario and Luigi. 

The pair are Brooklyn-based plumbers in this version who get sucked through a magical pipe into the Mushroom Kingdom. But when they’re split up along the way, Mario must embark on an epic journey to save his brother Luigi from the brutal Bowser. It’s a story of overcoming adversity and the things you do for your family, as well as being filled with plenty of in-game references to the beloved Nintendo world.

"We understood the responsibility," Mario star Chris Pratt tells GamesRadar+ when we sat down with him and his co-star Charlie Day (who plays Luigi) to talk about the new movie. The pair share some insight into their process, what they hope people will take away from the adaptation, and a bit about their own history of playing the games. 

Here’s our conversation with the duo, edited for length and clarity.

This is quite a different origin story for Mario and Luigi than fans might be expecting. Was it quite an exciting prospect to create something new with such well-established characters?

Chris Pratt: Yeah, for sure. I think the medium requires that we learn a lot more about these characters than you need to know to play the games. So to carry a 90-minute narrative, you need to know everything about; where they're from, what their desires are, and what their hopes and dreams are.

Charlie Day: You need to see their work life, you need to see their home life to set up the story.

Chris Pratt: That was really exciting to talk to [directors] Mike [Jelenic] and Aaron [Horvath] about what they wanted to do with this. To really be part of that collaborative process was a pretty dreamy proposition.

Chris, I was wondering what was the hardest part for you of getting Mario right?

Chris Pratt: I think just the proximity, or the lack of proximity, to fellow actors and directors because of COVID and also because of the production house being in Paris and me being either in Los Angeles or in Atlanta, Georgia, where I was working over the course of the year and a half that we made this movie. Just these sessions where we were away from each other and doing it all virtually, to me that was probably the most challenging aspect. You're just in a room by yourself and then they're on Zoom and you know how everything through Zoom is just not quite as good as if you're in the room together. So I missed out a little bit on that energy that you naturally have when you're in the room with people.

Charlie Day: That was a challenge. 

Charlie, the directors Horvath and Jelenic previously told one of our writers that Luigi takes on the Princess Peach role in this adaptation. Did you enjoy that subversion of your character?

Charlie Day: I think that's something that I don't think I realized until after the film. They had more in mind than maybe I did where I was just sort of looking at each scene and saying, ‘Okay, how do I get the most out of it for Luigi and what is he feeling and what is he going through? How much sort of emotion and energy can I give him?’ Then once I’d seen the whole thing put together, I was like ‘Oh, yeah, he really in this film is the sort of damsel-in-distress, which makes sense for Luigi. Poor Luigi, he’s always getting himself into trouble.

Super Mario Bros

(Image credit: Nintendo and Universal Studios)

Of course, these are voice-acting roles, but Mario and Luigi are such physical characters to play. How did you create that energy for the characters when you were performing? Did you find yourself doing some of their mannerisms?

Chris Pratt: Well, that's really kind of the beauty I find when doing voice work and when you are voicing physical characters, whether it's this movie or when we both did The Lego Movie or other things that we've done. The beauty is there's this lack of vanity, no one's filming you so you can be really expressive with your hands and move around your body a lot. In that way, yeah, it felt physical. I always take my shoes off, I’m barefoot. I’m grounded in the ground and I've got this bar in front of me. It's called an effort bar so I can push down on it when I'm gonna run around. It's really like you can be more expressive than you might be if you're cognizant of the camera on you.

Chris, did you have any trepidation about stepping into a potential new franchise after leading Jurassic World and Guardians of the Galaxy?

Charlie Day: Oh, sorry, did you mean to ask me that? Oh, she’s asking you that. I’ve played a lot of superheroes and done a lot of franchises but you go on…

Chris Pratt: [laughs] I wouldn’t call it trepidation, I think just a level of excitement. Especially knowing how broad the fanbase is for the Super Mario Bros and Mario World, you just know the potential there. The only fear you might have is that you just don't want to be responsible for screwing any of this stuff up. You know how passionate fans are, I know how passionate I am about this universe having played so many of these games growing up. So you want to make sure you don't screw it up and being part of the collaborative team that brings this movie the way that it is, it’s such a great movie, that it fills me with pride. It's a very joyful experience to see this movie, you will walk out of the theater with a huge smile on your face.

Talking about playing the games when you were younger, what was your experience with the world of Mario?

Chris Pratt: Oh yeah, both Nintendo and arcade versions.

Charlie Day: Mostly the home version for me. I remember playing the arcade version but really it was when I first got a Nintendo and anyone in my neighborhood got a Nintendo, that was all we did. I loved it, and I always played second, I always played Luigi. My sister was older so she got to go first and then I got to go second. But then I started wanting to play Luigi, where I was like, 'Well, you're Mario, I'm Luigi.' Then it happened in my life.

Finally, Mario has such a huge fan base, was there any pressure for you both going into this and wanting to do justice to such a beloved world?

Chris Pratt: Oh, I mean, listen, we understood the responsibility. There wasn't anyone who was a part of this that didn't feel the responsibility of making sure we do the video game world justice with the movie version of this story. And I have to say that obviously I'm gonna leave it open to everyone else's opinions, but I feel very confident that the movie we delivered is right up to par.

Charlie Day: Yeah, I don't ever take a job and not want to do my absolute best. To me, there's always the pressure that I just want to be good and give a good performance and give the fans something that they're excited about, can latch on to, and come back to over and over again. And when someone gives me an opportunity to do that, then let's dive right in and hopefully give them everything they can use to build up from it. which I think these guys did, they did a great job.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie is in cinemas on April 5. Check out all of the other upcoming video game movies on the way too.

Fay Watson
Deputy Entertainment Editor

I’m the Deputy Entertainment Editor here at GamesRadar+, covering TV and film for the Total Film and SFX sections online. I previously worked as a Senior Showbiz Reporter and SEO TV reporter at Express Online for three years. I've also written for The Resident magazines and Amateur Photographer, before specializing in entertainment.