There’s been no shortage of digital ink spilled—from this site, especially— on the shitshow that was the 1993 Super Mario Bros. movie, which, for most 30-somethings, holds the unique distinction of having taught their entire generation that movies could be bad. This new deep dive into the film’s troubled production from The Guardian, however, emerges as the most thorough document of its failure, and one of its biggest revelations is in just how much everyone behind it tried to make it not awful. In the article’s most hilarious revelation, actress Samantha Mathis recalls the crew’s press junket in Japan and the kind of goodwill that even she knew the film didn’t deserve.
“We were there for over two weeks,” she says. “I remember being in an old temple in Tokyo with Bob and John, and there were Buddhist monks praying for the success of the film. We all looked at each other when we realised what was going on; we thought: ‘This is sacrilegious – these priests should not be praying for our crazy movie!’”
But the monks weren’t the only optimistic ones. Sure, lore tend to center around cast members Bob Hoskins and Dennis Hopper’s extreme embarrassment at its very mention, as well as reports that the actors themselves were prone to slugging shots of whiskey in between takes. And it’s all true: Cast member (and character actor royalty) Richard Edson notes that weed was also fairly ubiquitous behind the scenes. “We would hang out a lot and get stoned,” he says. “Bob [Hoskins] would never hang out – he had a mansion somewhere down the beach. But then one night, we were talking about getting high and Bob was like, ‘You guys have pot? You’ve been smoking reefer?’ And we were like, ‘Yeah’, and he yelled, ‘Why didn’t you tell me?! I’ve been sitting alone in my mansion!’ We really looked up to him.”
But behind the scenes, the filmmakers were determined to make something both entertaining and innovative. “[Producer Roland] Joffé wanted to do with Super Mario Bros. what Burton had done for superheroes with Batman,” says Steven Applebaum of inexplicable fansite Super Mario Bros: The Movie Archive. “He wanted to redefine the characters for young adults.”
A slew of scripts were produced—one, from the Oscar-winning writer of Rain Man, was, hilariously a lot like Rain Man (production dubbed it (“Drain Man”); another was a candy-coated adventure for kids; and then, with the hiring of Max Headroom creators Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton, came the cyberpunk draft we’ve come to know and hate, though that too was retooled relentlessly on set. They really, really tried.
And the special effects crew still stands by their work. The Guardian notes that Super Mario Bros. “was the first movie to employ the soon-to-be pervasive CGI software Autodesk Flame, then still in beta, and helped to shape the direction of computer special effects.”
“A lot of the crew we’ve spoken to are proud of the work they did,” Applebaum adds. “A major advocate is Christopher Woods, who supervised the film’s visual effects. He’s talked about how innovative the work they were doing was.” Woods, apparently, is working on a 4K-resolution transfer of the film. You can watch the original version up top, imaging how high everyone was the whole time.
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