No matter who Nintendo and Universal announced as the voice of Mario for their upcoming animated movie based on the video game franchise, people were certain to have rather strong feelings if the role didn’t go to Charles Martinet, the actor who’s been lending his voice to the character for 30 years.
Ultimately, the studio and video game publisher decided to go with Chris Pratt as Mario for the compact plumber’s first big screen feature since Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel’s 1993 film, a curious choice given that Martinet’s alive and well, and actively involved in the production of new Mario games. Though Martinet will have a cameo in the new movie, he’s still very much the star of upcoming games like Mario Party Superstars and Ubisoft’s Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope—and according to Martinet, he doesn’t plan on leaving the gig until he personally knows that the time is right.
During a panel at this year’s Fan Expo Canada, the performer looked back on how he first came into Mario’s orbit back in the early ‘90s when Nintendo was looking for an actor to voice a 3D model of the character’s head. Martinet explained that because he’d played Gremio in a production of Taming of the Shrew, he figured he could probably pull off something approximating an Italian accent, but his lack of knowledge about video games protagonists beyond Pac-Man left him unsure or what to say for his audition, which he didn’t prepare for.
“I could make up something about food,” Martinet recalled thinking. “And while I’m thinking about what kind of food, all of a sudden, I hear ‘action,’ and I said, ‘Hello, I’m-a Mario, let’s make-a pizza together. You get some sausage and get some spaghetti. We put spaghetti in the sausage in the pizza, and then I chase-a the pizza, and if I catch-a the pizza, you gotta eat-a the pizza... And then you’re going to make-a pizza,’ because he didn’t say cut.”
Before the casting director eventually said “cut,” he first told Martinent to simply stop talking, as they’d run out of tape to record on, and while Martinet was initially unsure of what sort of impression he made, it wasn’t long before he became the Mario. Despite there being no indication that the new Mario movie’s casting is in any way going to impact the casting in the video games, it’s easy to understand why some have speculated whether its a sign of things to come over on the gaming side of things.
When asked about how much longer he envisions himself voicing Mario, Martinent matter-of-factly stated that he’d like to do it right up until he dies, with perhaps a game coming out posthumously given how many thousands of hours of his voice Nintendo has recorded. If and when Martinet gets the sense that the time has come, he wants to “be the first one to call up my friends inside of Nintendo and say, ‘you know something, I didn’t sound right on that one.”
“I’ll be the first one because to me, I love these characters,” Martinet said. “I think it’s a beautiful piece of it for 35 years, these characters have existed, and it’s the integrity and the value system, and the passion and the joy of creating that fun that has made this through line all the way, all the way through to now.”
Mario Party Superstars, the next Mario game Martinet’s voice is set to be featured in, releases October 29.
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