Bob Hoskins didn't know that the film he was making was based on a game, until his son asked him what he was working on. When Hoskins mentioned the film's title, his son immediately recognized it and showed Hoskins the game on his own Nintendo.
Although Bob Hoskins said that this is the worst film he ever made, his son Jack Hoskins is a fan of this film, praising his dad's performance. He said that he was too young to understand the poor reviews and now that he's old enough, he doesn't care. He quoted on the film's fan website "SMBArchive.com": "If there's anyone reading this, please understand that it's no one's intention to ruin the classics. One last thing; if you remember your past enjoyments, then it would definitely keep your childhood memories alive and safely locked in your head forever."
In his 2007 autobiography John Leguizamo states he and Bob Hoskins hated working on the film and would frequently get drunk to make it through the experience. Both men apparently knew the movie would turn out bad, so they simply tried to make the best of it. He also stated he felt one of the biggest reasons the movie turned out the way it did was because the directors wanted a more "adult" movie while the studio, considering the source material, was looking for a children's film.
After the film bombed at the Box Office, Nintendo never produced any more live-action theatrical films based on their video game franchises. A "Metroid" film was put into development, but never went past pre-production.
Various items from the video games appear, in at least name, throughout the film. These include Bob-ombs (a deceptively tiny wind-up bomb in the film), Thwomps (Thwomp Stompers are oversize footwear), Koopahari Desert (most of the world is this desert), Yoshi (a baby T. rex), Goombas (transformed citizens), Big Bertha (the woman who steals the pendant and that Mario dance with later on), and Bullet Bills (a cartridge with a face used to power the Thwomp Stomper boots), mention of Fry Guy(a poster on the wall when the woman checks in the plumbers tool belts at the bar), and on the projector screens in the boom boom bar there is a graphic of Bowser's hideout from Super Mario World game being bounced around.
Dennis Hopper explained why he did the film - "I made a picture called Super Mario Bros., and my six-year-old son at the time - he's now 18 - he said, 'Dad, I think you're probably a pretty good actor, but why did you play that terrible guy King Koopa in Super Mario Bros.?' and I said, 'Well Henry, I did that so you could have shoes,' and he said, 'Dad, I don't need shoes that badly.'"
An early draft of the script shows that Bowser only disguises himself as a human in his first two scenes, the Princess character is named Hildy and Bowser wants to marry her in attempt to obtain the Crown of Invincibility with which to take over the Mushroom Kingdom. Actual game enemies such as Piranha Plants and Thwomps make appearances, Toad accompanies the Mario Bros. throughout their journey as a main character, a baby dinosaur named Junior thinks Mario is his mother, Luigi gets Raccoon Power at one point, one of Bowser's lackeys (a possible prototype for Kamek) tells Mario "Your Princess Is in Another Castle", Mario and Luigi sing a song for Bowser, Bowser ends up falling into a pit of lava... In other words, this draft is much more faithful to the games.
In a 2011 interview with The Guardian, Bob Hoskins described the film's production - "It was a f*ckin' nightmare. The whole experience was a nightmare. It had a husband-and-wife team directing, whose arrogance had been mistaken for talent. After so many weeks their own agent told them to get off the set! F*ckin' nightmare. F*ckin' idiots."
The script called for a finale in which Mario would scale the Brooklyn bridge and drop a Bob-omb down King Koopa's throat. However with production over schedule and over budget the idea had to be scrapped.
Peter Levy was the original director of photography, but was fired after the directors and producer were unhappy with his work. Dean Semler was called in to replace him, and within less than a week of joining, Semler contacted Levy and said that he regretted signing onto the movie.
Dennis Hopper described the film's production - "It was a nightmare, very honestly, that movie. It was a husband and wife directing team who were both control freaks and wouldn't talk before they made decisions. Anyway, I was supposed to go down there for five weeks, and I was there for 17. It was so over budget."
In an Q&A at The San Sebastian Film Festival, Bob Hoskins said of the film, "Super Mario Brothers had a husband and wife directing team whose arrogance convinced everybody of their genius, but I'm afraid the genius wasn't there, and we watch this completely lost. It started off a very good script, but the first day they threw the script away, and they said: we'll do this our way. And when they're gone over ten million dollars their own agents threw them off the set, then we said: we've got to finish this film ourselves. The editor came down and said: I don't know what we are gonna do, we haven't one single finished scene. So basically in a week, in two weeks, we had to cobble together the film and what could have been a very, very interesting film went up... rubbish, complete rubbish. My attraction was the money in the first place" (little laughter in the room).
Shigeru Miyamoto, Mario's creator, stated, "[In] the end, it was a very fun project that they put a lot of effort into," but also said, "The one thing that I still have some regrets about is that the movie may have tried to get a little too close to what the Mario Bros. video games were. And in that sense, it became a movie that was about a video game, rather than being an entertaining movie in and of itself."
The suggestion for a film based on the Super Mario Brothers was first put forward by Roland Joffé during a script meeting at his production company Lightmotive. Joffé met the Nintendo of America president and Hiroshi Yamauchi's son-in law Minoru Arakawa. He presented Arakawa with an initial draft of the script. One month after their meeting, Joffé went to Nintendo's corporate headquarters in Kyoto spending 10 days waiting to meet Hiroshi Yamauchi. After some time, Joffé received a phone call summoning him to Yamauchi's office. He pitched to Yamauchi the storyline which led to Nintendo receiving interest in the project. When Joffé was questioned about Nintendo having to sell the rights to a small studio company instead of a major company, he believed that Nintendo would have more control over the film.
Parker Bennett and Terry Runte were heavily inspired the genre-aware sensibilities of 'Ghostbusters' (1984)_ and Bill Murray, so in another draft, they envisioned a world that didn't take itself too seriously despite the serious implications oozing from the city sewers. Their initial opening for the film saw Mario as a sleazier character in the vein of Murray. However, once Parker and Terry discovered that Bob Hoskins was being sought for the role they realized they needed to rewrite the character as someone older and more likable. The script would soon after be rewritten to feature a more family-friendly tone and completely new characterizations.
Once production started to move forward, Roland Joffé and Jake Eberts began to worry that the project had skewed too far from the original vision of a childrens' film. In hopes of returning to that spirit while also preserving the current production they hired writers Ed Solomon and 'Ryan Rowe' (qV) to act as script doctors to the previous work by Dick Clement and Ian Le Frenais. This new script was written without input from the directors, which would form a rift between them and the producers throughout the duration of the project. The aim of this new script was to remove or lighten the mature undertones, in favour of a lighter and more practical adventure for the family. Many key scenes were rewritten with a smaller budget in mind, including the climax which now saw Koopa de-evolved into a Yoshi-like creature rather than the original towering T. rex. Most prominent is the addition of a Disneyesque wedding sequence for the film's ending in which Mario marries girlfriend Daniella; this subplot would remain in the film, only to be cut in the editing room.
None of the enemies in the film ever refer to Mario and Luigi by their first names. They only refer to them as "Plumbers, Mammals, and Monkeys." The only exception is the desk sergeant, who refers to them as "Marios" and "Mario Brothers."
Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais turned in a script that was was so sophisticated and intelligent that it inspired Bob Hoskins, Dennis Hopper and Fiona Shaw to sign onto the project. However, the producers feared it wasn't kid-friendly enough, so they forced heavy re-writes and barred the directors from contributing to them. This version comes across much more sophisticated and adult-oriented than before with its "Mad Max"-style death races in the desert, wry British political satire and hedonistic behavior among the reptilian populace. However, the trade-off for this stronger narrative is a much looser connection to the games.
Parker Bennett and Terry Runte submitted a script represents the early transition from the original fantasy-oriented take to the more grounded sci-fi take of the final film. They felt that the story was never funny, scary or outlandish enough, so to make it more compelling they sought to focus more on Mario and Luigi's relationship, to develop Daisy into a more proactive character and to expand Koopa's plot so that it would also endanger Earth. However, the pitch still contains various fantastical elements, including Mario and Luigi being icons of a "prophecy," a magical talking book that aids them on their quest and a mushroom-infested world complete with a castle. The sci-fi concept of a parallel world inhabited by humanoid dinosaurs is essentially only retrofitted onto the fantasy story already written.
The scene where Mario saves the Brooklyn Babes (the other women who were captured by Spike and Iggy) and they escape via ice tunnel on a bed mattress with the goombas chasing after them was very hectic to shoot. The heads that the actors playing the goombas wore were so heavy that they kept falling off. While on the mattress with Mario and the Brooklyn Babes, someone thought they were going too slow, so the loosened one of the wires that was pulling them. The crew stopped for lunch and when they came back, nobody checked the rig. They shot the scene where they flew out of the tunnel only they were going way too fast and out of control. With the exception of Bob Hoskin's stunt double, the rest of them were the actresses. One of the girls nearly fell off the mattress and it would have been a 25 ft drop to solid concrete. They all stayed on the mattress, but it flipped over once they landed on the ground and they all smashed their heads. Aside from some bruises, they all turned out okay.
The "rainbow" shooting script, so named because of the countless number of coloured revision pages, provides the most clear look at what may have actually been filmed. These revisions were begun by Ed Solomon himself, only to be continued by original writers Parker Bennett and Terry Runte after the pair appeared on set and were subsequently rehired. Working closely with the directors and cast, Parker and Terry went on to rejuvenate the script and return it to the level of fun and sophistication it once had. Extraneous scenes were removed, streamlining and focusing the story, while others were rewritten to accommodate character development and special effects.
The animated dinosaur prologue was the final addition to the movie during the post-production process. According to Parker Bennett, the producers had held screenings of the film that left audiences confused. In order to avoid theatrical frustration, they opted to add the prologue to the beginning of the film to simply spell it out. This prologue never existed in any of the early scripts. Rather, the film was meant to start on a primordial setting complete with realistic dinosaurs before a meteorite catastrophically obliterated the landscape. A brief portion of this original opening can be seen at the end of the animated sequence. Parker and Terry Runte offered only three different versions of the animated prologue in this document, with the only difference being slightly different dialogue between the talking dinosaurs.
For unknown reasons, the entire ending of the movie has been cut for the Italian release. In this version, the film ends with the Goombas dancing in queue outside the de-evolution machine, waiting to return normal. Even the end credits were altered, with the inclusion of scenes from the whole movie and with the Roxette's song, "Almost Unreal", replaced with "Speed of Light" by Joe Satriani, which it's also part of the soundtrack of the film.
During a 2007 interview with the (London) Guardian, Bob Hoskins called this movie "the worst thing I ever did....It was a fuckin' nightmare. The whole experience was a nightmare. It had a husband-and-wife team directing, whose arrogance had been mistaken for talent. After so many weeks their own agent told them to get off the set! Fuckin' nightmare. Fuckin' idiots."