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(Credit: Hartmut S. Bühler)

Film

Dennis Hopper on why he took his role as King Koopa in 'Super Mario Bros'

@Russellisation

A Hollywood maverick and all-around industry icon, the late Dennis Hopper is considered to be one of the most influential actors of the 20th century, thanks to roles in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. Working with some of the finest filmmakers of movie history and becoming a key player in the evolution of independent American cinema in the 1960s.

Whilst he became known for his directorial debut Easy Rider, as well as the classic action movie Speed with Keanu Reeves, few Hopper movies compare to Lynch’s 1986 masterpiece, Blue Velvet. Radiating an eerie discomfort that vibrates throughout the entire runtime, Hopper’s character Frank Booth creates a feeling of discontent and visceral fear that feeds perfectly into Lynch’s strange brew of American suburbia.

As the peculiar escort guding the protagonists through Lynch’s fictional hellish American underbelly, Booth navigates the space as a terrifying uncanny figure with a disturbed psyche. A psychopathic gangster and drug lord, Hopper’s character huffs nondescript gas through a transparent pipe, operating on different fuel to the average being, living in a totally different reality entirely.

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Though he had the opportunities to work with some of the greatest filmmakers of all time, Hopper also fell victim to the allure of Hollywood, working in some purely commercial features, just as all industry actors must do. 

Asked by Conan O’Brien back in 2008 if he had done any roles which he was “not super proud of,” the actor responded: “A lot of the movies that I have made are only seen in Eastern European countries and maybe Fiji, they show them over there,” shedding light on his peculiar choices of projects. 

Naming one film specifically, however, Hopper points to the strange collaboration he did with John Leguizamo and Bob Hoskins, where he played the lead villain in the Nintendo adaptation, Super Mario Bros. Explaining why he took the peculiar role, Hopper recalls to O’Brien, “I made a picture called Super Mario Bros, and my six-year-old son at the time…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.?’”. 

Stumped at the response of his six-year-old, Hopper replied to him by saying, “‘Well Henry, I did that so you could have shoes,’” before his son hilariously quipped back, “Dad, I don’t need shoes that badly”. 

The 1993 film adaptation of Super Mario Bros is popularly known as one of the worst video game movies of all time, failing to capture the heart and energy of the original vibrant, frenetic platformer. 

Despite the film’s critical and commercial failings, Nintendo are attempting to try and create a Super Mario Bros reboot with directors Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic at the helm. Showing off an unusual cast that sees Chris Pratt play Mario, Charlie Day play Luigi and Jack Black play the big villain, Bowser, other cast members also include Anya Taylor-Joy, Seth Rogen and Keegan-Michael Key. 

Will the forthcoming movie wrong the rights of the 1993 film? Or will it simply serve to show why Mario and friends should never be adapted for the big screen? Time will tell.