Entertainment

Anya Taylor-Joy on playing Princess Peach: ‘I find her really inspiring’

Undated film still handout from The Super Mario Bros. Movie. Pictured: Cranky Kong (voiced by Fred Armisen) and Princess Peach (voiced by Anya Taylor-Joy). See PA Feature SHOWBIZ Film Super Mario. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/©2023 Nintendo and Universal Studios. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature SHOWBIZ Film Super Mario.
Undated film still handout from The Super Mario Bros. Movie. Pictured: Cranky Kong (voiced by Fred Armisen) and Princess Peach (voiced by Anya Taylor-Joy). See PA Feature SHOWBIZ Film Super Mario. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/©2023 Nintendo and Un Undated film still handout from The Super Mario Bros. Movie. Pictured: Cranky Kong (voiced by Fred Armisen) and Princess Peach (voiced by Anya Taylor-Joy). See PA Feature SHOWBIZ Film Super Mario. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/©2023 Nintendo and Universal Studios. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature SHOWBIZ Film Super Mario.

Anyone who’s ever driven on the Rainbow Road, landed a Final Smash, clambered up platforms in the Mushroom Kingdom or eaten a power-up mushroom will undoubtedly hold the Italian plumbers Mario and Luigi in a special place in their hearts.

The Super Mario game franchise is one of the best-selling of all time, and its colourful characters, catchy soundtracks, inventive game mechanics and co-op fun have made the Nintendo games enduringly popular for players across generations.

This popularity, and the legendary status of the Mario brothers and their friends, is what made Parks And Recreation and Guardians Of The Galaxy star Chris Pratt jump at the chance to play Mario in a new animated film based on the Super Mario Bros. franchise.

“When I was presented with the opportunity to lend my voice to such an iconic character, it was too exciting to pass it up,” says Pratt, 43, star of The Super Mario Bros. Movie.

“What interested me most was the opportunity to help flesh the character out beyond what we see in the games.

“In a way, the main character in The Super Mario Bros. games is whoever is behind the controller. Mario is just a brick-smashing avatar. We don’t know much about him other than he’s a little Italian plumber with a moustache who says ‘Woohoo!’ and ‘Let’s-a go!’

“So, in order to craft a compelling and relatable narrative, one with heart, humour, adventure… we had to dig in and discover the character beyond what the games have shown us. His insecurity, his ambition, his persistence.”

Going further than the playable character in the Nintendo games was also important to Anya Taylor-Joy, who plays Princess Peach.

Rather than being a damsel in distress, a princess needing to be saved from Bowser’s clutches by a heroic Mario, the Princess Peach we meet in The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a fearless leader, determined to protect her kingdom from Bowser’s thirst for domination.

“From the very first meeting that we all had, I said I’d only want to do it if we are moving Peach into her next era,” says The Queen’s Gambit star, 26.

“And I was so happy that everybody was so on board and really excited about it.

“I just think she’s super cool because, of course, she’s kind and compassionate. But she has got it together. Like, she has a plan, she’s in charge of everything, she’s got a handle on everything that’s going on.

“And I find her really inspiring.”

When we meet Mario and Luigi in The Super Mario. Bros movie, they’re two humble Brooklyn plumbers trying to make a name for themselves. But, while working underground to fix a water main, the brothers get transported down a mysterious pipe into a magical new world.

Before long, the brothers are separated and Luigi is captured by the malevolent Bowser. Mario, therefore, must set out on an epic quest to rescue Luigi from his clutches, and along the way meets Princess Peach, Toad, Donkey Kong and others who all help him tap into his power and take on the Mushroom Kingdom’s biggest threat to rescue his brother.

“It just felt exciting to me – it’s nice to be part of something with such a massive fan base,” says It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’s Charlie Day, who plays Luigi.

“We tried many different versions of the voice and the accent for Luigi. Ultimately, they went with one close to my usual speaking voice, which I guess is why they cast me. It was a pleasure from the first session to the last. I hope I get to do it again one day.”

Mario and Luigi’s voices were an essential consideration for cast and filmmakers alike – as Pratt points out, we only really hear Mario say his catchphrases in the games, and this tone was not necessarily something that could be carried throughout a feature-length film.

“The original Mario character, voiced by Charles Martinet, is obviously iconic. Considering he’s probably the most famous video game character of all time, it was crucial to get the voice right,” Pratt says.

“We discussed early on the importance of grounding my version of Mario’s voice in something that could carry a 90-minute emotional through-line.

“I played with the tone, the inflection and ultimately landed on the voice you hear. Within the first couple of sessions, we really nailed it down.”

With the Mario games being so beloved and ubiquitous, it’s no surprise that there are some long-time fans amongst the cast.

“I remember when Nintendo was introduced to the world… Mine came with Super Mario Bros., so it was the first Nintendo game I’d seen,” says Day, 47.

“For any kid at that time, it felt fairly life-changing for us. I remember my older sister was better at it than me, but I also remember that because she was older, I often had to play second. Therefore, I was usually playing Luigi.”

“I go way back to the beginning of Nintendo video games, I loved Donkey Kong growing up in the 1980s,” adds Jack Black, who plays Bowser.

“It wasn’t until I had kids of my own that I saw Bowser!”

“Bowser is one of the most iconic villains in the entire history of video games – who wouldn’t jump at the chance to bring him to the silver screen?” the 53-year-old Tenacious D vocalist and Kung Fu Panda and School Of Rock star continues.

“He’s terrifying… powerful… and filled with insecurities… a great character to explore.”

For Taylor-Joy, the Super Mario games are a relatively new discovery – but all the same, she’s now found the perfect character to play when she’s driving a Kart or exploring the Mushroom Kingdom.

“I didn’t play when I was a kid, but now I do, and I have such a good time with it,” Taylor-Joy says.

“I do feel like I can exclusively only play Princess Peach now. I think I’m not allowed – or at least I feel like I’m cheating – if I play anybody else!”

The Super Mario Bros. Movie is in UK cinemas from Wednesday April 5.