Mojo Nixon - SMB Archive Interview: 08/17/2010 by Ryan Hoss
Thanks to staff member Steven Applebaum (Redstar), I was able to get in touch with Mojo Nixon, who played Toad in Super Mario Bros. One of the first things he wanted to know was "why is there a website for this movie? Couldn't you have just picked Star Wars or something?" All joking aside, Mojo provided us with one hell of an interview--informative, thoughtful, and hilarious, all rolled into one. Since he's the first person I've interviewed that was a cast member, I was able to ask him some things that haven't been covered yet. I gotta say, it was quite a surreal experience getting to talk to him after being such a fan for so long. I wasn't able to record the first part of our conversation, so what follows is what I was able to get. Also, be warned that a couple parts of this interview contain explicit language.
Ryan Hoss: So, let’s get started.
Mojo Nixon: All right man. Well I got there, at North Carolina—Wilmington. They take me out to the set and they had shot some complicated thing the night before, with the crazy cars—and Rocky, the director, is sitting at a picnic table with his head in his hands, and I’m not sure if he’s crying—but he definitely looks like his dog has been run over.
MN: And I don’t know where she [Annabel Jankel] was, I can’t remember her name just this second, but yeah, he was sitting there, and he looked like—and they had just also, either the day before or the next day, they were gonna fire the director of photography. And Rocky probably wished they would’ve fired him, but you know—they weren’t going to.
MN: Y’know, and the whole thing…uh, who was the guy that was the producer—Roland?
RH: Roland Joffé?
MN: Yeah. He had this crazy…y’know, I went to a party at his house and he told me this whole thing—this—he had this crazy vision for the whole thing. That’s not exactly—the vision he had was almost like The Wizard of Oz or something. And uh, but you know there was a lot of pressure—probably from the studio—to…you know, he had this kind of magical, dreamy idea that the studio wanted to tie into the video game.
RH: Yeah, the script originally was more of a fantasy-based type of script, and then they completely reworked it into the kind of Blade Runner kind of thing it ended up being.
MN: Yeah. Right, right. This was after, I think—or during the production at some point [that] he told me. You know, I was only supposed to work like four days, but they were so (laughs) they were so unorganized—I was there for a month!
…Which is fine, you know—I got paid, so Mojo was happy. (laughs)
RH: Yeah! Well, in the early draft of that script, your character—Toad—actually had a much larger role in the movie…
MN: Aw, dammit! (laughing)
RH: (laughing) Yeah! I mean, he basically helped the Mario Brothers and took them—it was Toad, and the other two—the Koopa Cousins—and you all basically went with the Mario Brothers through the whole rest of the movie and helped them pretty much through the whole thing.
MN: Ah. Well I got turned into a big lizard by Dennis Hopper. (starts laughing)
RH: Exactly. Exactly! So…
MN: I’ll tell you about that scene: I was supposed to act scared of Dennis Hopper. Well, when he finally turned on the full Dennis Hopper craziness, I didn’t have to act—I was scared, that motherf*cker's crazy! (laughs)
"Ah. Well I got turned into a big lizard by Dennis Hopper."
RH: (laughing) Yeah, so what was the De-evolution chamber like? Did it feel like an authentic technology chamber or was it all just “movie magic?”
MN: It was all movie magic. That was part of the reason why I kept having to come back. At one point—and I’m not making this up—I was supposed to fly out of Myrtle Beach, and they literally sent a kid to go stop the plane to bring me back because we had to redo some blue screen stuff. And I asked the kid, I said “What were you going to do?” He says, “I was gonna stand on the runway if I had to!” He [the director] sent a production assistant or somebody to come, because I thought I was done after two weeks, and then it turned out that some of the blue screen stuff didn’t work just the way they wanted it to. Blue screen or green screen—whichever one they were using.
MN: The thing was, you know—I’m there with Dennis Hopper. And I’d met him, and I was excited—but I was wildly overacting. And Bob Hoskins goes, “Look, tone it down. They’re not gonna do anything until take six. Everything before take six is gonna be setting the lighting and the angles and the cameras right.” He says, “Don’t do any acting [until then]. When you see me act, then you act. But only half as much as you’ve been doing.” (Mojo starts laughing)
And then the thing was—Hopper was just standing there like a lump. Because he knew this too—he knew that they weren’t going to get close. So when he turned it [the full Dennis Hopper craziness] on—I was f*ckin’ actually scared.
RH: (laughing) Well you had your head up in the Devo Chamber—that looked like it used to be maybe a cement mixer…
MN: Yeah, you know and it was a little bit—I was talking to all the stunt guys and stuff there and I said, “Is this thing gonna break my neck?” And they go, “Hopefully not.” (laughing)
RH: Yeah, hopefully!
MN: And yeah, ‘cause they put me in there, and then the seat raised up in there. Well I thought, “what if the seat raises too high?” You know, I got a big head—I need some wiggle room up in this thing! And I was getting pages every night that were different, and just the whole thing…
"Is this thing gonna break my neck?" And they go, "Hopefully not."
RH: Yeah, there were constant rewrites.
MN: Yeah, the whole thing was a constant—y’know, you hear stories about how Casablanca—they were sending pages every night. So sometimes that works. And sometimes nobody knows what’s really going on in the movie. But yeah, there was a tremendous—it wasn’t a happy-go-lucky set. There was a tremendous lot of tension and pressure because—nobody quite knew what the f*ck was going on. Somebody is spending—let’s say they’re spending two million dollars a day in a cement factory outside of Wilmington. (laughs) There’d better be a movie!
RH: Right, right. So, the scene where you do get de-evolved into the Goomba creature—in the movie, it’s like you [Toad] get de-evolved, and then they take you away, and then there’s a cut in the movie—and then there’s a big puddle of green goo on the floor. We haven’t been able to really confirm it, but it seems like there was some sort of scene where another character got de-evolved into goo instead of a Goomba creature as well.
MN: Well, all those—all that stuff about the slime being everywhere—maybe if you read the original source material it made sense, but none of that made any sense to any of us. It was a tenuous connection to reality at best, even in the internal logic of the script. I couldn’t keep track of any of that—what was supposed to be happening or any of that. I just knew to make—Dennis Hopper is yelling “Make a scary face!” (laughs)
Dennis Hopper, yelling "Make a scary face!"
RH: Right, that’s all you can concentrate on!
MN: Yeah, that’s right. And also, you know, a smart thing I did do was those two songs I sang—I copyrighted ‘em…
RH: Right, did you make those?
MN: I’m still getting money! I’ve got a check here—how long ago was that thing?
RH: 1993—it’s been 17 years.
MN: Let’s see…(Mojo looks through some checks for a few moments) I got a check here for five dollars, and eight cents. (Mojo starts laughing)
RH: Wow, you still have those royalty checks rolling in…
MN: They’re still rollin’ in!
RH: So you made up those songs?
MN: I made those songs up—and I brought a guitar—the guitar I’m playing [in the film] is an exact replica of one of my own guitars that I brought with me. The prop guy goes “We have to have one in case we gotta reshoot or something—we’ll get one like yours.” So he knew a guitar guy in LA—it was a Gibson L2 or whatever it is…
"A smart thing I did do was those two songs I sang--I copyrighted 'em..."
RH: So that was your guitar and you took it back with you?
MN: No, they went and got one just like it. They had to double the guitar—they wanted to have a spare in case something happened. Because everybody’s terrified that they’re not going to be able to reshoot—everybody’s terrified on a movie that they’re not gonna be able to fix a scene. So if they don’t have all the little pieces, then it’s not gonna work.
(exclamatory) I thought about what I did was genius—playing harmonica—I was layin’ upside down during all of that! (laughs)
RH: (laughs) Really? So how many takes did that one little part take?
MN: The harmonica thing? That took a while—those cages we were in were welded together, and there’s like sharp—I got cut at some point, there’s blood, those guys are in the cage below us—yeah. We had to go up and down [from the cages] by some kind of crane. Then they don’t wanna take you out of the cage, but we gotta wait fifteen minutes to reload the camera or something.
RH: Oh wow…
MN: It was a lot of work. (exclamatory) I was earning my money! (laughs)
"I got cut at some point, there's blood, those guys are in the cage below us--yeah."
RH: Yeah, you did—in that scene, in the cages, it’s like your character plays “plot cop” almost—you basically sit there and explain…
MN: Right, right. I’m advancing the plot. I just saw this thing about Steve McQueen the other day—when there was this kind of expositionary dialogue like that—he’d always want someone else to do it. He says, “Well, let him say it, and I’ll react to it.” Because people are gonna have their eyes on Steve McQueen and they’re not even paying attention to someone going, “We’re going from A to B to C to D!”
The whole thing, Super Mario Bros, you know—kids—they must rent it for cheap on the local stations, because it always plays on like Saturday afternoons on the off-brand TV station. Kids—little kids, in particular—would always come up to me and say, “Oh, I saw you in Super Mario Bros.”
RH: Yeah, well it seems like the more the years go on, the more the movie becomes a cult classic. After it was first released the reception wasn’t that great and it was kind of unpopular, but the more the years go on, it gets more cult-like and more of a popular film in that way.
MN: It’s so crazy—like a lot of films, it represents a time and place. When you were a kid, this is something you saw. You can’t even believe it was ever made—I mean, what are Dennis Hopper and Mojo Nixon doing in this thing? And John Leguizamo—this kind of off-Broadway, lower east-side, dialogue comic—it’s crazy!
RH: Yeah, it seemed like there were so many “hands in the pot” trying to make one vision and it works somewhat, but you could tell that there was something there that prevented them from getting what they really wanted.
MN: Well, I think that at some point on any of these kinds of movies, you have to make a decision—“Am I gonna make a good movie?” Or, “Am I gonna make the video game people happy?” I would think that the best decision would be “I’m gonna make a good movie, and I’m gonna make allusions to the video game.”
But—if the video game is where the money is coming from it’s hard to do that, you know?
RH: Exactly, exactly.
MN: There’s also a lot of crazy stuff with the cars and the rockets, and all that kind of “Blade Runner on the cheap,” if you will—that stuff takes a lot of technical expertise to do all that, and I’m not sure that the directors had that. You need to have a second team, a second unit to go shoot all that stuff and then you go put in all the acting later.
RH: Right. So what did you think of the directors? Did they stick with the project until the end? Do you know? I’ve heard all kinds of different things—they were either fired, or they stayed until the end or something…
MN: They were still there when I left. So I was there [for] kind of the middle four weeks. It had been going on for a while—and it went on for a while after I left. So they were still there when I left, but they were under enormous pressure, and they had fired the director of photography. The scuttlebutt was that they should have fired the directors, but they didn’t know who to replace them with. It’s kind of like a crazy runaway train down there. Like I said, I think somebody told me “You’re spending two million dollars a day or something…after two months, we need a movie.”
RH: Yeah, wow—I guess the pressure does rack up when you’ve got that kind of stuff…
MN: Right, and like I said—a lot of that technical stuff too—there are teams of guys that know how to do that stuff in a Bruce Willis movie. Those guys weren’t necessarily there, and it wasn’t that I didn’t—I never got the impression that it was that kind of movie. But when you try to do those big, elaborate stunts and whatnot, a million things can go wrong.
RH: Yeah…I heard that Bob Hoskins had been electrocuted or something like that in one scene, accidentally.
MN: Yeah, you know…yeah. He’s very—he had very much of a “the show must go on.” It was like an English Vaudeville actor—where “I’m showing up, and you’d better have the camera ready to go.” (laughs)
"I'm showing up, and you'd better have the camera ready to go."
RH: Oh, really—yeah. Wow. So, can you go back to the beginning [of the interview], since I didn’t really catch that part—how you got involved with the project from the start?
MN: I knew a girl—she was part of the extras casting. Her name is Lisa Mae Fincannon—she lived in Wilmington. She had married an extras casting director. And I knew her through bands in a film in Athens, Georgia—this band The Flat Duo Jets—and she had been involved in this documentary that I’d been in. And so I knew her, and she called me and says “Look, they want Tom Waits—but I told them I could get you for half-price.”
And in fact, her quote was “They said we gotta have Tom Waits for this role, but he wants too much money.” And she says, “Well I can get you a third-rate Tom Waits—for half-price!” (laughing)
RH: (laughing) Well like you were saying earlier, a lot of people—me included—got to know who you were through this movie.
MN: Yeah, and a lot more people saw it than I thought would, and I think the real thing is—a lot more people saw it later. Because like I said, to rent Star Wars to show on your local TV station or cable channel costs a bazillion dollars. So if Star Wars is at one end, and Apocalypse Now is at one end, Super Mario Bros. and Great Balls of Fire are at the other end. So they got played all the time on the off-brand TV station on Saturday afternoon, or the off-brand cable channel, and so lots of people saw it. [It’s] when you’re sitting around and you’re thinking you should be working or studying—but you end up watching Super Mario Bros.
RH: (laughs) Yeah, that’s what I did! Well, it [the film studio] is an offshoot of Disney, so it was on the Disney Channel some and things like that. The thing that I don’t like is that now—it’s on DVD, but it’s not a very good DVD release either. I guess that’s something you can’t really expect for a movie like this, but the more of a cult classic it becomes—the more you kind of want a better version of it, and it’s just not there yet, you know?
MN: Well, and I’m not sure, also—I’m not sure if you went and re-edited it if it would make any more sense or be any better. It might be different—(starts laughing)
Like I told you earlier, I’m not sure that the internal logic of the script was there. Not unlike The Big Sleep—at one point, Humphrey Bogart and Howard Hawks [producer] call up Raymond Chandler [original author] to ask him who killed what character, and he couldn’t remember—he couldn’t tell you. Because they were confused too—I think the same level of internal discombobulation was happening in Super Mario Bros.
RH: Right, well…do you know of any major deleted scenes or things that just aren’t in the film? It ended up being about an hour and forty minutes long, but in my research, it seems like there’s a lot of deleted scenes.
MN: I think a lot of that didn’t get filmed. I don’t know that for sure, but right. I read an original—the first script I read was much bigger and there was all kinds of crazy fantasy, and prelude and postlude and all kinds of stuff. I think that once they got in there, and they got everybody in the crazy outfits—and they shot a couple of car crashes—then they started going, “Whoa…you know…we’re in way over our heads, and we’d just better get our thing [made].”
Because like I said, I was supposed to be there a week, and I was there for a month. And they literally sent a guy to stand in front of the plane in Myrtle Beach to make sure I didn’t leave—because I had to do that whole thing where my head turns from my [character] Toad into the lizard. They had to shoot that like four times because there was some problem—some special camera and special process, and blue screen—somehow, it wasn’t working.
"They literally sent a guy to stand in front of the plane to make sure I didn't leave..."
RH: Yeah, that one scene there seems to be one of the biggest changes in the film—it’s almost like they were never certain with what they wanted to do with it. Like in the early drafts, like I said—your character never gets changed into a Goomba—he goes with the Mario Brothers for the rest of the movie and a different character is a Goomba who performs the same functions that your character does in the actual film.
MN: And you know—there is a scene where you see that one of the Goombas has a harmonica holder…
RH: Yeah, and he’s got the same haircut…
MN: Yeah, and he’s got this crazy haircut on! I’ll tell you about that—about the hairdo. My mother has a house at Holden Beach, North Carolina, which is about forty miles from there from where they filmed it, by Wilmington, and so my family had already planned to be staying there at that time—so my older son, “the beast,” wanted to get the same haircut. So I brought him to the set one day, and we had plenty of time, so the girl who did my haircut—[Editor’s note: Michelle Johnson] she did one on him!
Well, his grandmother was not happy. (Mojo starts laughing) She didn’t even speak to him for like—she’s all mad at me and yellin’ at him… (Mojo keeps laughing…this is hilarious)
And then I have this other son that’s like eleven years younger than that…well when he got to be five or six, he wanted the same haircut! And so we have a picture, from the set, of me and my older son—both with the same haircut—and then my third son, he went and got the same hairdo.
Michelle Johnson (key hair stylist) giving Mojo his signature "Toad" haircut
RH: So was that haircut something that the set people decided on?
MN: Yeah, that was something that the hair and makeup guys made. And you know, what’s his name is in that movie—Fisher Stevens—and at the time, he was going out with Michelle Pfeiffer. We spent hours getting these wild, crazy haircuts—so we would spend hours sitting next to each other in the hair and makeup trailer—and never once did he mention this!
(Mojo screams) I would’ve been wearin’ a t-shirt! I would’ve had like a Bat-signal hitting the sun or something! You know, this isn’t too long after she had been in Batman [Returns] and stuff—you know, I guess that’s why she liked him, because he didn’t bring it up—that probably played something into it.
But, yeah! I read later about “Michelle Pfeiffer’s secret boyfriend—actor, comedian, producer, writer, Fisher Stevens…”
(Mojo screams) HUH? WHAT!? We’re all talking about New York—we’re sitting there talking about baseball and the New York Dolls, and (dumbfounded) he doesn’t mention he’s f*cking Michelle Pfeiffer!?
RH: Yeah, it’s almost like “I thought we were friends!”
MN: “Yeah! Dude!”
RH: Well, you’re our third interview—you’re our first actor from the film, actually—to be interviewed.
MN: Oh. (laughs) Actin’ fool is what I am!
RH: Yes, you’re a thespian. I interviewed one of the guys [Mark McCoy] that worked on the fungus, and then I interviewed Jeff Goodwin, the film’s key makeup artist, and he gave me some pictures—and it’s so funny you mention the hair/makeup rooms and all that—there’s one [of the pictures] where it’s him, Fisher Stevens, and Dennis Hopper, they all have their hair done, and Dennis Hopper must have been telling some sort of joke, because everybody’s laughing and they all have their hands up and everything—it’s really hilarious.
MN: Yeah, and it’s one of those crazy things, being down there—when you’re in the middle of something, you don’t know what’s gonna happen. I hear tell—now I’ve never been in a good movie—but I hear that you can probably tell when you’re in one. But even sometimes, when you’re…I’m sure plenty of actors are in what they think is—same way when you’re making a record—think “this is gonna be good,” or “this is gonna be a hit.” But it’s not, for whatever reason. I mean, it wasn’t a hit, was it?
RH: Well, it’s like—it was the first movie based on a video game, and it seemed like nobody really knew what to do with it, you know?
MN: Right. And I think also—I didn’t play any of those videogames—I’m a little too old. When I was eighteen, you know…Atari came out, so I was already too old; I didn’t play them [the Mario games] when I was twelve. And so, you know, the video games didn’t mean anything to me. I’m sure there’s people who spent half of their youth in the basement playing those games, and then the movie takes on a different meaning.
RH: Yeah, exactly. So were you familiar at all with the games before you took on the role?
MN: Just barely. My kids had ‘em, but I didn’t like ‘em.
RH: Right. So, did you know about your character at all, in terms of the game?
MN: No. Didn’t know it, didn’t know a thing. I did know that they made some cards and I was one of the 3D cards…I did know that. (Mojo laughs)
RH: Yeah! Yeah, it’s cool!
MN: I didn’t get an action figure, but I did get a 3D card!
RH: Oh, I know. An action figure would’ve been nice. They did have the action figures, but I guess they only made a couple [of the characters]—they didn’t make everybody.
MN: (softly) Ugh, dammit. See, dammed Star Wars hoggin’ up all the action figures.
RH: Yeah, exactly. Well, in the games, your character Toad—I mean, there’s Mario, Luigi, Dennis Hopper’s character—Koopa, you’ve got the Princess, and there’s you—there’s Toad. And then there’s Yoshi. So you’re one of the few main characters in the whole series.
MN: Aw, I didn’t even notice!
RH: Yeah! So like I said, the character was definitely a much more major thing in the earlier drafts.
MN: Well, you know—it’s of those things too, where I’m only in it for fifteen minutes, but I’m in that fifteen minutes, you know?
RH: Yeah, you’re the highlight for that part, because you’re like the catalyst for the rest of the film from that point. Like they catch you, you go with them, and like I said, you explain the plot, and then you show them what happens to the people when they get changed into the other characters.
MN: I remember—I think there was some scene where we were in the back of a cop car or something, and the director kept asking me—he kept saying “Are you looking into the camera?”
And I go…“Am I not supposed to?” I said, “I’m hammin’ it up for the camera!”
He goes, “No—you’re supposed to look past the camera…”
“Oh, oh…” I’m just staring right in—let’s put it on me, YEAH!
"I'm hammin' it up for the camera!"
RH: (laughing) Well, what did you think of the costumes that you had?
MN: You know, they had a different costume for me, when I got there—but I got too fat. The costume—I don’t even remember…it had hip waders or something, wasn’t it?
RH: Well, you had like a blue, blue jean jacket—and like a black t-shirt and some jeans…
MN: I thought at some point I had rubber pants on or something…maybe that was the original suit that I didn’t wear. But they had some crazy—all that stuff was crazy—the hair, the makeup, the scenes, the sets, the outfits, they were “crazying” it up big time. And it was all kind of weirdly in this cement factory in rural North Carolina. Where literally—when after you drove out of the gates of the cement factory—there was a tomato stand. You know, where somebody was selling home-grown tomatoes.
And I was staying down at Wrightsville Beach—they had like some apartments or something down there. They had rented out like a whole—like condominiums or townhouses—and I was staying down there, right by the pier at Wrightsville Beach.
And I would see so many of the cast members…in the bar…every night…drinking heavily. (chuckling)
MN: Right, because it was just—you know, you couldn’t really figure out what was going on. You couldn’t figure out who was in charge or how to fix it—it was like being in a tornado.
Bob Hoskins said, “Just put your head down, hit your marks, say your lines, and shut the f*ck up.”
"Just put your head down, hit your marks, say your lines, and shut the f*ck up."
RH: Wow…so you were there for like a month? It also seemed like some of the other people didn’t have very fond memories of filming the thing.
MN: I just think it’s frustrating when you don’t know—when they keep changing their minds. That’s frustrating with any boss that keeps changing their mind. Literally, we were gonna do one scene at six o’ clock the next morning, and at eight o’ clock, we were gonna do a different one. And it could be at ten o’ clock, we’d be doing a third one.
So that kind of on-the-run, indecision—or, let’s say at eleven o’ clock at night, we still had no idea what was gonna happen the next day—but we had to be there at six o’ clock anyway.
You know, and that’s typical of many movies, but this was just extra frustrating—because you could tell. You could just tell by looking around. People were freaking out. (laughs) It didn’t take a genius to figure out that they didn’t know what in the hell was going on.
RH: So the two directors—Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel—they were just really indecisive about things?
MN: The impression that I got—now I don’t really know them—but the impression I got was they’d bitten off more than they could chew. And they were under a lot of different pressures from the gaming people, from the studio. And whatever original idea that Roland had in the original script was not happening there, and they didn’t know quite what to do.
But you know, that can happen on a lot of different movies. And like I said—when I drove up at like eight o’ clock, or seven o’ clock, and they had been working all night…and he [Rocky] is sitting at the picnic table looking like his dog had died—I knew things weren’t good.
And then the first day, we’re shooting something, and nobody knows who the director of photography is…because they have a brand new one.
RH: Oh…so that was when you were there, in the middle?
RH: So did they ever talk about bringing your character back at the end? He gets transformed into a Goomba and you always wonder if they wanted to bring the character back—and change him back?
MN: I don’t remember—I think that they had so many other problems—that was the least of their worries. But like I said, I shot most of the stuff in three to four days. But they kept having me hang around…which led to increased drinking. Yeah, you get that movie per diem! Well look, what am I gonna do with it?
"They had so many other problems--[changing Toad back] was the least of their worries."
RH: Yeah…you can only do so much. So did you have to stand around sometimes and watch other scenes get filmed?
MN: Oh yeah. And a lot of times, you know—I was there in the trailer, playing guitar, or talking to [John] Leguizamo, or…
RH: Oh yeah, how was John Leguizamo?
MN: Oh, he was very nice. He was also somewhat just flabbergasted by the whole thing. He’s used to being in charge of this whole…doing a ninety-minute monologue. So this was a little different for him too, you know?
RH: Yeah, it seems like it was different for everybody. Because it had never been done before, and it seems like they didn’t really get it all together when they should have.
MN: Well that’s part of the idiot charm of the whole thing—is that looking at it, you can see—that they had a lot of ideas, but they weren’t sure how they were all gonna fit together.
RH: Right, right. So, do you have any other funny or interesting stories about your experience on the film, with the other actors or crew?
MN: Nah…I think you got ‘em all. Now what’s the name of the website?
RH: The name of the website is “Super Mario Bros. The Movie Archive,” and it’s smbmovie.com, is what it [the URL] is.
MN: And how many people go to this website? Ten? Twelve? Eight? (laughs)
RH: Oh gosh. (Mojo got me there…I hadn’t looked at the site stats in months. So I blurted out the following:) Thousands…thousands!
Editor’s Note: I checked on this, for you guys that would like to know—in July 2010, this website had over 9,500 unique visits, and nearly 50,000 page views.
RH: Yeah…the traffic increases the more it’s there, you know?
MN: You’re not alone in your psychotic fixation…
RH: I thought I was… (Mojo starts laughing)…I thought I was, but then I made the site, and then all this stuff happens. And all these people want more information and I keep finding new things out, like new drafts of the script and…
MN: So how do you describe the movie? As an overblown B-movie gone bad? Or a confusing artifact from an earlier time?
RH: Well, it’s almost like…they were trying to do something different and revolutionary, trying to make the first movie ever based on a video game, and it seems like—especially the producer—he wanted to put a lot of thought and respect into taking the game and really bringing it to life. To me, it’s just a really interesting anomaly, because it had never been done before. So, it defies explanation almost…
MN: (laughs) It defies explanation, there you go!
RH: Yeah, it’s very intriguing. It intrigues me to death because it was the first time they tried something like that, with everything that went into making it. And you could tell it was there, but it’s just interesting how it all came together…or tried to come together. A lot of people—more and more people every day—seem to realize that.
MN: All right man, anything else I can tell you?
RH: Yeah…the movie had a cliffhanger ending. Was there any talk of a sequel that you know about?
MN: No, not that I know about. Plus, I’d been turned into a giant lizard. (laughs)
On a potential sequel: "Not that I know about. Plus, I'd been turned into a giant lizard."
RH: I think they could’ve changed you back!
MN: Well, and I think also—I think they spent way too much money—I don’t know how much money they spent. How much money did they spend?
RH: Over forty million…
MN: Right, so yeah. They didn’t make their money back. Had they made it for five million, they might’ve made a sequel. But it wouldn’t have been nearly as overblown and crazy. And at forty million—that’s what the pressure was. Forty million was a lot back then—it’s still a lot now—and it’s also a lot of money to be spending on a video game.
Now you see…I think I saw where that Call of Duty sold what, two million copies the first day or something?
Editor’s Note: In its first 24 hours of release, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 sold approximately 4.7 million copies in the USA and UK, generating $310 million in sales—making it the biggest launch in the history of all forms of entertainment. Source—IGN.com
RH: Yeah, it was a lot.
MN: So yeah, a sixty bucks a pop…yeah, it’s a smart idea to turn these things into a movie and market it and everything. But maybe that [Mario Bros. film] was just a little early. And they didn’t know what they were doing.
RH: Exactly, it was way ahead of its time, yeah. Trying to do something like that—I mean, did you get to attend the film’s premiere?
MN: Nah, I went to some party at Roland [Jaffe]’s house up in LA, in the Hollywood Hills. It’s super fancy—I’m pretty sure Jack Nicholson lived around the corner—one of them places. And there was a party, and it [the film] was going to come out relatively soon, and they showed a little bit of it. And he told me a lot of his original ideas. But I didn’t go to the premiere, no.
RH: So what did you think of the film when you first saw it?
MN: Well I thought I was good. (laughing) And I wasn’t sure what to think of the rest, one—because I didn’t play the game, and two—I couldn’t tell what they were trying to do. I was just happy that I was in a scene with Dennis Hopper.
RH: Yeah, yeah I know!
MN: I mean that—you know—right. Dennis Hopper is not only in Apocalypse Now, not only is he in Easy Rider—Dennis Hopper is in f*ckin Rebel Without a Cause!
It didn’t hurt my career in any way. What, like I could hurt my career! (Mojo starts chuckling)
RH: So that was the only scene you got to spend with Dennis Hopper. Did he offer any advice?
MN: Nah, I remember earlier I’d met him in a Wingding down in Wilmington during the shoot. There was some kind of party for the local film society or something. And I got the impression that Dennis Hopper had just traded his addiction to cocaine for his addiction to abstract painting and Armani suits.
But he was still batshit crazy—he just wasn’t snorting cocaine anymore.
RH: Right, this movie was right at the start of his comeback to film after all that.
MN: His right hand man though—I think his name was Francis—let me watch some NCAA basketball or college football. I can’t remember what it was. Anyway, now—stars all have these super motor homes—million-dollar motor homes. Dennis had like an old school bus converted into like an early version of that, it had a satellite dish on top, and I was able to watch whatever it was I wanted to watch.
Dennis is dead now—but I was not to tell Dennis that I had done this. (Mojo starts laughing) He didn’t want me in there f*ckin’ with his shit!
"He didn't want me in there f*ckin' with his shit!"
RH: Wow…I mean, it’s really great to hear all this stuff from you. It’s just really, really awesome.
MN: Well, I’m glad I could help. I’ll look it [this interview] up on the intertube, man.
RH: Did you get any memorabilia from the movie or anything?
MN: Well, I had some stuff. I had to move back and forth a couple of times, and all that’s gone. All I literally have is the 3D card. At some point I had boxes full of the trading cards. Because that was part of the deal I made—they said “Well, can we use your image?” and I said “Yeah, but you gotta send me five boxes full!”
RH: So like I said, you’re the first actor we’ve been able to interview…
MN: Right, and look—let’s get this straight—I’m not really an actor. I was a drunk musician playing a drunk musician. (Mojo laughs)
RH: Well, in one of the original scripts, you were a scavenger in the desert, and you took the Mario Brothers back into the desert and you had a hole in the desert, and you explained more of the plot there and you helped them out there.
MN: Ah, in my hole in the desert, yes!
RH: So yeah, it seems like you had a much bigger role initially—they just cut it all out.
MN: Well yeah, it would’ve cost another forty million dollars to film all that.
RH: Oh it would have. It totally would have.
MN: All right man. Well thanks a lot—I look forward to seeing this up on the website, man.
RH: Yeah, no problem. Thanks again for doing this!
And that’s it—I gotta give another BIG thanks to Mojo. Awesome interview!