For today’s episode, I spoke to British director Rocky Morton – the co-director, together with his then-wife Annabel Jankel, of the infamous SUPER MARIO BROS. movie. Released in 1993, this very first video game adaptation was plagued by endless rewrites and heavy studio meddling, so it became almost a cautionary tale – even though the film has a lot more to offer than its reputation would suggest. Before SUPER MARIO BROS., Rocky and Annabel were also the creators of MAX HEADROOM, the world’s first virtual TV host, who became a cult figure with his own music video show, a series, commercials, and even a computer game. They shot music videos for the likes of Elvis Costello, the Talking Heads, Rush, the Tom Tom Club and even Miles Davis, and they were also known for their cutting-edge commercials and TV title sequences. Due to the failure of SUPER MARIO BROS., Rocky hasn’t directed another feature film since, but he remains very active in the field of commercials.
In this Talking Pictures episode, Rocky discusses the process of adapting a video game without a story into a huge Hollywood movie, he talks about many of the problems he and Annabel ran into while making the film – like receiving a completely rewritten script just a few days before principal photography, or getting locked out of the editing room. Rocky also shares memories of his early career, like getting thrown off the crew of the movie adaptation of Pink Floyd’s THE WALL, one of his first gigs as an animator, or developing the cyberpunk world of MAX HEADROOM, or creating particularly subversive music videos, including one for the Sex Pistols.
This interview is part of a series on video game adaptations, so be sure to also check out the Talking Pictures episodes with DOUBLE DRAGON director Jim Yukich, with STREET FIGHTER writer/director Steven de Souza, and with MORTAL KOMBAT and WING COMMANDER screenwriter Kevin Droney.
If you speak German, there’s also episode #38 of our Lichtspielplatz podcast with in-depth discussions of all these movies.
So here’s Talking Pictures with director Rocky Morton!