Charles Martinet: ‘‘I want to voice Mario until I drop dead.’’

For FAN EXPO Canada: Limited Edition, Charles Martinet held a Q&A session hosted by John K. Kirk from Den of Geek. Martinet spent the last 30 years voice acting for Nintendo. He has voiced many characters in the Mario Universe, namely Luigi, Waluigi, Wario and of course, Mario. During the Q&A he spoke about his rise to fame and the trials and tribulations that got him there.

Martinet, Matinees & Mario

Charles Martinet dropped out of UC Berkeley because he couldn’t get the teacher he wanted for his thesis. ‘‘I planned on returning to my studies later, but I never did.’’

His friend tricked him into doing a monologue from the Spoon River Anthology. Martinet recounts: ‘‘I felt I was shaking the entire time, but after I finished, someone in the audience asked how come I was the only one who wasn’t nervous?’’ 

After that, he decided to take acting classes and try to become an actor. He even managed to earn an apprenticeship at Berkeley Repertory Theater.  He then went to school at Drama Studio London. However, he admits ‘‘I failed many times on my way to becoming an actor.’’ He even admits to failing in business after briefly trying his hand at it.

Image Credit – Nintendo Life

After auditioning for a corporate video, he realised that he made more money doing a single corporate video than performing in the theatre. ‘‘So I ended up making hundreds of corporate videos.’’

But his stint into voice acting started after he read a script and made 250$ in a single take. ‘‘After that, I thought ‘ok, I guess I’m a voice actor now!’’’

An Italian Plumber From Brooklyn Named Mario

A friend asked Martinet to ‘‘crash an audition in Las Vegas.’’ The casting directors were already packing up, but Martinet walked up to them and asked whether he could read the script. They reluctantly agreed and told him ‘‘you are an Italian plumber from Brooklyn named Mario’’ for the videogame company, Nintendo.

Martinet admits that he knew next to nothing about video games at the time. Since he was asked to improvise, Martinet initially planned to do a deep, raspy stereotypical Italian-American voice. He eventually decided to make a young, happy version of a Brooklyn accent for the kids he thought would play the game. He was caught off-guard when the director said action, so he started listing pizza, pasta and every Italian dish he could name in that voice.

Charles Martinet - Super Mario World
Image Credit – Nintendo

Eventually, the director told him to stop because the tape ran out and that he’d be in touch. Martinet thought that this would be the end, but he got a callback and Nintendo hired him. It turns out that the casting director sent to Shigeru Miyamoto, the lead designer behind Mario, Charles’ take proclaiming, ‘‘We got our Mario.’’

‘‘I want to voice Mario until I drop dead.’’

Since he started playing Mario, Martinet said that he ‘‘aspire[s] to be like William Shatner.” According to Martinet, “[Shatner] is doing so many things in his life from Star Trek, music, writing and even going to space. But I am not a man of great ambition. My drive is to be happy. I want to live a life full of love and gratitude. I want to travel the world and try white truffles in Italy. Be a model good character.’‘

When a fan asked him which character he would remove from the Mario world if he could, Martinet replied: ‘‘I wouldn’t get rid of any of the Mario characters. I like the world the way it is.’’

Charles Martinet - Super Mario Sunshine
Image Credit – Nintendo

And when another fan asked how long he would keep doing Mario, he unequivocally retorted: ‘‘I want to voice Mario until I drop dead’’ much to the audience’s relief. However, he added a caveat: ‘‘If someday I think I am no longer capable of doing it, I will tell Nintendo to look into finding someone else.’’

At some point, Martinet mentioned that Super Mario Sunshine was his favorite Mario game and when someone in the audience finally asked why, it turns out that ‘‘it’s my favourite Mario game because I was very bad at it, especially when I had to think backwards,’’ Martinet laughed. ‘‘But I loved the game’s message of cleaning up the island and it was just a fun game.’’

Sunshine And Signing Foreheads

Martinet discussed how it wasn’t really until Super Mario Sunshine came about that things took off. “The first interviews where the press wanted to talk to me, the voice actor, started with Mario 64, but things really took off with Super Mario Sunshine. ’’ Afterwards, Martinet fondly recalled a time when he was sent out to Australia to be interviewed about Super Mario Sunshine. While there, a fan approached him and asked “can you sign my forehead?”.

Image Credit – Nintendo

Later on in the Q&A Martinet was asked about his opinion on the underrepresentation of Waluigi in Mario games. ‘‘I want to voice Waluigi more,’’ Martinet replied. ‘‘I think he should get his own game where you have to cheat to win.’’

Martinet, Mario & The Eternal Sunshine

When asked whether Martinet had advice for aspiring voice actors, he gave an honest response. “I don’t really have any personal advice because I don’t really know, I sort of fell into it,” Martinet admitted. ‘‘Dee Bradley Baker runs iwanttobeavoiceactor.com and I highly recommend aspiring voice actors to take a look at it.’’

It’s almost too common to hear older people talk about the good old days and how things were better before. However, even a man as cheerful and positive as Charles Martinet lamented our increasingly socially isolated world. He did so by testifying to his diminishing interactions with voice actors over time.

Image Credit – Nintendo Life

‘‘I love interacting with other voice actors. I miss the old days where agents would call me to come into the office and I got to interact with everyone,’’ Martinet lamented. ‘‘It’s not the same anymore; now I only go in to do my take and I only meet other voice actors in venues like FAN EXPO.’’

Finally, we asked Charles Martinet whether or not someone could really step into his shoes once he left the role. He replied, ‘‘I am very touched by that. But I hope there will still be Mario after I am gone. Anyways, there are over 5 million audio files of me voicing Mario. I go into the studio and record 45 takes of every sound I can think of, so I’m not going anywhere for a long time!’’