'It's-a me, Mario!': Meet the man behind the voice

For anyone who has explored the Mushroom Kingdom of Nintendo’s video game universe, Mario’s voice is unforgettable.

Meet the man behind the voice of the famed plumber of the Mushroom Kingdom

Mario, the pudgy Italian protagonist of the Mario franchise, is a household name in the video game industry. (Ubisoft)

For anyone who has explored the Mushroom Kingdom of Nintendo's video game universe, Mario's voice is unforgettable.

His cheerful "Woo-hoo" and "Ohhhh, Mamma Mia" have made him one of the most beloved characters in video game history — the Mario franchise is the best-selling video game franchise in the world, with more than 210 million units sold internationally.

Mario is a household name, and his adventures to save Princess Peach from the villain Bowser have become a standby for players both young and old.

Charles Martinet is the voice of the iconic mustachioed man. The American voice actor will be in Edmonton for the Edmonton Comic and Entertainment Expo, starting Sept 21.

"He's my favourite of all time," Martinet said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"I think it's that consistency. The evolution keeps going, but the characters have a remarkable, steadfast integrity to them."

Mario's iconic voice was made up on the spot 27 years ago in a moment of mild panic, Martinet says.

A crashed audition, a supersized role 

After getting a last-minute tip about an audition, Martinet showed up at the studio unannounced and was almost rejected before he even got through the door.

"And then there I was, being an actor, doing what actors do, waiting for the phone to ring, and a friend of mine said, 'Go crash this audition,'" said Martinet, who jokingly says he became an actor "by accident."

"As I was walking into the building, the producer, director and camera guy were walking out the door."

The director grumbled and checked his watch, but apparently took pity on an eager Martinet. He turned around and let him audition for the role of what was dubbed "an Italian plumber from Brooklyn."

The director told to him to "make up a voice, start talking and when you run out of things to say, that's your audition," Martinet said.

Martinet knew nothing about video games, but started rambling on with the thickest Italian accent he could muster, and "talked for 30 minutes until the tape ran out," he said.

He thought he bombed that audition 27 years ago, but he's been the voice of Mario ever since.
American voice actor Charles Martinet has been the voice of Mario for 27 years. (GoNintendo)

"I had never heard of Mario, I had never heard of Nintendo, and all of a sudden, there I am, doing my favorite character in the world and I have been for the last 27 years," said Martinet, who had a stage and television career before becoming the voice of Mario.

'The luckiest guy in the world'

For Martinet, the gig has been a stroke of good fortune all these years. 

"I feel like the luckiest guy in the world," he said.

"I get to do what I love to do and work with wonderful people, and then to go around the world and meet people who love the games and Mario."

Martinet is also the creator of six other voices in the games, including Mario's younger brother and sidekick Luigi, and all the other "wonderful people with hats" like Wario, Waluigi, Baby Mario, Baby Luigi, Metal Mario and Toadsworth.

But Mario will always be his prized player. The tall, lanky California native has a deep affection for the short, pudgy, Italian plumber.

"I aspire to be more like Mario: full of optimism, joy and love, and facing the adversities of life with positive, joyful cries of 'Let's go,'" he said.

"Whenever, I'm playing, I'm making the noises too. I'm like, 'Oh, hah. Ya. Owowow.' I just can't help myself."

Listen to Edmonton AM with host Mark Connolly, weekday mornings at CBC Radio One, 93.9 FM in Edmonton. Follow the morning crew on Twitter @EdmAMCBC