Talking Pictures #3: Rocky Morton, Director of SUPER MARIO BROS. and Creator of MAX HEADROOM

Podcast / Talking Pictures / 1. Januar 2020

TALKING PICTURES is an interview series in which I talk to the people behind some of my favorite movies. From cult movie directors to character actors, from seasoned veterans to brilliant newcomers, from celebrated artists to filmmakers who haven’t received the recognition they deserve – these folks have made some great movies and have lots of fascinating stories to tell.

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. The interviews and the podcast are part of a series on video game adaptations – you can find all of the relevant articles and links here.

So here’s Talking Pictures with director Rocky Morton!

The mp3 file can be downloaded HERE.
The Talking Pictures podcast can be found on iTunes: HERE.

Photo of Rocky Morton (C) Rocky Morton.
Special thanks to Dr. Wily, my Lichtspielplatz podcasting partner for audio editing. The music was created by Clark Kent.

Christian Genzel
Christian Genzel
Christian Genzel arbeitet als freier Autor und Filmschaffender. Sein erster Spielfilm DIE MUSE, ein Psychothriller mit Thomas Limpinsel und Henriette Müller, handelte von einem Schriftsteller, der eine junge Frau entführt, weil er sie als Inspiration für sein Buch braucht. Außerdem drehte Genzel mehrere Kurzfilme, darunter SCHLAFLOS, eine 40-minütige Liebeserklärung an die Musik mit Maximilian Simonischek und Stefan Murr, und den 2017 für den Shocking Short Award nominierten CINEMA DELL' OSCURITÀ. Derzeit arbeitet er an einer Dokumentation über den Filmemacher Howard Ziehm. Christian Genzel schreibt außerdem in den Bereichen Film, TV und Musik, unter anderem für Film & TV Kamera, Celluloid, GMX, den All-Music Guide, 35 Millimeter, Neon Zombie und Salzburger Nachrichten. Er hält Vorträge zu Filmthemen und kuratierte 2014 an der Universität Salzburg eine Filmreihe zum Thema "Erster Weltkrieg".

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