Gabriel Iglesias says he kept Speedy Gonzalez’ voice in Space Jam 2 because “I don’t want them to think of me, I want them to think of Speedy.”
Comedian Gabriel Inglesias has revealed why he didn’t change the classic voice of Speedy Gonzalez in Space Jam: A New Legacy. Speedy Gonzalez is a Looney Tunes character often steeped in controversy, with many perceiving him as a negative Mexican stereotype and has been traditionally voiced by white actors. Cartoon Network shelved Speedy Gonzalez cartoons when they gained distribution rights in 1999 fearing controversy, however the character remains greatly popular in Latin America. After it was revealed that Pepe le Pew would no be appearing in the film due to being a negative stereotype of French people and accusations of normalizing rape culture, many were surprised to discover that Speedy would be appearing in the film.
Space Jam: A New Legacy sees basketball superstar LeBron James and his son, Dom transported to the virtual space when visiting Warner Bros. studios by a rogue AI (voiced by Don Cheadle). He must then team up with Speedy, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and other Looney Tunes to win a high-stakes game of basketball. Despite receiving negative reviews, the film proved to be a box-office success where it beat its estimated gross and had the best opening weekend for a family film of the Covid-19 pandemic era at the time.
Appearing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (via THR), Iglesias explained that despite the controversy around the character, he grew as a huge fan of Speedy Gonzalez and was honored to be asked to voice the character without an audition. Iglesias also revealed that he was asked if he wanted to change the voice of the character at all, but rejected the offer because “when people think of Speedy Gonzales, I don’t want them to think of me, I want them to think of Speedy Gonzales.” However the comic also said “that was pretty awesome that they would give me that power.”
Interestingly, Iglesias also revealed that although he was invited to play the role of Speedy Gonzalez, the producers weren’t actually certain that the actor could do the voice. This made Iglesias wonder: “How did I get the part?” before realizing “Oh, they needed a big brown shield.” Iglesias took this in good humor, however, and enjoyed playing the iconic character. Being a talented voice actor, he was able to do the voice of Speedy Gonzalez perfectly, which apparently stunned director Malcolm D. Lee and the producers. When the crew praised for his performance, he apparently joked: “I’ve been Mexican a long time.”
Despite the controversy around the character, Iglesias did an excellent job of portraying Speedy Gonzalez in the film, and it’s understandable why he want to keep the voice as it was in order to meet fan expectation. While he joked about being a “big, brown shield” for Warner Bros, his portrayal of the character, alongside Speedy being voiced by other Hispanic actors elsewhere, goes a long way to mitigating some of the backlash around the character. It’s certainly a positive way of addressing the controversy and responding constructively to it, similar to The Simpsons which has finally acknowledged the racist stereotyping of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, with Hank Azaria stepping down from the role while the character remains on the show.
While Speedy’s portrayal will undoubtedly remain divisive to some, it’s good to see Iglesias take pride in portraying the character and be able to choose how he voices the character. Current airings of Speedy Gonzalez cartoons come with a warning that they were products of their time, which is good move by Warner Bros. It’s good to see the studio own its history and attempt to move forward positively, for better or worse.