Big Didn’t Originally Star Tom Hanks, Another Huge Star Was Cast

By Apeksha Bagchi | 4 weeks ago

tom hanks

The iconic film, Big, that released back in 1988 was the one that actually put its lead star, Tom Hanks, on the map of Hollywood. His role in the film, his unique way of playing a very different character, and the authentic child-like innocence he brought to it are the reasons that the light-hearted film remains a classic and a favorite of everyone, regardless of what generation they belong to. But the story and its vibe could have been very, very different as the film’s actress, Elizabeth Perkins, recently revealed that Big wasn’t initially going to star Tom Hanks as the lead character– the director’s first choice was actor Robert De Niro

Actress Elizabeth Perkins recently appeared on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen and revealed that when the cast of the film was being decided, Tom Hanks wasn’t the first option. It was Robert De Niro who was originally cast in the role of an adult Josh Baskin. This was before Hanks ultimately landed the coveted part in the body-swap comedy that ended up making him a famous Hollywood star. Even to date, it remains the most memorable performance of his career. 

Tom hanks

Perkins shared that while it was Robert De Niro who was actually cast in the role of Josh in the movie Big, the character had to be re-casted as he had a scheduling conflict. And then, the film eventually went to Tom Hanks. But for Perkins, who auditioned for the role of Josh’s love interest in the film against De Niro, the film’s presentation totally changed between when Hanks took on the role compared to when De Niro was supposed to play it. It was a totally different film which makes a lot of sense considering the actors’ overall dispositions. 

The story of Big centers on a twelve-year-old child, Josh, who wishes to be a grown-up. He’s granted the wish from an antique arcade fortune teller machine and wakes up in an adult body the next morning. What follows are a series of goofy events in which Josh comes to terms with his “new” life, understands its perks and disadvantages, falls in love, and ultimately realizes the importance of his old life. The film is remembered for its unique sense of humor while retaining a certain warmth and heart. 

tom hanks

But apparently, had De Niro played the character, Big would have been a more serious film with none of the humor and charm that Tom Hanks brought to the role. As Perkins described, De Niro played the role in a “more moody” manner such that it was more of a horror movie instead of the heartfelt comedy that received worldwide acclaim.  

“Robert De Niro wandering around the streets of New York,” Perkins added. “What Tom Hanks brought to it was so much lighter.”

But before the role ultimately went to Tom Hanks, other actors were approached with the role. Matthew Modine was offered the lead after De Niro and Harrison Ford turned down the film. But as he told The Independent, he declined when he found Big to be a “much darker movie.” Also, based on the actors the film was originally offered to, Modine thought that had he been cast the film “wouldn’t have the irony it needed.”

Well, no matter how much time it took for the makers of Big to find the right actor, they made the perfect choice with Tom Hanks. The film ended up becoming one major comedy blockbuster that earned over $150 million at the worldwide box office. It earned Hanks the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Thank goodness it wasn’t Robert De Niro.