The classic comedy-drama Big secured Oscar winner Tom Hanks' place on Hollywood’s A-list. Hanks’ performance in the film won over audiences and critics, leading to his first Oscar nomination. He was the perfect mix of innocence and moodiness needed for the role. But according to co-star Elizabeth Perkins, Hanks’ role almost went to an unlikely actor.
Elizabeth Perkins and Tom Hanks’ chemistry in the classic comedy was off the charts. Perkins spilled that Hanks wasn’t the original choice for the film’s lead as it was meant for another Oscar winner. The actress revealed who was originally attached to the film, saying:
Robert De Niro was actually cast in the role of Josh in the movie Big. It fell apart because he had a scheduling conflict, and then they went to Tom Hanks. It’s like a totally different movie in my brain with Robert De Niro.
Elizabeth Perkins’ revelation was quite shocking. When viewers think of Big’s protagonist Josh Baskin, it's hard to imagine anyone but Tom Hanks in the role. Hanks was able to capture the child-like nature of a boy-turned-man. The actor nailed it despite some difficult circumstances with the film. Robert De Niro’s acting resume, at the time, was filled with complex, stoic characters who were going through life. But given what Perkins said, the Oscar winner might’ve been a fit if the film took a different angle. Hanks made the role what the public loves today.
During her interview with Watch What Happens Live, Elizabeth Perkins talked about how different Robert De Niro’s Josh Baskin was to Tom Hank’s. Originally, the film’s premise was a bit darker and moody. She told host Andy Cohen:
He was more moody. It was more of a — a little more of a horror movie. Robert De Niro wandering around the streets of New York. What Tom Hanks brought to it was so much lighter.
Robert De Niro and Tom Hanks are in the circle of well-known Oscar winners. But in terms of acting careers and skillsets, the two actors couldn’t be further apart. Hanks has built his career and reputation of being everyone’s favorite nice guy who is a chameleon onscreen. On the other hand, De Niro’s tough-guy persona has permeated every role in his decades-long career. But recently, De Niro has branched off into doing lighter films while Hanks has stuck to more dramatic fare. At the end of the day, Hanks was probably the right choice for the role.
Tom Hanks' performance in Big made the film a classic, just on the FAO Schwarz scene alone. Hanks and Elizabeth Perkins’ arc in the film was bittersweet as the actor’s time as an adult was limited. But looking back at their relationship, it was a little weird as this grown woman was catching feelings for a young boy (who just magically became a man). With that said, Big is still a classic and wouldn’t have been the same if Robert De Niro had stayed in the role instead of Hanks.