The Best Behind The Scene Stories Of Tom Hanks' "Big"

Actor Tom Hanks shot in Los Angeles for the film Big with actress Elizabeth Perkins. (Photo by Aaron Rapoport/Corbis via Getty Images)

In 1988, “Big” starring Tom Hanks and Elizabeth Perkins set the gold standard for “age-changing” comedies. That’s saying something as the ‘80s really loved a man-child reversal. In fact, the era of excess saw a staggering five magical maturations or the reverse in ‘87 and ‘88 alone!

That glut led to Hanks and Perkins lamenting the film’s fate as a “straight to video” disaster. However, thanks to the deft touch of director Penny Marshall, “Big” lorded over the box office to the tune of $151 million against a budget of just $18 million. Here are the best behind-the-scene tidbits from “Big.”

Tom Hanks sitting at a dining table with a child as a birthday cake is being delivered to them in a scene from the film 'Big', 1988. (Photo by 20th Century-Fox/Getty Images)

Near Disasters

Like most Hollywood films, “Big’s” pre-production includes many what-ifs. Unlike other movies, it’s hard to imagine another film with more what-ifs that could have irrevocably ruined it. Let’s start with the notion that many people, including Elizabeth Perkins, lobbied for the genders to be reversed as well.

In this hypothetical situation, a 12-year-old girl would have transformed into a 30-something female who nearly sleeps with an adult male… Shrewdly or obviously, Marshall called that version “something from Penthouse or Hustler,” not to mention fairly creepy. To that end, Marshall also insisted that Perkins kiss Hanks on the forehead and not the mouth, as the script called for, after learning Hanks was actually a 12-year-old boy.

Casting What Ifs

Hanks obviously parlayed “Big” into the all-time career we appreciate today but “Big” represented the first major domino in his Walk of Fame run. Ironically, Hanks originally passed due to scheduling conflicts with very forgettable projects.

That led to Kevin Costner, Dennis Quaid, Warren Beatty, and Albert Brooks all declining. The director also pushed for John Travolta but was told "he was box office poison." Hanks dodged yet another bullet when Robert De Niro dropped out at the last second when the studio failed to meet his $6 million asking price.

De Niro’s involvement did manage to raise the interest in the project which ultimately persuaded Hanks to accept when they took another run at him. The worst version of “Big” would have starred Gary Busey but Marshall smartly questioned his ability to play a child…


Commitment To The Big

Perhaps what set “Big” apart from all the other “boy turned man” films of its time came thanks to the complete investment by the major players. At the behest of the director, Hanks and his boy counterpart David Moscow spent a day in a room playing with an endless litany of toys. To further help Hanks tap into his inner child, Marshall also filmed Moscow acting out all of the adult scenes so Tom could see how an actual child would act in those situations. To top it off, the child actor was undergoing a growth spurt, forcing him into ill-fitting shoes that made him walk like a duck. To replicate the look Hanks himself requested oversized shoes and got his waddle on.

Iconic Piano Scene

Naturally, any great movie requires an unforgettable scene. Clearly, for “Big” it's when Robert Loggia and Hanks play out “Heart and Soul” on the specially built 16-foot-long three-octave piano. Coincidentally, after the film Saraceni started selling said giant pianos for a cool $15,000.

To make that scene an all-time heart-warmer, Loggia and Hanks spent months practicing on a huge cardboard version on their own. Reportedly, when the pair showed up on set that day a few dancers were in attendance. Loggia recalled telling the doubles to “take a hike” before nailing the sequence in “just about one take.” Those little details perfectly epitomize why “Big” rose above all the other transformation movies ever made.