1988’s “Big” solidified Tom Hanks as a Hollywood superstar upon its release. However, the lovable comedy-drama originally had a completely different tone and leading actor. The role of adult Josh originally went to none other than Robert De Niro.
De Niro was mostly working in very dramatic roles at the time so his casting in “Big” comes as quite a shock. His previous credits up until that point include “The Godfather Part II,” “Taxi Driver,” and “The Untouchables,” among many more. Elizabeth Perkins, who played Josh’s love interest in “Big,” told Deadline about De Niro’s casting:
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.
Additionally, Perkins said that De Niro completely changed the film’s tone when he was her scene partner during auditions:
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.
“Big” proved to be critical and commercial success. The film grossed over $150 million at the box office and picked up two Oscar nominations, including Best Actor for Hanks. And we can’t forget the film provided us with the iconic scene where Hanks plays “Chopsticks” on the Walking Piano. It’s crazy to think how different the film would’ve turned out had De Niro remained the leading man.