Robert De Niro Was Originally Set to Star in Big Instead of Tom Hanks, According to Elizabeth Perkins

“It was more of a — a little more of a horror movie,” says Perkins of De Niro’s take on the classic comedy film.

Robert De Niro may have found his comedic chops later in his career, but he was definitely still known as a very intense dramatic actor in the 1980s. That’s what makes Elizabeth Perkins’ claim that he was the original lead for “Big” so wild to imagine.

The actress — who played the love interest of Tom Hanks’ adult version of 12-year-old Josh — shared with Andy Cohen on “Watch What Happens Live” this week that not only was De Niro in consideration for the role, but he was actually the guy … for a while at least.

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“Robert De Niro was actually cast in the role of Josh in the movie ‘Big,'” she told an incredulous Cohen, saying that it was with De Niro in that role that she actually auditioned for her part.

“It fell apart because he had a scheduling conflict,” she explained. “And then they went to Tom Hanks.”

So it’s not even that De Niro’s take wasn’t the right one for the original vision of the film. This thing nearly happened, and it would have been an entirely different film were it not for a scheduling conflict.

Not only might it not be one of the most beloved films in the history of cinema, but Hanks’ career might not have taken off to quite the heights he achieved in large part due to the phenomenal success of “Big.”

“He was more moody. It was more of a — a little more of a horror movie,” Perkins said of the OG star. “Robert De Niro wandering around the streets of New York.”

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“What Tom Hanks brought to it was so much lighter,” she said. His performance set the tone for the whole film, which became an almost instant classic, as well as a box office and critical darling. Hanks even scored his first Oscar nomination for his transformative performance.

She also revealed that Hanks was the on-screen kiss she most remembers, admitting that she had a bit of a crush on him during filming, though he was already dating Rita Wilson. “But he was adorable,” she shared.

Ironically, Hanks would go on to show his more dramatic side later in his career, but in 1988, he was still full comedian Tom Hanks. In other words, his take on the film and the role was light years from where De Niro had it.

We almost got a very, very different movie. And if we’re totally honest, it’s a movie we kind of really, really want to see now!


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