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Robert De Niro explains why he turned down this iconic Tom Hanks role

Big is one of Tom Hanks most beloved family movies, and it's impossible to imagine anyone else playing the man-child, but it almost went to Robert De Niro.

Robert De Niro

Robert De Niro and Al Pacino have long been considered two of the best actors of all time, and have made a career of similar roles in the worlds of gangsters and crime. They were both up for the role of Michael Corleone in one of the best movies of all time The Godfather, which of course Pacino won, and De Niro would later be cast as a young Vito Corleone. However, an actor most people would agree is absolutely not in any way interchangeable with Robert De Niro…is ‘America’s Dad’ Tom Hanks.


v”Robert De Niro was actually cast in the role of Josh,” Elizabeth Perkins, told Andy Cohen in 2021 (via People). “And then it fell apart because he had a scheduling conflict, and then they went to Tom Hanks.” Perkins added, “It’s like a totally different movie in my brain with Robert De Niro.”

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“We had a thing with the negotiation, the thing, so it went the way it went,” Robert De Niro told The Tonight Show. “So, it’s fine.” In 1988, De Niro did star in another comedy – Midnight Run – which has become a classic, alongside Big. It definitely sounds like it worked out for the best, for all involved.

Check out our guides to the best 80s movies, best adventure movies, and best family movies.