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

Big is one of Tom Hanks most beloved roles 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.

Tom Hanks has explored darker roles a few times in his career, but during the 1980s, he starred in string of comedy movies – Bachelor Party, The Money Pit, and Dragnet. His most successful comedy of the 80s was Penny Marshall’s Big, about a 13-year-old kid who makes a wish and wakes up as a man in his early 30s.

Hanks was Oscar-nominated for his leading role as the man-child, in what was absolutely perfect casting for him. Astonishingly, Robert De Niro was initially cast as Josh Baskin in Big, but it’s absolutely impossible to imagine him in that role now.

“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.”

“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 guide to the best 80s movies.