Robert De Niro Admits He Was Set To Play Tom Hanks' Iconic Role in Comedy Hit 'Big'


| LAST UPDATE 06/10/2021

By Molly Houghton
Robert De Niro Fallon
Andrew Toth / Stringer via Getty Images

Could you imagine a young Robert De Niro saying, "I turned into a grown-up, mom," rather than the beloved Tom Hanks in 1988's Big? Well, that's apparently what almost happened. Appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, the Taxi Driver actor revealed the leading role in the '80s comedy-drama was originally his. Here are all of the details.

Tonight Show Jimmy Fallon
Kevin Winter / Staff via Getty Images

De Niro recently sat down with Fallon to talk about all things Tribeca Film Festival, as Robert is a co-founder of the annual event celebrating its 20th anniversary this June. But the pals also had some fun with an intense game of "True or False." And that's when viewers found out a shocking fact. Are you ready? Tom Hanks wasn't director Penny Marshall's first pick for the protagonist role in hit comedy-drama, Big.

In case you've never seen this classic film, here's a summary: Tom Hanks starred as adult Josh Baskin, a young boy who ages to adulthood overnight after his life-altering wish to grow up is granted. The movie was nominated for Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay at the 1989 Academy Awards. The future Forrest Gump star later won a Golden Globe for Best Actor in honor of his role.

Tom Hanks Big, comedy
Ron Galella, Ltd. / Contributor via Getty Images

"In the 1988 movie Big, you were originally cast as Josh, the role that ended up going to Tom Hanks. Is that true?" Fallon asked his legendary guest. "Yes," De Niro confirmed. "But we had a thing - an issue with the negotiations, so it went the way it went." The critically-acclaimed star assured Jimmy that losing the role in the film "Was fine, you know," which got a chuckle out of The Tonight Show host.

Ready for more surprises? That's not the only movie that almost looked totally different, thanks to De Niro. "You won your first Oscar for Godfather II playing a young Vito Corleone. But that almost never happened because you actually auditioned for the role of Sonny Corleone in the first Godfather, which went to James Caan. Is that true?" Jimmy inquired.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Robert De Niro Big
Archive Photos / Stringer via Getty Images

Robert admitted that was correct, as well, before watching his audition tape for Sonny Corleone along with the delighted audience. Check out the LOL-worthy interview for yourself above. And stay tuned... who knows, maybe De Niro will tell us he almost didn't land the Midnight Run role or something else wildly unimaginable!