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25 Years After Playing Young Tom Hanks in 'Big,' David Moscow Looks Back on Child Stardom, Penny Marshall's Direction, and The Making of a Classic

Photo of Matt Brennan By Matt Brennan | Thompson on Hollywood! December 19, 2013 at 12:58PM

The second audition of David Moscow's career involved Penny Marshall, Robert De Niro, and a script about a 12-year-old Jersey boy who wishes "to be big."
David Moscow as young Josh Baskin in "Big" (1988)
David Moscow as young Josh Baskin in "Big" (1988)

The second audition of David Moscow's career involved Penny Marshall, Robert De Niro, and a script about a 12-year-old Jersey boy who wishes "to be big."

Though De Niro passed on the role made iconic by Tom Hanks, "Big" became the most recognized film on Moscow's career resume.

"Personally and professionally, it was a complete change," Moscow said in a recent interview marking the classic comedy's 25th anniversary. "At that period of time I was 12, and my mom would be scolding me for being bad on the street, and then suddenly people would come up to me and be like, 'Hey, can I have your autograph?' ... It was a wild time, it was a wild way to be introduced into the business." 

Moscow has since turned his focus from acting. He produced indie horror comedy "Hellbenders" ("'Ghostbusters meets 'The Hangover'"), which premiered during TIFF 2012's Midnight Madness screening series, and hopes to shoot "Desolation," his Roman Polanski-influenced directorial debut, in early 2014. But "Big" remains, in many ways, his defining role.

"Having that on your resume when you walk into an audition, someone just glances over and they land on that film and go, 'Wait a minute. You were young Tom Hanks,'" he said. "And then, suddenly, it changes. I think that, compared to any of the other stuff I've done -- I did "Newsies," I was in "Honey" -- I mean, they all had some level of success, but there's nothing like that." 

A quarter-century later, he's still recognized -- or, more accurately, misrecognized -- as protagonist Josh Baskin: Hanks' performance as an adolescent in a man's body is so convincing that people remember Moscow in scenes where he didn't actually appear.

"Depending on the scene, people will ask, 'What was it like to touch her breasts when you were that young?'" he said. "And I'll be like, 'I didn't, that was Tom.' Or, 'What was it like to dance on the piano?' 'That's not me, that was Tom.'"

This article is related to: Features, Interviews, Penny Marshall, Tom Hanks, Genres, comedy, Classics, DVD / Blu-Ray

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.