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'Big' child actor David Moscow reveals what he learned from Penny Marshall

David Moscow, who played young Tom Hanks in the 1988 blockbuster "Big," looks back on working with Penny Marshall in an interview with TODAY.
/ Source: TODAY

When the news of Penny Marshall’s death broke Tuesday, countless tributes from Hollywood colleagues poured in. But for actor David Moscow, who starred as young Tom Hanks in the 1988 blockbuster “Big,” the director was particularly special.

“To be able to get some of her pixie dust in my first film was amazing,” Moscow, who was 12 when he filmed the age-swap fantasy flick, told TODAY Thursday. “I think everyone who knew her would say she has this very unique way about her, which is she’s kind of gruff but always quick to smile, because she’s obviously so funny.”

David Moscow appeared in 1988's "Big" at age 12.Everett Collection

Moscow, now 44, recalls sitting on the floor with other child actors at the audition, being called on by Marshall to introduce themselves. He later won the part when Marshall remembered him as “that kid from Yonkers” (Moscow is from the Bronx, and wondered if she indeed had meant him).

“I think right off the bat, she’s a little intimidating, so the first day on the set I was not very confident because she was having me do it over and over and over again,” he said. “And it was only until I realized that this is just her MO, she liked to do 30 or 40 takes so she could get anything she wanted. Then I kind of got comfortable.”

Penny Marshall directs Tom Hanks on the set of "Big."Everett Collection

The actor still appreciates how Marshall interviewed him and then incorporated his personal preferences into his character.

“She came to me and was like ‘All right, what baseball team do you like?’ So immediately, Josh Baskin became a Yankee fan. What football team do you like? I like the Giants, so it was all Giants gear up on the wall in the Baskin household. What kind of shoes do you wear? So for a little kid to be asked this from an adult, like what your actual feelings are about one of these things is like mind-blowing, because you have so much to explain about how you see the world. She was totally open to that, and it shows in the truthfulness of the film.”

Moscow says he’d run into Marshall over the years. “She’d call me up and invite me to a Knicks game when she was in town, and that was pretty amazing to sit courtside with Penny and then all the basketball players knew her,” he said.


The pair collaborated again more than a decade after “Big,” when Marshall cast Moscow in the 2001 film “Riding in Cars With Boys.”

“She was all about fearlessness, and just creating a set where you should try to play and have as much fun as possible,” Moscow said. “So I remember there was a big scene. It was me and Drew (Barrymore) and I was holding back a bit and (Marshall) pulled me to the side and said ‘I brought you here because I trust you and I know what you’re going to bring, so go for it. And I was like ‘OK.’ And it was just that little ‘She knew what I had in me.’ She trusted her instincts, so she kind of made me feel comfortable to play.”

Moscow, who directed his first feature film last year, said seeing Marshall in action made him realize how much work actually goes into filmmaking. “It’s not magic; it’s because someone was really invested and talented,” he said.

He also cited the stellar production team Marshall assembled for “Big” as a testament to her genius.

“She surrounded herself with an amazingly talented group of people because she also realized that directing is a collaborative effort, not just one person,” he said.

Moscow, who welcomed a son earlier this year and looks forward to showing him “Big” when he’s older, considers the movie “a gift.”

“It’s a nice life to have been in that when you’re 12 years old,” he said. “You walk through life and people come up and smile and say hi to you on the subway. It’s a nice gift she gave.”