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'Big' turns 30! David Moscow looks back on playing young Tom Hanks

To celebrate the beloved age-swap flick's anniversary, we caught up with actor David Moscow to find out what it was like playing Tom Hanks' 12-year-old self.
/ Source: TODAY

Make a wish to Zoltar — “Big” is turning 30!

To celebrate the beloved age-swap flick’s anniversary, we caught up with actor David Moscow to find out what it was like playing Tom Hanks’ 12-year-old self.

Moscow, now 43, told TODAY that he and a pal helped Hanks get into character as a man in his 30s with a childlike demeanor.

“They gave Tom a video camera,” he recalled. “And my best friend, Ernest, and I and Tom ran around in Central Park and just hung out. Truthfully, he actually used more of Ernest’s mannerisms. Ernest was really tall and thin and gawky, and his feet were way too big for his body and he would kind of clop around. When we all went to see the movie and Tom is walking across the street, you're like, that's Ernest right there. And there's one particular moment where they're playing handball, and he was fighting over the ball, and he uses his head to keep John Heard away. And that's what Ernest was doing with me.”

Moscow, who was new to film, said Hanks helped calm his nerves.

David Moscow makes a fateful wish to Zoltar in 1988's "Big."Alamy

“In the first scene, I did 37 takes and I was completely freaked out. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, am I doing this wrong? Am I gonna get fired?’ And Hanks came by to see me that day and he pulled me aside and he was like, ‘Listen, (director Penny Marshall) likes to get everything that she could possibly want. Yesterday, I did a 57-take scene and I was like, ‘Oh.’ So he definitely calmed me down.”

Just two years ago, Hanks proved he still knows every word to the movie’s infectious “Down Down Baby” rhyme — and Moscow showed that he’s still got it, too (watch the video above to see him in action).

“That was Hanks’; he brought that,” Moscow said. “I think his kids learned it in camp, and then they were doing it with him and then he came in and said, ‘I've got this cool thing for you and (Moscow’s character’s friend) Billy to do.’”

Everett Collection

These days, Moscow also spends time behind the camera; he recently directed his first feature film, the thriller “Desolation,” which is now available to download. He’s also working on “From Scratch,” a food and travel show that pairs him with chefs and follows his quest to “hunt, gather, grow and forage every ingredient” to prepare various meals.

When Moscow gets recognized for “Big,” it’s often by fans who’ve shared the movie with their own kids.

Tom Hanks dances on the giant piano keyboard at New York's famed FAO Schwarz.20th century Fox via AP

“They're trying to explain to their children that I was the guy that was in the movie that they showed them,” he said. “And the kids are looking at me kind of wide-eyed and have no idea what their parents are talking about. And their parents are getting really giddy about the whole scenario. I think also because they watched it in their childhood, they feel like a little bit friendlier, so there's less boundaries when they come over. They'll be like, ‘Can I have your picture?’ And I'm like, ‘I'm the middle of an argument with my friend right now.’”

When Moscow won the part, he had no idea viewers would still be talking about the movie three decades later.

Tom Hanks reverses his character's wish at the end of the movie.Alamy

“I grew up basically without a television,” he said. “My parents didn't watch any TV and we didn't really go see films. I think I had seen like one or two movies up to that point. I didn't know who Tom Hanks was. I think I knew Penny because of ‘Laverne and Shirley.’ But I had no idea that it was going to end up being a classic. I don't think, I mean, looking back … now, we know who Tom Hanks is in our culture. He's legendary, sort of like Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant and he's an icon. But at that time, it was just the start. So, I think you're seeing the beginning of this incredible talent.”

He added, “It was sort of kismet: Everything came together at this one moment. It's amazing that I was a part of it."