15 Huge Facts About Big

Big is hardly the only age-changing movie that has ever been made. But even today, it remains one of the sub-genre's most enduring entries. Tom Hanks and director Penny Marshall were the two main reasons for the film's success, even though they only became involved in the project after other, bigger names (in 1988 anyway) backed out. Isn't that always the way?

1. HARRISON FORD WAS GOING TO STAR AS JOSH BASKIN, AND STEVEN SPIELBERG WAS GOING TO DIRECT.

Anne Spielberg, Steven’s sister, wrote the Big script with Gary Ross with the idea that Ford would star and the elder Spielberg would direct. When they dropped out, producer James L. Brooks presented the script to Penny Marshall.

2. THERE WERE A LOT OF MAJOR STARS BEING CONSIDERED FOR THE LEAD.

Tom Hanks was the first choice, but he was busy with other projects at the time. Marshall asked Kevin Costner, Warren Beatty, and Dennis Quaid, who all said no. Albert Brooks gave her the same answer, saying he didn’t want to play a kid. John Travolta really wanted to do it, but the studio didn't want Travolta ("at the time he was box office poison," Marshall wrote in her memoir). Sean Penn was deemed too young by Marshall. Gary Busey auditioned, but Marshall didn’t think he could pull off playing an adult.

3. ROBERT DE NIRO AGREED TO PLAY JOSH.

Wanting to make a family-friendly commercial film, De Niro at first accepted Marshall’s offer. De Niro and Jared Rushton, who played Josh’s childhood friend Billy, even hung out in Marshall’s driveway skateboarding and shooting hoops. However, De Niro’s $6 million price tag was ultimately too expensive, and after declining Marshall’s offer to pay him with her own salary, De Niro dropped out. But his short-lived attachment helped to raise the project's profile in Hollywood, so when approached about starring for a second time, Hanks said yes.

4. DEBRA WINGER TRIED TO CONVINCE MARSHALL TO CHANGE JOSH INTO A WOMAN.

The actress kept asking her director friend if the gender could be switched for the protagonist, but Marshall explained to Winger that she couldn’t see a way to make a 35-year-old man in a relationship with a 12-year-old girl not be “something from Penthouse or Hustler.”

5. IT WAS THE FIFTH AGE-CHANGE COMEDY TO COME OUT WITHIN ONE YEAR.

On October 2, 1987, the trend started with Like Father Like Son, the movie that swapped Dudley Moore and Kirk Cameron’s personalities. On December 23 in Italy, Da grande told the story of a nine-year-old boy having his wish to become an adult overnight come true (so that he could romance his teacher). On March 11, 1988, Judge Reinhold and Fred Savage unwittingly had their minds switched in Vice Versa. Three weeks later, 81-year-old George Burns’ age was inversed after a car crash in 18 Again! (A veteran producer said it was all a big coincidence.) Marshall didn’t know when she took the directing assignment that Big was not going to be an original idea on its June 3, 1988 release. She admitted that she read the scripts for Like Father Like Son and Vice Versa, and determined that their tones were different than Big’s.

6. HANKS AND ELIZABETH PERKINS HAD DOUBTS ABOUT THE MOVIE.

Because of the glut of similar movies that were beating them to the punch while they were shooting the movie, Perkins said that she and Hanks “looked at each other at one point like, ugh—this is going straight to video.”

7. YOU CAN FIND A ZOLTAR MACHINE AT RYE PLAYLAND. BUT NOT THAT ZOLTAR.

The scene at the end of the movie, where Josh finds the Zoltar machine again, was filmed at New York’s Rye Playland, but the machine was just a movie prop. In fact, if you went to the very spot where the machine was in the film today, you would find an Aquafina vending machine. But the park does have a Zoltar machine, albeit one that is notably different from the movie version—and located in a hut by the Dragon Coaster.

8. HANKS AND ROBERT LOGGIA DID THEIR OWN PIANO DANCING.

Robert Loggia portrayed MacMillan, who was modeled after then-FAO Schwarz CEO Peter L. Harris. After Loggia and Hanks spent months at home practicing the routine on huge cardboard piano keys, the two showed up for shooting and noticed dancers on standby. Motivated by the perceived slight, Loggia remembered telling the stunt men to “take a hike,” and performing the sequence with Hanks in “just about one take.”

9. THE CREATOR OF THE "WALKING PIANO" BUILT A BIGGER VERSION OF IT JUST FOR THE MOVIE.

Remo Saraceni built a 16-foot long, full three-octave piano so that Josh and MacMillan could play “Heart and Soul,” something that the six-and-a-half-foot long, one-octave "Walking Piano" on display at FAO Schwarz couldn’t accommodate. After the movie's success, Saraceni began selling the 16-foot version—for $15,000.

10. HANKS GOT TO SEE HOW A KID WOULD ACTUALLY BEHAVE IN HIS SCENES.

Penny Marshall videotaped David Moscow, the actor who played kid Josh, acting out all of the adult Josh scenes so that Hanks could study his mannerisms in each situation.

11. HANKS AND MOSCOW BOTH HAD TO CHANGE THEMSELVES IN ORDER TO PLAY THE SAME PERSON.

Moscow dyed his hair black and wore green contact lenses to look like a younger version of Hanks. Because his feet were growing at a rapid pace and he consequently wore ill-fitting shoes, Moscow had a weird duck-like gait, which led Hanks to ask for oversized shoes so that he could mimic Moscow's walk.

12. YOUNG JOSH HAD THE TIME OF HIS LIFE ON SET.

David Moscow got to stay up all night for the first time in his life when they shot the carnival scenes. He was able to ride all of the rides and eat a lot of cotton candy. Later, after shooting, Moscow and Jared Rushton became buddies in Los Angeles, surprising many L.A. onlookers who saw the two Big child stars hanging out together in real life.

13. JON LOVITZ GOT SICK DURING FILMING.

Lovitz, who played Josh's co-worker Scotty Brennen, came down with the flu in the midst of production. After a week of convalescence, Lovitz considered calling Marshall to say he was good to come back and finish filming before deciding that it was a “nothing” role. Once Big became a big hit, he felt like an “idiot.”

14. IN THE SCRIPT, SUSAN KISSES JOSH GOODBYE ON THE LIPS.

Since it was at the end of the film, after Susan discovers Josh’s real age, Marshall insisted that Elizabeth Perkins kiss him on the forehead instead.

15. PENNY MARSHALL MADE MOVIE HISTORY.

In her second movie directing assignment, Marshall became the first female director to ever direct a film that made more than $100 million at the box office.

5 Facts About Charles Ponzi and the Original Ponzi Scheme

Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Some of the most infamous scams in history have been Ponzi schemes, but before Bernie Madoff (or Bitcoin), there was Charles Ponzi himself. The con he built was so successful that his last name became synonymous with fraud. In January 2020, a century after he set up his fraudulent Securities Exchange Company, the phrase Ponzi scheme is still used to describe any scheme in which funds from new investors are used to pay back old investors. Here are some facts about Ponzi and his scheme that you should know.

1. Charles Ponzi arrived in the U.S. with $2.50 in his pocket.

Charles Ponzi was born in Lugo, Italy, in 1882. As a young adult, he worked as a postal worker and studied at the University of Roma La Sapienza. Neither path panned out for him, however. In 1903, when faced with dwindling funds, Ponzi boarded a ship for America in search of a better life. But Ponzi wasn't a master hustler at this point in his life; he arrived in Boston with $2.50 after gambling away the rest of his life savings on the ship.

2. Charles Ponzi spent time in prison before his famous scheme.

Ponzi was no stranger to crime before concocting the scheme that made his surname infamous. Not long after arriving in Boston, he moved to Canada and got in trouble for forging checks. He spent two years in a Canadian prison for his offenses. Back in the U.S., he served a term in federal prison for illegally transporting five Italians immigrants across the Canadian border. It was only after his so-called Ponzi scheme began to crumble that his criminal history was made public by journalists, thus speeding up his downfall.

3. Charles Ponzi got rich off the postal system.

In 1920, Ponzi discovered the key to the ultimate get-rich-quick scheme: an international postal reply coupon worth $.05. It had been included in a parcel he received from Spain as prepayment for his reply postage. Thanks to an international treaty, the voucher could be exchanged for one U.S. postage stamp worth a nickel, which Ponzi could then sell. Ponzi knew that the value of the Spanish peseta had recently fallen in relation to the dollar, which meant that the coupon was actually worth more than the 30 centavos used to purchase it in Spain. He took this concept to the extreme by recruiting people back home in Italy to buy postal reply coupons in bulk from countries with weak economies, so that he could redeem them in the U.S. for a profit.

4. Charles Ponzi swindled $20 million from investors.

Ponzi technically wasn’t breaking any laws with his postal service transactions, and if he had kept his idea to himself he would have gotten away with it. Instead, he turned his small money-making operation into a wide-reaching scam. If people invested money into his “business” of cashing in foreign postal vouchers, which he dubbed the Securities Exchange Company, they would get their money back plus 50 percent interest in 90 days. The deal was too good for many investors to pass up.

It was also too good to be true: The money wasn’t being used to buy coupons overseas. Ponzi kept most of the investments for himself and used the flood of money coming in from new investors to pay off the old ones. Many investors were so thrilled with their returns that they invested whatever money they had made back into the business, which helped Ponzi keep the sham afloat.

Ponzi was finally rich and famous, but soon enough, cracks in the scheme started to form. The Boston Post launched an investigation into Ponzi and revealed that in order for his business to be functional, he would need to be moving 160 million vouchers across world borders. There were only 27,000 postal reply coupons in circulation at the time. The final blow came when the publicist he had hired to represent him came out against him to the public. His system fell apart and it was revealed that he had stolen $20 million from investors.

Because he had lied to his clients about their investments through the mail, Ponzi was ultimately charged by the federal government for mail fraud. He served three-and-a-half years in prison and then served an additional nine years for state charges.

5. Charles Ponzi didn’t invent the Ponzi scheme.

Though Ponzi schemes were eventually named for him, Charles Ponzi didn’t invent this type of scam. There were many crooks before him who used the same method to exploit investors. Charles Dickens even wrote pre-Ponzi Ponzi schemes into his 1857 novel Little Doritt.

It’s possible that Ponzi got the idea for his own fraud from William F. Miller, who pulled a similar stunt working as a bookkeeper in Brooklyn in 1899. But it was the highs of Ponzi’s success—and the lows of his demise—that made his story so memorable.

14 Candid Photos of Martin Luther King Jr.

Getty Images
Getty Images

January 20, 2020 is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the federal holiday that celebrates the life of the civil rights activist. The holiday—which was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1983, and has been observed annually since 1986—is held on the third Monday in January. (King was born on January 15.) Here's a look back at King in action.

Martin Luther King Jr. on the phone
Express Newspapers/Getty Images
  • American civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. sits on a couch and speaks on the telephone after encountering a white mob protesting against the Freedom Riders in Montgomery, Alabama, on May 26, 1961.


J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images
  • American civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King arriving in London on October 1, 1961. He was in England to be the chief speaker at a public meeting about color prejudice and to appear on the BBC television program Face To Face.


Three Lions/Getty Images
  • American president John F. Kennedy at the White House on August 28, 1963 with leaders of the civil rights March on Washington (left to right): Dr. Martin Luther King, Rabbi Joachim Prinz, A. Philip Randolph, President Kennedy, Walter Reuther, and Roy Wilkins. Behind Reuther is Vice President Lyndon Johnson.


William H. Alden/Evening Standard/Getty Images
  • King raising his hands in a restaurant on September 21, 1963.


Evening Standard/Getty Images
  • Canon John Collins greeting King at London Airport on December 5, 1964.


Keystone/Getty Images
  • King receives the Nobel Prize for Peace from Gunnar Jahn, president of the Nobel Prize Committee, in Oslo, on December 10, 1964.


Hulton Archive/Getty Images
  • President Lyndon B. Johnson discusses the Voting Rights Act with King in January 1965. The act, part of President Johnson's "Great Society" program, trebled the number of black voters in the south, who had previously been hindered by racially inspired laws.


William Lovelace/Express/Getty Images
  • King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, lead a civil rights march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital in Montgomery in March 1965. On the left (holding bottle) is American diplomat Ralph Bunche.


Getty Images
  • King addresses a crowd in front of the Capitol Building in Montgomery, Alabama, following a voting rights march from Selma, Alabama, in March 1965.


William Lovelace/Express/Getty Images
  • King listening to a transistor radio in the front line of the third march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to campaign for proper registration of black voters, on March 23, 1965. Among the other marchers are: Ralph Abernathy (1926 - 1990, second from left), Ralph Bunche (1903 - 1971, third from right) and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907 - 1972, far right). The first march ended in violence when marchers were attacked by police. The second was aborted after a legal injunction was issued.


Keystone/Getty Images
  • King addresses civil rights marchers in Selma, Alabama, in April 1965.


Express Newspapers/Getty Images
  • King speaks to reporters during a march en route to Jackson, Mississippi, on June 11, 1966.


Getty Images
  • Watched by Dr. Charles Bousenquet, King signs the Degree Roll at Newcastle University after receiving an honorary Doctor of Civil Law degree, Newcastle, England, on November 14, 1967.


John Goodwin/Getty Images
  • King speaks at a January 12, 1968 press conference for Clergy & Laymen Concerned About Vietnam, held at the Belmont Plaza Hotel, New York City. He announced the Poor People's March On Washington at this event.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER