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.

8 Surprising Facts and Misconceptions About Recycling

iStock.com/KatarzynaBialasiewicz
iStock.com/KatarzynaBialasiewicz

If you pat yourself on the back for just remembering to separate the recycling or haul that big blue bin to the curb each week, you're not alone. Despite the strides we appear to be making toward eco-consciousness as a country, we have a long way to go in helping the Earth, as evidenced by our complicated relationship with recycling. These facts about the most prevalent of the three Rs will make you pause the next time you throw anything away.

1. The United States's recycling rate is low—really low.

Figures from the Environmental Protection Agency show that America recycles about 34.7 percent of the garbage it produces. (The world's top recyclers—Germany, Austria, Wales, and South Korea—report a rate between 52 and 56 percent.) But Mitch Hedlund, founder and Executive Director of the organization Recycle Across America isn't even sure the recycling rate often quoted is accurate because there is so much junk mixed in with actual recyclables.

Recycle Across America is currently working to encourage the use of standardized labels for recycling bins to eliminate the confusion over what actually belongs in these receptacles. "If the U.S. gets the recycling number up to 75 percent, which we believe is completely possible once the confusion (over what to place in the bins) is removed, it will be the CO2 equivalent of removing 50 million cars from the roads each year in the U.S. and it will create 1.5 million permanent new jobs in the U.S. (net)."

2. Proper recycling can result in monetary savings.

Businessman stepping on green squares with recycling symbols
iStock.com/Rawpixel

While Hedlund admits the idea of providing universal labels clearly stating what should be placed in the bins is a simple one, it's making a serious impact on those who have jumped on the bandwagon. "Many schools are seeing dramatic increases in their recycling levels since using the society-wide standardized labels on their recycling bins," she says. "For instance, in the pilot program at Culver City schools in Los Angeles [County], their recycling levels doubled when they started using the standardized labels and the materials they were collecting in their recycling bins were so much less contaminated with garbage." Another story, she says, is that "as a result of a donation from Kiehls (who makes a donation to Recycle Across America each April in the sum of $50,000), all of the schools in the San Diego Unified School District and San Diego County started using the standardized labels. San Diego Unified School District reduced their landfill hauling fees by about $200,000 (net) in the first year."

3. Recent changes from China have severely impacted the recycling industry.

Until 2018, China took 40 percent of the United States's recycled paper, plastic, and metal. But in January of that year, China imposed strict new rules on the levels of contamination (think food or other garbage mixed in with the recyclables) it's willing to accept—standards American cities are largely unable to meet. Because of that, and a lack of suitable destinations closer to home, many cities have been forced to incinerate or stockpile recyclables until they can find a better solution.

4. Only 9 percent of plastic is recycled in the U.S.

The nation recycles less than 10 percent of its plastic, compared to 67 percent for paper materials, 34 percent for metals, and 26 percent for glass. And China's restrictions have especially affected plastic—while exports of scrap plastic to China were valued at more than $300 million in 2015, they amounted to $7.6 million in the first quarter of 2018, down 90 percent from the year before.

5. Clothing can be recycled, but it rarely is.

Clothing at a garage sale
iStock.com/alexeys

Unfortunately, most curbside haulers don't accept textiles, and America has a serious problem with old clothes ending up in the trash. In 2019, the nation is on track to throw away more than 35 billion pounds of textiles, according to the Council for Textile Recycling—almost double the number from 1999. On the plus side, some cities have set up drop-off points for unwanted clothes, and there are a variety of ways to sell or donate unwanted items. Some brands, including Eileen Fisher and Patagonia, have also introduced buy-back programs for their items.

6. Aluminum is the world's most-recycled packaging product.

Crushed aluminum cans
iStock.com/hroe

Nearly 70 percent of aluminum cans are recycled internationally, according to Novelis, a leader in rolled aluminum products and recycled aluminum. Aluminum is infinitely recyclable without degrading, meaning it can be reused in a way completely different from what it was in its previous life, or recast into its original form. Not only is aluminum the world's most-recycled product, it's also the most profitable and the most energy-efficient. Using recycled aluminum instead of virgin materials saves about 95% of the energy, compared to 60% for paper and 34% for glass [PDF].

7. That soda can you're drinking from could find its way back to you more quickly than you think.

According to Novelis's research, an aluminum can that is recycled can be back on a grocery store shelf within 60 days [PDF]. That's a seriously speedy turnaround.

8. Scrap recycling is big business.

While the words scrap recycling might have you humming the Sanford & Son theme song, it's far from being a junkyard industry. According to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), in 2017 U.S. scrap recyclers processed more than 130 million tons of scrap metal, paper, plastic, glass, textiles, and more—material that was sold back to industrial consumers in the U.S. and around the world, generating close to $18 billion in export sales. All told, scrap recycling was a $117 billion industry in 2017 [PDF].

This list first ran in 2015 and was updated by Mental Floss staff in 2019.

From Cocaine to Chloroform: 28 Old-Timey Medical Cures

YouTube
YouTube

Is your asthma acting up? Try eating only boiled carrots for a fortnight. Or smoke a cigarette. Have you got a toothache? Electrotherapy might help (and could also take care of that pesky impotence problem). When it comes to our understanding of medicine and illnesses, we’ve come a long way in the past few centuries. Still, it’s always fascinating to take a look back into the past and remember a time when cocaine was a common way to treat everything from hay fever to hemorrhoids.

In this week's all-new edition of The List Show, Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy is highlighting all sorts of bizarre, old-timey medical cures. You can watch the full episode below.

For more episodes like this one, be sure to subscribe here.

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