Interview: Working Out Our ‘Big’ Issues With Elizabeth Perkins

By  · Published on April 1st, 2014

by Sarah Carlson



I’m sitting here with Elizabeth Perkins, who starred in 1988’s Big, to talk about the making of the beloved movie now that we’re almost at its 26th anniversary. Elizabeth, thanks for meeting with me.

Well, thank you. I’m a little confused why we’re talking about the film in time for the 26th anniversary instead of last year for the 25th.

Right, right. Well, this didn’t occur to me last year.

Oh. Okay, then.

First off, I have to say that I loved you in Weeds. Probably my favorite of your roles.

Thank you, that is kind. I loved my character, Celia Hodes.

Me too. She deserves her own spin-off.

Ha ha, well, let me know if Showtime agrees.

Will do. Aside from Celia, one of your most famous roles has to be as Susan, the disillusioned workaholic who learns to love by falling in love with a 13-year-old, in Big opposite Tom Hanks.

Well, I wouldn’t describe the love story quite like that. She falls in love with a man who has a childlike sensibility and innocence in the way he views the world. She is drawn to his lack of cynicism and inhibitions.

Right. He has the body of a man, sure. And not a bad body! Hanks is adorable. But he’s not a man with a “childlike sensibility;” he is a child who wakes up trapped in a man’s body.

True, yeah, but …

And Susan learns this when the boy, Josh, confesses it all to her while explaining it was some sort of curse placed on him by a carnival machine. She doesn’t believe him until the end, especially when she sees him physically turn back into the 13-year-old boy version of Josh and go home to his mother.

Is there… is there a question in there?

Sure. What in the hell went through your mind when you read the script that made you decide to take on the role?

It’s a sweet story! It’s a coming-of-age tale not just for Josh, but for Susan. You can tell this when she describes Josh to her ex as being “a grown-up.” She learned what that really meant.

Oh, believe me, I understand. I grew up loving Big. I think most people did. But seeing it on TV recently, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Doesn’t that qualify as statutory rape?”

I thought you wanted to do a retrospective of the movie? This has gotten ridiculous.

The movie is the thing that’s ridiculous! Hear me out, Perkins: We don’t just protect minors from having their bodies used by older men and women; we also want to protect them from sexual abuse because of what it does to them psychologically and emotionally. So yeah, viewers are seeing Tom Hanks on screen about to do a love scene, but we forget that technically it’s a 13-year-old boy that’s about to do one.

Well, true, good point, but … I don’t know why you’re talking to me about all this.

You’re the only one I could get a hold of. You should probably get a new publicist.

What about Penny Marshal? She directed it.

… I forgot she was alive.

Well, I think you’re over-thinking the film, and you sound like you could use therapy.

Both of those points are probably very true. And yes, me trying to understand how this movie got made is why I’m talking to you. But how could Susan not think the same thing? You just know after Josh shrank to his 13-year-old size and went home to Mommy, Susan turned her car around and went on the longest bender of her life. No non-messed-up adult would think that situation was cute and sentimental. But hey, the piano scene in the toy store! And the loft with bunk beds and a trampoline! So funny!

Now I just feel sorry for you.

Well I feel sorry for Susan. And for Josh. At least the movie 13 Going on 30, which had a similar gimmick, kept sex out of the gal’s life. Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo only shared a kiss. What was up with the ’80s?

This interview is over.

I know. But you know what isn’t? My feeling that Big is actually pretty gross. Someone make me an edition that cuts out the love scenes and most of the romance, and I’ll be more OK with it. … I still love you, though, Celia. Take care.


Sarah Carlson is a television critic for Film School Rejects.

This designation is reserved for our special friends and neighbors who pop in to contribute to the wondrous world of FSR.