Catherine O’Hara says she and Robert De Niro auditioned for ‘Big’

Catherine O’Hara arrives on the red carpet at the Canadian Screen Awards in Toronto on Sunday, March 11, 2018. O’Hara made a revelation of her audition for Penny Marshall’s 1988 comedy “Big” in an interview with The Canadian Press on Wednesday as she reflected on the legacy of Marshall, the director and “Laverne & Shirley” star who died at her Los Angeles home Monday night due to complications from diabetes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

TORONTO — Catherine O’Hara once auditioned for filmmaker Penny Marshall’s 1988 comedy “Big” with Robert De Niro.

O’Hara made the revelation in an interview with The Canadian Press on Wednesday as she reflected on the legacy of Marshall, the director and “Laverne & Shirley” star who died at her Los Angeles home Monday night due to complications from diabetes.

“The one time I spent time with her I auditioned for ‘Big,’” O’Hara, whose hit Canadian comedy series “Schitt’s Creek” debuts its fifth season Jan. 8 on CBC TV, said by phone from Los Angeles.

“I don’t know if you know this, but Tom Hanks was not the original cast for that. I auditioned with Robert De Niro. Isn’t that a different movie?” the Toronto-born Emmy winner added with a laugh.

“Big” stars Hanks as a New Jersey teen whose wish to be “big” miraculously turns him into an adult overnight. Elizabeth Perkins plays his love interest.

O’Hara said she and De Niro auditioned for those two roles in front of Marshall, whom she didn’t know well but would see “at parties once in a blue moon.”

“She was great and supportive and fun,” O’Hara recalled, praising Marshall for becoming the first female director to direct a $100-million box office hit with “Big.”

O’Hara, an “SCTV” and Second City alumna who recently received the Order of Canada, went into the audition being a big fan of De Niro’s 1986 period drama ”The Mission.”

“Penny left the room for a while and I guess that was supposed to be the time where we were supposed to see how we got along,” she recalled with a laugh.

“Of course I was not cool at all and I started asking him about ‘The Mission’ and he was great. He told me all about shooting ‘The Mission’ and how he loved it too. And then he didn’t do the movie and of course I didn’t get cast.

“That was an odd little fun experience. It’s like at ‘SCTV’ where we would do the stage version of a movie and cast it. That was the most fun, was miscasting things. Not to say that Robert De Niro doing ‘Big’ would be miscast, it would just be a different movie. But it’s always fun to imagine other people playing those iconic roles.”

One of O’Hara’s most iconic films, the holiday classic “Home Alone,” was in the headlines Wednesday with star Macaulay Culkin reprising his role as Kevin McCallister for a Google commercial on social media.

O’Hara said she hasn’t heard of any plans to make another instalment in the “Home Alone” franchise but still gets requests to play Kevin’s mom for various initiatives.

“I had a strange request of an organization in England,” she said. ”They take care of under-privileged children and they were putting together a trip to take these children to New York so they could relive the experiences Kevin McCallister had in New York and they wanted me to show up as the mother.

“I think it would scare the kids, but I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t available. But throughout the years I’ve had kids look at me … with their frightened faces like, ‘Why do I think I know you?’ And then someone will say, ‘The mom in “Home Alone.”’ But that doesn’t make sense (to them), like, ‘Why would you be here?’”

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