Tag Archives: Tom Hanks

Reconsidering Billy Francis Kopeke…

This past week I dove back into my Awesome 80s Bedrooms dissections by taking a look at Josh Baskin’s childhood room in the 1988 Penny Marshall film Big.  After posting that article a reader (The Navigator) pointed out the fact that there is an Extended Edition of the flick on DVD with some extra sequences in Josh’s room, so at the next opportunity I got I ran out to my local used DVD shop and picked up a copy.  After watching through the longer version of the film I was sort of taken aback by a slight shift in the tone.  Though the movie has a nice balance of slapstick, heart and sadness that has elevated it past its 80s zany comedy roots into a true cinema classic, most of the excised footage that was added back into film plays to the more somber notes of the story and in particular adds a whole new depth to the character of Baskin’s BFF (or BFK), Billy Francis Kopeke.  About 10 minutes of these restored deleted scenes feature Jared Rushton’s Billy, and a sizable chunk of these are solo scenes focusing on the character’s home life, his interaction with Josh’s Mom and his mission to track down the errant Zoltar machine that will save his friend from a particularly nasty case of early onset adulthood.  This footage gave me a new appreciation for Billy and it forced me to look at the movie with a whole new perspective.  It alters the light-hearted comedic tone for me, as well as sort of switching the focus of the story from appreciating one’s own childhood to a sobering fight to save a friendship.

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Before I dig into my new appreciation for Billy, I wanted to take a second and note that I love Jared Rushton’s performance in the flick.  Rushton brought a realism to Billy that is lacking in so many of the other kid characters from 80s flicks that I adore.  Don’t get me wrong, as much as I love movies like The Monster Squad, Explorers or the Goonies, a lot of the kids in these flicks were very obviously “acting”, lacking that natural, authenticity that made the characters feel, well, real.  They tend to be caricatures of kids, which is great for what it is and for serving those stories, but it tends to hold these films back from feeling like true “classics”.  A good comparison might be the difference between Stand By Me and say the Goonies.  Both top favorites of mine, but no matter how much I praise and love Mikey, Data, Mouth and Chunk they don’t have that effortless relate-ability.  They’re too “loud”, character-wise.  For me, Rushton brought a much more nuanced take on Billy even for his scripted excitement over the Truck-a-Piller, or his overreacting tears when Hanks as Josh first approaches him in the school gym equipment room.

As for the character of Billy, while watching back through to film to try and spot a bunch of pop culture fun I noticed a couple things about Kopeke I hadn’t really processed before.  For instance there’s the fact that he’s apparently a huge fan of monsters.  He’s constantly sporting monster shirts throughout the flick, from the high contrast Wolfman image he’s wearing in the shot above, to the shirts featuring Frankenstein’s monster, the Creature, and even a Forbidden Planet tee in the shots below…

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This also becomes a little more apparent when I took a closer look at Billy’s bedroom in the couple of scenes at the beginning of the film before Josh gets “Big”.  You can see some Frankenstein and Mummy figures on the floor and in a toy crate…

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Nothing Earth-shattering, but it was kind of a cool thing to notice personally since I’ve become such a monster kid over the last couple of decades.  Anyway, getting back to the more developed version of Billy Kopeke, one of the first re-inserted scenes in the extended edition of Big follows Billy as he and Josh split up after coming home from their stick-ball game and massive session of “need it, got it, need it, need it, got it”.  In the original version the sequences cuts to Josh and Billy in their PJs discussing whether or not Josh has a shot with Cynthia, the blonde from the credits sequence that he has a crush on.  In the extended cut Josh gets a little whiny with his parents for insisting they moving his toddler sister into his room.  What I found fascinating is that this is inter-cut with Billy going home to his family (who we see on screen for the first time, well at least we now know that they’re his family), and having to basically play the dual role of the invisible child/housekeeper.

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The sequence shows him making dinner and setting the table as his rather large family bickers and zones out around the dinner table.  No one thanks him as he pulls a roast from the oven and sets it down, or butters the potatoes and brings them to the table.  There’s just a constant set of shrill complaints from his overbearing mother (uncredited but portrayed by the striking Francis Fisher) who ironically is lambasting her family for not lifting a finger to help her (as Billy does all the work.)  He then proceeds to fix himself a plate and goes up alone to his room to eat and then talk with Josh, reassuring, encouraging and supporting his best friend through his girl-crush crisis.

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Again, it’s not like this scene is so pivotal that it necessarily changes the course of the film perse, but it adds a depth to Billy really setting him up as the rock that so many people depend on and take for granted.  The fact that he never complains, is always quick with an answer or joke, and is generally upbeat says a lot about his inner strength which Rushton exudes with ease.  Since so much of the focus of the film rests on Tom Hanks’ shoulders, it’s easy to relegate Kopeke/Rushton to the friend who is there for the silly string puke fight and the confidant that agrees that Baskin needs to get his check changed into three dimes, a single hundred dollar bill, and eighty seven ones.

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When you combine this sequence with the one at the school on the morning when Josh mystically ages up it gets slightly deeper.  Alone in gym class, Billy is the awkward kid who shows a brave face and tries to participate (even if he thinks it’s dumb), only to be ridiculed and mocked by the rest of the class and blamed for a mess he didn’t create by the coach.  Without Josh by his side Billy is utterly alone, both with no other apparent friends and no one in his family that even pays attention to him unless he’s on the phone (and then only to yell at him to get off.)

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When you consider that Josh is off on an adventure in New York for six or seven weeks and then think about how much it must mean to billy to steal into the city and spend some quality time catching up, going out to a Yankees game or dancing on the back of a delivery truck, it makes the betrayal of Josh brushing off the search for the Zoltar machine sting all that much more.  That brings up an interesting point between the two character’s differences too.  When Josh is first freaking out about his predicament, Billy is there at every step of the way with an solution to the problem.  He snags his father’s “emergency” fund risking who knows what kind of punishment from his folks.  He takes Josh to the city and finds the hotel.  He brings him clothes, suggests he get a job, helps him look, and even comes up with the social security number solution (even if it was three digits off, “oh-one-two.”)  He’s also the only one really working to find the Zoltar.  In some additional deleted sequences the film shows him calling through the list of companies and license holders that are on the list they ordered from the city.

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Billy really is the more capable of the two, and when it comes right down to it he’s the only one who is fighting to keep their friendship alive.  If it were up to Josh, he’d so easily move on.  So at the end of the film, when Billy makes his last stand and storm into Josh’s office and throwing down the gauntlet of their friendship, after all the new material cut into the flick it really does make this scene more emotional.  Again, it sort of changes the overall message of the film for me too.  It’s not so much about Josh’s personal journey anymore, but coming back to his senses and ultimately coming back to his steadfast friend Billy Francis Kopeke (which is then underlined by book-ending the film with the two of them walking down the street after another game of stick-ball.)  We should all have a BFF like Billy, or more accurately, a BFK.

 

Awesome 80s Bedrooms: Big Edition

It’s been a little while since I sat down and dissected an awesome pop culture bedroom so I thought I’d dive back in by taking a closer look at Josh Baskin’s childhood room in the 1988 movie Big.  First off I love this movie to death, and love all the little details and weird merchandising (like the wacky comic book adaptation.)  This movie is literally bursting at the seams with amazing 80s toys, I mean between all of the Masters of the Universe, Bravestarr, and ThunderCats posters up in the cubicles where he works at MacMillan Toys, all of the stuff in the Photon Showdown scene in the toy store (Fireball Island, StarCom, Pound Puppies and giant kid-sized Lamborghini’s), the plethora of stuff in his office (including MOTU, Silverhawks, G.I. Joe and M.A.S.K.), or all the junk in his apartment (Thundercats sheets, Inhumanoilds and giant Gumbys) you can kind of go numb trying to spot all the cool stuff.  Matt over at Dinosaur Dracula did a fantastic job of breaking a bunch of that stuff down.  But I’m gonna concentrate on some of the stuff in Josh’s bedroom in his house at the start of the film…

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The flick opens up with some great shots of Josh’s room and in the mess there is some pretty neat stuff…

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1). Galoob Power Machines Flex

Galoob Power Machines Flex

2). Bravestarr Stratocoach from Mattel

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3). G.I. Joe Devilfish

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4). Garbage Pail Kids school folders

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I had a few of those GPK folders and man I wished I’d hung onto them.  For awhile it was the only way I could get a glimpse at some of the 1st series John Pound artwork since those stickers were near impossible to find when I started collecting back when the 2nd and 3rd series were just coming out.  Also, you gotta love that Galoob Flex motorized truck.  From the same folks that brought us The Animal and Leader 16 (aka Truckapiller!)  But, from a slightly different angle we can see Josh also had some Masters of the Universe stuff…

**UPDATE**

So it was killing me the entire time I wrote this post.  There were a couple of toys that I just could not place for the life of me.  But finally after an exhaustive search I finally found them!

13). Gold Chrome Variant Laser Force Spaceship from Gay Toys 1983

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14). Green Laser Force Tank from Gay Toys 1983

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These were apparently available in many different color schemes with various colored attachments and canopy colors.  There, now I can rest easy tonight… :p

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5). Laster Tag bed sheets and comforter

6). Masters of the Universe Bashasaurus

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Josh was also a fan of Spider-Man as we can see in this next shot…

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7). Power Tronic Secret Wars Spider-Man Walkie Talkie

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8). The Amazing Spider-Man light switch cover

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What I totally forgot was that Josh shared a room with his baby sister, and thanks to my girlfriend Jaime I now know that, that huge toy in the crib with her is a Pillow Person!

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9). Pillow People Sweet Dreams doll

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There are a couple of other things I wanted to mention from Josh’s house, namely his super rad taste in, um, undergarments…

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10). Kellogs Strawberry Squares cereal

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11). M.A.S.K. Funpals/Underoos

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You know, I’ve wanted to do an advertising retrospective on Underoos for years.  I have a bunch that I’ve found in old issues of McCalls and Woman’s Day from the 80s, but do you have any idea how hard it is to write and article about kid’s underwear, no matter how freaking awesome the branding might be, without feeling like a skeezy perv?  It’s next to impossible.  I mean just putting all the imagery from the advertisements together, all the kids prancing around super happy in their underwear, well it’s more than a little weird.  Sigh.  At least this movie gives me a good excuse to finally talk about it a little.  And now that I am, um, how mind-meltingly awesome is it that we live in a world where a two-time Oscar winning actor has been caught on film sporting a pair of Underoos featuring one of my favorite cartoons of all time?!?  And people wonder why I love the 80s…

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12). Silverhawks Underoos

15). Tyco Zero Gravity Cliffhangers Slot Car Set (which you can see under his bed in the first screen shot above…)

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16). Etch a Sketch

**UPDATED**

So, thanks to The Navigator for pointing out that there are more shots of Josh’s bedroom in the recent Extended Edition of Big which features 20 minutes of additional scenes Penny Marshall added back in to her director’s cut of the film!  In a screen shot from the below scene we can see that Josh had more Bravestarr toys than I first realized…

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17). Bravestarr Neutra-Laser

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18). Bravestarr 30-30 action figure

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There’s also some sort of boxed robot toy underneath the bed in the light blue/teal box.  I can’t make out the text completely, but it looks like “… Man” and it appears to be some sort of gold Gundam-esque mecha or robot.  Anyone have any ideas on what this might be?

Also, after watching the Extended Edition for the first time last night I was trying to be hyper aware and for the first time I noticed a rather awesome piece of pop culture ephemera in Josh’s supremely UN-awesome NY hotel room.  I’m labeling this as “negative one” because that room sucks!

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-1) Mr. T Air Freshener

$_57Last but certainly not least, I wanted to leave you all with this other neat item that I think gets overlooked in the movie.  In the famous boardroom pitch scene where we’re introduced to the delightful if rather pointless transforming skyscraper (“I don’t get it…”), there is another interesting and totally pointless prototype transformer in the background…

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The Car-nimal!  Seriously, it’s a car that transforms into a car with legs instead of wheels.  The irony isn’t quite as astounding as a transforming skyscraper, but it’s still pretty silly and dumb.  Love these little details in the film.  You know, now that I’m thinking about it, is the Sky Scraper Bot really all that dumb?  I mean, we did have Fortress Maximus and Metroplex.  Think about it…

Other Awesome Bedrooms I’ve covered…

Sara’s Room from Adventures in Babysitting

Eugene’s Room from The Monster Squad

Mikey’s room from the Goonies

David’s room from Flight of the Navigator

Robbie’s room from Poltergeist

Ben’s room from The Explorers

Pee Wee’s room from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure

Elliott’s room from E.T. Part 1    Elliott’s room Part 2

Fred Savage’s room from The Princess Bride

Filed under obscure comic book adaptations…

I’ve recently rekindled my passion for finding and reading 80s era movie tie-in novelizations, and in restarting the hunt for books there were a few candidates that jumped up to the top of my list.  One in particular has proven super difficult to track down, the novelization of the Tom Hanks/Penny Marshall movie Big.  I can’t confirm that a novelization actually exists as I’ve never seen it, and finding evidence on the internet is proving to be way more difficult than I could ever have imagined.  First off, there aren’t that many folks talking about novelizations as it is, but this is drastically compounded by the fact that using “Big” as a search term is about as useful as searching for a determiner like the world “the”.  Adding insult to injury is combining it with “Tom Hanks”, “Movie”, “Tie-in”, “Novelization”, or “Book”.  Try looking up “Big” in fiction and literature on Amazon, and then decide whether it’s worth the 16 hours it would take to flip through the six billion books the database brings up.  Long story short, I can’t confirm this novelization exists outside of a few forum posts, and none of these ever list anything remotely useful, like say the name of the author.  The search wasn’t completely fruitless though, as it did turn up one piece of obscure Big merchandise that I had been totally unaware of, a 1988 comic book adaptation!

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I know, “What the what?!?” indeed.  It’s not that comic book adaptations of flicks are all that rare, it’s just weird to find one that wasn’t action, horror, or science fiction-oriented.  You don’t tend to see dramas or comedies adapted because the target audience, especially in the 80s was almost always 12 year-old boys, and by and large most comics aimed at this audience are almost always super hero-related, with the stray Archie and cartoon adaptation thrown in for good measure.  What makes this even weirder, at least for me, is that this single issue was published by Hit Comics, which was a division of Dark Horse, the company at the time that was responsible for bringing us a line of very adult and graphic movie tie-ins including Terminator, Aliens, Predator, and RobocopBig just doesn’t seem like a likely candidate to fit in with this line’s tone or audience appeal.  Regardless it exists, and when I first found out about it I really hard my hopes up that it was going to be amazing considering it was largely advertised as featuring the artwork of Paul Chadwick, the man behind Dark Horse’s Concrete

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Before I get into the actual comic though, I wanted to take a look at the single most important reason this comic book exists, which is the back cover (featured above.)  A full page advertisement for Big coming to store on VHS seems a little redundant, but then again it explains the entire endeavor.  I know this is obvious, but this comic is just one giant advertisement for the home video release, but considering it was released via Dark Horse is where it gets a little weird in my eyes.  See, back in ’88 DH didn’t have the market presence of some of their rivals like Marvel and DC.  To be honest, I don’t remember seeing any DH titles in grocery or convenience stores, only in the specialty comic stores.  So it’s weird that an obvious 32 page advertisement would be produced, with writers, pencilers, inkers, and colorists brought on board just to have it sit on a rack in a comic store being largely overshadowed by a plethora of more popular titles.  If I had to take a guess, I’d say that this was comic ended up as a marketing blunder and an eventual lesson learned by both DH and 20th Century Fox, that in the future the future it might be a better idea to try something else (like Dark Horse partnering with New Line to reverse the process and bring their comics properties to the screen, ala The Mask.)

Anyway, this obscure gem exists, and I thought I’d take a few moments to take a look at what it is we did get.  So, as I was saying earlier, I was pretty excited by the idea of Paul Chadwick handing the illustrative duties on the book, but then was sorely disappointed when I had the comic in hand and realized he only worked on the cover.  The actual comic was penciled by Jack Pollock, inked by John Nyberg, and adapted by Mark Verheiden.  Pollock worked in the production department at DH and brought a very Mad Magazine-esqe cartoony-ness to the project.  It’s not that this is awful, but it wasn’t the wistful tone that I was expecting from Chadwick’s brush.  As far as the adaptation of the film goes, well, it’s all basically there, though extremely abbreviated considering the actual comic only runs 28 pages.  Most scenes only get a panel or two, and a majority of the dialogue is reserved for the key quotes from the flick.  I was actually surprised that they really managed to fit it all in considering…

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Back to the artwork, again, it’s not awful, though it is pretty loose and a lot of the caricatures and exaggeration tend to go way too far.  There are a bunch of places in the book where Pollock tries to ramp up the intensity of a scene, or to capture the action of the film and he just ends up going way too far off the grid.  Take this segment where Josh Baskin wakes up as a fully grown man…

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Egads, no one ever needed to see that particular angle of comic book Tom Hank’s underwear-covered taint.  The effect this has on the tone of the overall book can be quite drastic at time.  Consider this next scene when Josh first confronts his mother…

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Wow, vicious and kind of scary.  This cartoon-y approach does make for some weirdly fun interpretations though.  My favorite by far is Pollock’s take on the segment where Josh and Billy decide to check into the Saint James hotel in the city.  Pollock’s version of a run-down New York is pretty bonkers, and evokes something you’d be more likely to see in a Troma or John Waters film.  Speaking of John Waters, I think the caricature on the far left was an homage to the pencil-thin mustachioed king of sleazy cinema…

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Of all the scenes to leave in or cut, I was actually surprised that the touching love scene between Josh and Susan was one of the ones that made the cut.  Granted, we’re luckily spared of seeing the comic version of Hanks getting to second base.  But the scene is alluded to and we do get the “lights on” quote/gag…

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All in all I thought this was a thoroughly weird piece of obscure 80s merchandising, and quite possibly the only for the film Big (unless I eventually track down an actual novelization.)  It certainly makes me wonder if there are comic adaptations of The Money Pit or the Man with One Red Shoe floating around out there.  Better yet, I could actually see Dark Horse having done The ‘Burbs.  As it stands, I guess I’ll just have to console myself with this parody of Splash in the meantime…