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University of Missouri

Mr. Big

Mizzou remembers alumnus Robert Loggia.

Big's piano scene

Big (1988), starring the late Robert Loggia (left) and Tom Hanks, was nominated for two Academy Awards. ‘Big’ ©1988 Twentieth Century Fox. All rights reserved.

In an iconic scene from the 1988 comedy Big, Tom Hanks’ Josh and Robert Loggia’s MacMillan exchange a knowing glance on a larger-than-life toy store piano. As if daring one another, the duo suddenly breaks into a frenetic rendition of “Chopsticks” while bouncing atop the keyboard to the applause of patrons.

The scene highlights the playful versatility of Loggia, BJ ’51, who died Dec. 4, 2015, in his Los Angeles home at age 85.

Loggia came to Mizzou in 1949 having already caught the acting bug. Earlier, while on a football scholarship at Wagner College in Staten Island, New York, he played Petruchio in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.

The minute I got to the proscenium, I found a home,” Loggia told an audience in 2006 at MU’s Rhynsburger Theatre. “This is my altar. It protects me, frees me, gives me wings.”

The gravelly voiced son of Italian immigrants grew up in Manhattan’s Little Italy and made a film career playing mostly hard-edged characters. He played father to Richard Gere’s lead character in An Officer and a Gentleman, and earned an Emmy nomination for his portrayal of the title character in Mancuso, FBI and an Oscar nomination as detective Sam Ransom in Jagged Edge starring Glenn Close and Jeff Bridges. He played gangsters in Scarface, The Sopranos and Prizzi’s Honor, and performed in more than 200 films total.

A U.S. Army Korean War veteran, Loggia also took a turn as grand marshal in 1999 at MU’s Homecoming.

I was programmed in high school to go to Mizzou,” Loggia told MIZZOU that year. “My English teacher, Elizabeth Smith, thought I had a talent in writing. She said I was going to go to the University of Missouri, then to graduate school at Columbia University, and then I could write for The New York Times.”