MOTHER GOOSE: Okay, right off the bat we can see that…uh…well you know and I think everyone knows by now that I had a very different vision for this. Especially this first rhyme, which was supposed to be more of a light, Nora Ephron-style romantic comedy, in the vein of "Shop Around the Corner" or "You've Got Mail".
LEONARD MALTIN: Both of them classics.
MG: Right. And ours was meant to be a real "opposites attract" kind of funny kind of sweet sort of story. So I knew I wanted Tom Hanks in the title role, because, um, I think we can all agree…
LM: He is the Jimmy Stewart of his generation.
MG: And any other. And in fact I'd never considered anyone else for the role, which had essentially been written with Tom in mind. If you look back at early production notes you'll see the rhyme as originally written went
Tom Hanks could eat no franks
His wife could eat no beans.
And so betwixt the two of them and so forth,
but we were having scheduling problems with Hanks, and when he finally had some free time he was already obligated to do "Tom, Tom the Piper's Son," so…
LM: So you found another leading man, a relative unknown.
MG: Jack Sprat. So immediately the rhyme is shot, and we ended up compromising with the "no fat, no lean" solution, which I don't think really resonates with kids these days.
LM: Opposite Jack Sprat was Joan Lunden in an uncredited role.
MG: Yeah, working with Joan was great. She's a treasure. Oh--funny story--about halfway through production Jack comes to my trailer and says "You know, it's pronounced 'sprah'."
LM: …What is?
MG: His last name. It's not "Sprat", it's "Sprah!" (Laughter) Well, I wasn't about to change anything at that point.