Celebrating Its 18th Anniversary With 21 Facts About Tom Hanks' Brilliant, Timeless 'That Thing You Do!'
1. It was Tom Everett Scott’s first movie, and he nearly was cut out of the film because he looked “too much like Tom” Hanks at the time. Rita Wilson, who thought Everette was cute, ultimately encouraged Hanks to hire him.
2. Two of the voices behind the Oneders, Rick Elias and Scott Rogness, mixed a little Beatles, a little Stones, and a little Dave Clark Five to come up with the sound of The Wonders (Hanks, who co-wrote several of the songs, is a huge fan of the Dave Clark Five). Elias and Rogness were actually in the movie as Play-Tone band members.
3. Tom Hanks wrote the script in 30 days, basically during his year-long Forrest Gump promotional/celebration tour, and 20th Century Fox immediately agreed to produce it as long as Hanks agreed to star in it.
4. Ironically, the beach band name — Capn’ Geech and the Shrimp Shack Shooters — was named after two of the shrimp restaurants located where much of Forrest Gump was filmed.
5. It was the second credited role Charlize Theron had ever landed (she played Tina). She found a circuitous route to getting the gig. Broke one day, she tried to cash a check at the bank, and when the teller refused, Theron threw a fit. Talent manager John Crosby was in the bank and saw Theron screaming and waving her arms. He walked over and told her, “I don’t know what you do, but if you’re interested in acting, here’s my card.” That led to her audition with Tom Hanks, who said of her after the audition, “She’s got it! That girl is going to be somebody.”
In fact, in Theron’s script of That Thing You DoT, Hanks wrote, “No matter what, I will always claim to have discovered you.”
6. Mike Viola, who actually sang lead vocals on the title track, “That Thing You Do,” raised a fuss after the film because he was barely credited for the vocals, being listed under “additional vocals” underneath the “First Aid,” “Catering” and “Animals Supplied by” credits. Hanks and the producers simply wanted to better maintain the illusion that the actors were actually singing the songs.
7. So exhausted from working on the film sometimes 18-20 hours a day, at one point Hanks didn’t even recognize his wife, who played a cocktail waitress in the movie. “That morning I showed up at the set with a huge, huge cup of ice and Gatorade. I was so tired by then I didn’t even know it was my wife. I thought, `She’s a very attractive lady, and I hope she’s going to be nice to me.’ And it was her.”
8. The kind-of forgotten member of That Thing You Do! is Johnathon Schaech, whose character was lead singer of The Wonders. He’s still around (he recently had arcs in The Client List and Ray Donovan), although you’d probably only recognize him if you knew it was him. He’s more likely these days to play a thug. (Also, fun fact: He was married to Christina Applegate from 2001-2007)
9. One of the people who encouraged Hanks to direct in the first place was Sean Penn. When Hanks went trick-or-treating with Penn’s family (with then wife Robin Wright) and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Washington D.C.. Sean Penn told Hanks he needed to direct to better understand how to be a better actor.
10. Ethan Embry was only identified as T. B. Player in the credits. He was never given a name in the movie other than “The Bass Player.” Two days after he finished filming on That Thing You Do!, he began filming National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation, where he played Rusty Griswold.
I saw him in a movie earlier this year, and didn’t recognize him for the longest time.
11. In another connection to Hanks’ filmwork, the characters Jimmy Mattingly (played by Johnathon Schaech) and Lenny Haise (played by Steve Zahn) were named after astronauts Ken Mattingly and Fred Haise in Apollo 13.
12. The title song was written by Adam Schlesinger, the bassist for Fountains of Wayne, before Fountains of Wayne took off (the movie was released right before their first album). Here he is with Mike Viola (the actual singer of the song) performing the title track.
13. Colin Hanks has a brief cameo as an usher who escorts Liv Tyler to her seat. (Hanks’ daughter also has a brief appearance, although Chet Haze is NOWHERE to be found, though he was one 4 years old at the time.).
14. Kevin Pollak on how he landed a role in the film:
It’s one of those phone calls, in this case Tom Hanks, who’s writing a movie, he’s directing, and he wants you to be in it. You know, these phone calls are annoying, because they kind of get you at “hello,” you know? [Laughs.] You want to play on the good teams, and Tommy’s about as good as it gets out there, so… I had worked for him on From The Earth To The Moon and had found him to be a tremendous, professional, and annoyingly friendly guy. Absurdly friendly. And generous and thoughtful and all those things. So it was kind of an easy “yes,” and then I read the script and, again, it was…
15. Mr. White’s (Hanks) first name is mentioned only once in the film. It’s Andy. Andy White, by the way, was the session drummer on the second recording of The Beatles’ “Love Me Do.”
16. Tom Hanks’ directors cut (released on Blu Ray last year) is actually two-and-a-half hours long, and in addition to fleshing out Jimmy and Lenny’s acrimonious backstory, there’s considerably more footage devoted to Guy before he joins the band. Also, Faye and Tina’s characters are considerably more defined. They probably also play “That Thing You Do” another 12 times.
17. Here’s the secret twist ending to That Thing You Do!:
18. Here’s Steve Zahn on working with Tom Hanks in one of Zahn’s first major roles:
That movie’s so timeless. That was really the baptism for me. That was school. Tom really nurtured us in that. He had a tough job, but he really took the time to teach us. He’d say things like “Here’s what you do when you stand up in front of a camera. Don’t stand up too fast because…” and he would explain. And I really learned everything technically about film acting from Tom. Also about showing up for work on time, knowing your shit, setting the tone, all those things you kind of know on some level as a beginner, but it’s so helpful to have someone tell you. When you have someone like Tom Hanks say to you “When you’re a lead in a movie, you set the tone. If you come in late and not knowing what the fuck you’re doing, then that’s how the crew is going to be, that’s how your fellow actors are going to be,” and so on. And he was totally right about that. You do have to be that leader, and set that standard. He was brilliant, man.19. If you look closely at the notebook of potential band names in the movie, you’ll see that other considerations were: The Dollars, The Lords of Erie, The Pistunes, The Thorns, The Mozarts, The Echoes, The Ticks, The Didoctics, and The Flannels. However, Schaech still owns that original notebook, and notes some others: The Heardsmen, The Strawberries, Jimmy and the Sting Rays, The Toasters, Faye’s Addiction, and Jimmy in This and Jimmy in That, The Ticks, The Hanks, The Thorn Roses, The Echoes, Jimmy and the Wrecks, The Lords of Erie, The Corvettes, and Mom’s Hot Dish.
Here’s Schaech discussing those names:
20. Before filming began, the four main actors spent five hours a day for six weeks learning how to play instruments and the four songs they’d have to play during the movie. Tom Everett Scott had never played drums in his life before then, but he nailed every drum beat during the film.
21. There’s some pretty good covers of the title track by various artists, but I have to admit that N’Sync’s is fun:
The Arkells (featuring The Maine) cover, however, is my favorite, just for the sheer hipsterness of it all.