Tom Hanks wrote, directed, and co-starred in That Thing You Do!, the story of a young band—The Wonders—that achieves brief fame when their catchy song climbs up the charts in 1964. Here are some facts about the Oscar-nominated film that featured one of cinema's great earworms.
1. TOM HANKS WROTE THE SCRIPT WHILE PROMOTING FORREST GUMP AND GETTING SICK OF TALKING ABOUT HIMSELF.
2. THE TITLE SONG WAS WRITTEN BY THE BASS PLAYER OF FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE.
At the time, Adam Schlesinger was in the band Ivy and was just starting to form Fountains of Wayne when he entered Hanks and the producers’ contest to write a “faux-Beatles” tune called “That Thing You Do.” Schlesinger’s version was picked out of 300 entries. In the demo that won, singer Mike Viola was hungover. The track was later re-recorded in California.
3. MIKE VIOLA WAS UPSET OVER THE LACK OF CREDIT GIVEN FOR SINGING THE SONG.
The Candy Butchers singer didn’t appreciate being listed after the long cast and production credits—including one horse—as simply supplying “Additional Vocals.” A producer responded by saying that the film wanted to create a mythology about the band The Wonders, as if they were real, something which would be harder to do if Viola’s credit was listed more prominently. The producer also pointed out that Viola was paid for his services.
4. TOM EVERETT SCOTT ALMOST DIDN’T GET THE PART BECAUSE HE LOOKED TOO MUCH LIKE HANKS.
Hanks changed his mind and gave the young lookalike his first film role after Hanks’s wife, Rita Wilson, said Everett Scott was cute. Before some takes, Hanks would remind Everett Scott, "Don't do it like me!" The crew annoyed Guy Patterson with the moniker “Tom Junior.” Which all seems rather serendipitous: Everett Scott married his girlfriend a year after That Thing You Do! was released, and a few years after they went on their first date ... to see Forrest Gump.
5. THE ACTORS ACTUALLY LEARNED HOW TO PLAY THEIR INSTRUMENTS.
Everett Scott, Steve Zahn (Lenny Haise), Ethan Embry (T.B. Player) and Johnathon Schaech (Jimmy Mattingly) spent a month learning all of the notes to all of The Wonders’s tunes, even though they weren’t actually the ones playing them. It was Schaech’s first time playing guitar, and Everett Scott’s first attempt at playing drums. Schaech burned his lip putting it against an old microphone during rehearsals.
6. THERE WERE PLENTY OF OTHER POTENTIAL BAND NAMES.
Schaech revealed some of the names written in his character’s notebook in a series of YouTube videos: Mom’s Hot Dish (A Zahn creation), The Lords of Erie, Jimmy in This and Jimmy in That, The Hanks, and Faye’s Addiction were some of the more interesting ones.
7. HANKS KNEW CHARLIZE THERON WAS GOING TO BE FAMOUS AFTER SHE AUDITIONED.
The future Oscar winner played the role of Tina in That Thing You Do!, which was only her second credited on-screen role. After she finished her audition, Hanks said, "She's got it! That girl is going to be somebody." In her script, Hanks wrote, “No matter what, I will always claim to have discovered you.”
8. NO ACTUAL MUSIC FROM THE 1960s WAS USED.
The rights to even obscure B-sides were expensive, so Hanks and some of his collaborators composed new music for the movie. Hanks also remarked that Forrest Gump used actual '60s music to full effect already, and recently.
9. THE BASS PLAYER’S NAME IS NEVER MENTIONED.
Ethan Embry was credited as T.B. Player (The Bass Player). Embry once said he believed the "T" stood for Tobias.
10. THEY FILMED ON THE PRICE IS RIGHT STAGE.
The Hollywood Television Showcase scene was shot on Stage 33, Bob Barker Studio, at CBS Television City in Hollywood.
11. HANKS WORKED LONG HOURS ON HIS DIRECTORIAL DEBUT.
He started at 4 a.m. and usually got home around 11:45 p.m. He was so tired one morning that he didn't even notice his wife, Rita Wilson (who played a cocktail waitress in the film), was on the set. "I was so tired by then I didn't even know it was my wife," Hanks said. "I thought, 'She's a very attractive lady, and I hope she's going to be nice to me.'"
12. THE FILM FEATURED A MINI BOSOM BUDDIES REUNION.
Peter Scolari, who co-starred on the sitcom Bosom Buddies with a pre-fame Hanks from 1980 to 1982, played Troy Chesterfield, the host of The Hollywood Television Showcase.
13. HANKS CAST HIS FAMILY IN THE FILM, TOO.
In addition to casting his wife as the waitress Marguerite (Wilson’s birth name is Marguerita Ibrahimoff), Hanks's son Colin briefly appeared as an usher who took Liv Tyler to her seat at the Showcase.
14. THERE WERE APOLLO 13 EASTER EGGS.
Marilyn Lovell & The Geminis are one of the bands listed for the Boss Vic Koss’ show in Pittsburgh. Marilyn Lovell is the wife of Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell, who was the pilot of Gemini 7 and command pilot of Gemini 12, and the astronaut Hanks portrayed in Ron Howard's 1995 movie Apollo 13. Jimmy Mattingly and Lenny Haise’s last names came from Apollo 13 astronauts Ken Mattingly and Fred Haise.
15. JONATHAN DEMME WAS THE BEACH PARTY MOVIE DIRECTOR.
Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs) makes a cameo in the movie as "Major Motion Picture Director" (a.k.a. the guy who directs the beach party movie in which The Wonders appear). Demme directed Hanks to his first Oscar win in 1993's Philadelphia.
16. THE DIRECTOR’S CUT TELLS MORE ABOUT MR. WHITE.
The Wonders’s manager (Hanks) shares a scene in the extended version with a character played by former NFL player Howie Long, who plays his boyfriend.
17. THE LINER NOTES TO THE SOUNDTRACK TELL MORE OF THE STORY.
Jimmy Mattingly ended up recording a hit song called “She Knows It” (heard over the closing credits) for The Heardsman, and became a producer for Play-Tone artists. Mr. White was promoted to president of the Play-Tone label.