That Thing You Do!

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That Thing You Do!
That Thing You Do! film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Tom Hanks
Produced by Jonathan Demme
Gary Goetzman
Edward Saxon
Written by Tom Hanks
Music by Howard Shore
Cinematography Tak Fujimoto
Edited by Richard Chew
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date
  • October 4, 1996 (1996-10-04)
Running time
108 minutes
148 minutes (Extended cut)
Country United States
Language English
Budget $26 million
Box office $34.5 million[1]

That Thing You Do! is a 1996 American musical comedy-drama film written and directed by Tom Hanks in his directorial debut; he also co-stars in it. Set in the summer of 1964, the film tells the story of the rise and fall of a one-hit wonder pop band. The film also resulted in a musical hit with the song "That Thing You Do".


In 1964, in Erie, Pennsylvania, aspiring jazz drummer Guy Patterson is asked by Jimmy Mattingly and Lenny Haise to sit in with their band at an annual talent show, after their regular drummer breaks his arm trying to jump over a parking meter. The band, which also includes bassist T.B. Player, adopts the name "The Oneders" (pronounced "wonders", but often mispronounced "oh-NEE-ders"). At the talent show, Guy launches into a faster tempo than intended for Jimmy's ballad, "That Thing You Do", and the band wins the competition. The Oneders' performance at the talent show earns them a paying gig at a local restaurant, after which they make a recording of their song and begin to sell recordings of "That Thing You Do". They are noticed by talent promoter Phil Horace, who promises to get their record played on the radio and they sign with to be their manager.

Horace achieves radio airplay for the song and books the band at a rock & roll showcase concert in Pittsburgh, after which they are offered a contract by Play-Tone Records A&R representative Mr. White. White changes the band's name to "The Wonders" as they join a Midwestern Play-Tone tour, taking along Jimmy's girlfriend, Faye, as their official "costume mistress". During the tour, "That Thing You Do" garners national radio airplay and becomes a bona-fide hit. As the band's popularity soars, Jimmy grows frustrated that the group is not focused on creating more music, while the remainder of the band enjoys their time in the spotlight. All the while, Guy and Faye grow closer as friends. When the song enters the top ten on the Billboard charts, the band is taken off the tour and sent to Los Angeles.

Faye falls ill on the trip and is nursed by Guy. Jimmy is seemingly uninterested in her well-being, being preoccupied with trying to convince White to let the band record more of his original songs. After a publicity tour, the band is set to appear on The Hollywood Television Showcase, a nationally televised live variety show. They begin to show signs of discord. Jimmy continues to vent frustration at White over the band's direction. T.B. (who was leaving to join the United States Marine Corps in a few weeks) goes to Disneyland with a group of Marines, misses the TV show, and never returns; he is replaced in the broadcast by a session bassist. During the performance, as the band is being visually introduced to the viewing audience, the caption "Careful girls, he's engaged!" appears under Jimmy's name. Jimmy, assuming the caption was Faye's idea, becomes upset with Faye in the dressing room afterward, and says that he has no intention of marrying her. Heartbroken and weary with his arrogant personality and lack of devotion, Faye terminates their relationship and as she walks out Jimmy states he should have dumped her in Pittsburgh. Guy is appalled and it is obvious he has strong feelings for Faye.

The next day at a scheduled recording session, Lenny who left on a trip to Vegas with his new girlfriend, is missing and Jimmy's grievances with White reach a boiling point when he is not allowed to record his own songs and he quits the band. Guy is sorry to see the end of the band. White confronts him, and declares the band a one-hit wonder, but commends Guy for his smarts and integrity. After an impromptu jam session with his idol, jazz pianist Del Paxton, Guy returns to the band's hotel, where he catches Faye before she leaves and is encouraged by the bell captain to intercept her and shares a long kiss with her.

In an epilogue, it is revealed that Jimmy went back to Play-Tone and formed another band and had a successful career as an artist and producer, Lenny becomes a hotel and casino manager in Nevada, and T.B. earns a Purple Heart for injuries suffered at Khe Sanh. Guy and Faye start a family in Venice, California and then move to Bainbridge Island in Washington, where Guy teaches jazz composition at a music conservatory that he and Faye found.


Playtone artists
  • Robert Torti as Freddy Fredrickson
  • Kennya Ramsey, Julie Harkness, and Darlene Dillinger as The Chantrellines
  • Chaille Percival as Diane Dane
Cameos and/or supporting roles
  • Director Jonathan Demme, one of the producers of That Thing You Do!, has a cameo as the director of Weekend At Party Pier.
  • Comedian Barry Sobel has a cameo as "Goofball" in Weekend at Party Pier.
  • Tracy Reiner has a cameo as Anita, the co-star of Weekend at Party Pier.
  • Musician Chris Isaak appears as Uncle Bob, who produces the band's first recording.
  • Actress Rita Wilson, Hanks' wife, has a small part as Marguerite, the waitress at The Blue Spot jazz club, whose interest in Guy becomes compromised when Guy realizes his jazz idol, Del Paxton, is in the club.
  • Tom Hanks' son, Colin, appears as a page at the City of Broadcasting. He can be seen escorting Faye (Liv Tyler) from her car to her seat in the studio audience. His role is slightly expanded in the extended edition DVD.
  • Elizabeth Hanks, Hanks' daughter with his first wife, appears as "Bored Girl in Dress Shop".
  • Peter Scolari plays Troy Chesterfield, host of The Hollywood Television Showcase.
  • Football player/commentator Howie Long appears as Mr. White's driver/partner Lloyd in the extended cut; his part was entirely cut from the theatrical release.
  • Bryan Cranston appears as astronaut Gus Grissom during The Hollywood Television Showcase scenes.
  • Clint Howard, the brother of Ron Howard, appears as a KJZZ Disk Jockey.
  • Kevin Pollak appears as Victor "Boss Vic Koss" Kosslovich
  • Gedde Watanabe appears as a Playtone photographer.
  • Chris Ellis appears as Phil Horace, the band's first manager.
  • Marc McClure appears as the Hollywood Showcase director.

Production and music[edit]

The movie features original music by Tom Hanks, Adam Schlesinger, Rick Elias, Scott Rogness, Mike Piccirillo, Gary Goetzman and Howard Shore. In the movie, The Wonders rise to brief stardom on the strength of "That Thing You Do", a song written as a wistful ballad but which becomes an uptempo rocker during the band's first performance at a talent show. Written and composed for the film by Adam Schlesinger, bassist for Fountains of Wayne and Ivy and released on the film's soundtrack, the song became a genuine hit for The Wonders in 1996 (the song peaked at #41 on the Billboard Hot 100, #22 on the Adult Contemporary charts, #18 on the Adult Top 40, and #24 on the Top 40 Mainstream charts). The track was nominated for a 1996 Golden Globe Award as well as a 1996 Academy Award for Best Original Song. Mike Viola of The Candy Butchers provided the lead vocals for the Wonders.

In the film, the title song is referenced with "All My Only Dreams" as the B-side. The actual 45 RPM single, released to record stores in North America, features "Dance With Me Tonight" as its B-side. The song has since been recorded by The Knack and Bubblegum Lemonade. The Wonders are also seen playing the song "Little Wild One." This was written by the band Gigolo Aunts as a "faux-Beatles"-style tune at the request of their record label to be submitted for consideration for inclusion in the film.[2]

For the purpose of being able to convincingly perform The Wonders' songs on-camera, Scott, Schaech, Zahn and Embry took several weeks of individual lessons, followed by daily practice as a group. Of the four, only Zahn and Embry had any prior experience of playing their assigned instruments. They eventually honed their performance to the point where extras on the set thought they were actually playing the songs, when in reality they were miming along to recordings by professional musicians.[3]

The song that plays during the film's opening credits, "Lovin' You Lots and Lots," is credited to the fictitious Norm Wooster Singers and was actually written by Hanks. This song is a parody of Ray Conniff, Mitch Miller, and other practitioners of the "beautiful music" or proto-Muzak formats that were a staple of adult radio during the early '60s such as on KPOL (AM)1540 in Los Angeles.[4][5] Hanks also composed Guy's jazzy signature drum solo, "I Am Spartacus."

The ballad "My World Is Over" by Diane Dane seems inspired by the compositions of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and the vocal performance is strongly reminiscent of Jackie DeShannon.

The Wonders' bassist (played by Ethan Embry) is unnamed in the film; his name, T.B. Player (literally, "The Bass Player"), is revealed only in the end credits. This is a joke based on the perception that bass players are often unknown and unappreciated. Embry would later provide his own take on the character's real name: "I just said my name was Tobias, because he’s such a Tobias. You just take the vowels out [and it’s T.B.] His nickname was Toby, but his mom calls him Tobias. And his last name actually was Player, because he was a player, dude! That carousel ride with the Chantrellines? Total player."[3]

Some music was written for the film by Lee Hartney from The Smith Street Band but didn't make the final cut.

The tour and TV appearance are done in the authentic style of rock bands of the mid-1960s, including Go-Go girls, elaborate sharing of microphones, and formal clothing in various matching colors.

The character of fictional Pittsburgh disc jockey "Boss Vic Koss" whose actual last name was "Kosslovich" may be inspired by real-life Pittsburgh radio personality "Mad Mike Metro," who worked at WZUM in the 60s. His actual last name was "Metrovich".

The song "Voyage Around the Moon" by the fictional band Saturn 5 closely resembles "Pipeline" by The Chantays. The scene where The Wonders are miming the instrumental tune "Shrimp Shack" during the filming of a beach party film titled Weekend at Party Pier is an overt reference to the scene in Pajama Party wherein The Nooney Rickett 4 play the instrumental song Beach Ball.[6][better source needed]

The movie was written at a time when Hanks was dealing with his own issues with increasing successes in his career. During his appearance on Inside the Actors Studio, Hanks said he told the studio, "I'm a big honkin' star and you have to let me do what I want to do", to which the studio replied, "You're absolutely right."

The (real) Wonders[edit]

There were at least two real bands named the Wonders who made the record charts at various radio stations in the early '60s. One had a ballad titled "With These Hands" (b/w "Please Don't Cry"; Bamboo 523) that was played by KCRG in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in the fall of 1962.[7]

The other Wonders had a regional hit record called "Say There" (b/w "Marilyn"; Colpix 699), released by Colpix Records in August 1963.[8] Little is known about these Wonders, except that they were probably from Ohio or Pennsylvania; "Say There" hit the Top 20 at WCOL in Columbus, Ohio, and made the Top 30 at KQV in Pittsburgh.[9] (There is a scene in the film in which a disc jockey at WCOL is seen playing "That Thing You Do!")[10]

References to The Beatles[edit]

  • The name "The Oneders" references The Beatles' purposeful misspelling in their name.
  • Both bands lost their original bass player and replaced their original drummer (in the Beatles' case, Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best, respectively).
  • The song "That Thing You Do" is portrayed as a ballad that was sped up and became a hit; the Beatles' "Please Please Me" started as a ballad, was sped up, and became the group's first No. 1.[11]
  • White is modeled on Brian Epstein and in the extended cut is shown to have a boyfriend (Epstein was gay).
  • According to Tom Hanks, the film grew out of the idea of the Beatles' breakthrough after Pete Best's firing.[12]
  • The "Careful girls, he's engaged" caption under Mattingly's name is a reference to the "Sorry girls, he's married" caption under John Lennon's name when The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show.
  • Faye is mistaken for a fan and is prevented by the police from following the band. A similar incident happened to Cynthia Lennon, John Lennon's first wife.


The soundtrack album (released under the Play-Tone name in conjunction with Epic Records) was also a hit, peaking at #21 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. The CD artwork is a replica of the fictional Play-Tone label used in the movie, and the liner notes are done in a mockumentary style, as if the Wonders had been a real group and the events of the film had actually happened. Hanks later used the success of That Thing You Do! as a spring-board to launch the actual Playtone Records label, through which the soundtracks of all his subsequent films, and other films like Bring It On and television programs like The Sopranos were released as albums.

Track listing[edit]

1."Lovin' You Lots and Lots"Tom HanksThe Norm Wooster Singers1:54
2."That Thing You Do!"Adam SchlesingerThe Wonders2:47
3."Little Wild One"David Gibbs, Steve Hurley, Phil Hurley, Fred ElringhamThe Wonders2:30
4."Dance With Me Tonight"Scott Rogness, Rick EliasThe Wonders2:05
5."All My Only Dreams"Rogness, EliasThe Wonders2:54
6."I Need You (That Thing You Do)" (The movie credits list this song as being from 'The Heardsmen'.)Rogness, Elias, Linda EliasThe Wonders2:53
7."She Knows It"Rogness, EliasThe Heardsmen3:01
8."Mr. Downtown"Hanks, Gary Goetzman, Mike PiccirilloFreddy Fredrickson2:32
9."Hold My Hand, Hold My Heart"Hanks, Goetzman, PiccirilloThe Chantrellines3:11
10."Voyage Around The Moon"Hanks, Goetzman, PiccirilloThe Saturn 53:04
11."My World Is Over"PiccirilloDiane Dane3:01
12."Drive Faster"Rogness, EliasThe Vicksburgs2:48
13."Shrimp Shack"PiccirilloCap'n Geech & The Shrimp Shack Shooters2:22
14."Time To Blow"Steve Tyrell, Robert MannDel Paxton4:20
15."That Thing You Do! (Live at the Hollywood Television Showcase)"SchlesingerThe Wonders2:54
Total length:42:09


The film was well received by critics and currently holds a 93% fresh rating at the film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, based on 56 reviews with an average rating of 7.2/10. The site's consensus reads, "A light, sweet, and thoroughly entertaining debut for director Tom Hanks, That Thing You Do! makes up in charm what it lacks in complexity". The film debuted at No. 3.[13] The film grossed $25,857,416 domestically and $8,728,000 abroad for a worldwide gross of $34,585,416.[1]

The film is recognized by the American Film Institute in this list:

Home media[edit]

Initial release[edit]

That Thing You Do! was first released in mid-1997 on VHS. In 1998, the film became available in the DIVX format (as with all 20th Century Fox films), rather than DVD.

First DVD[edit]

After DIVX failed, the film was released onto DVD on June 5, 2001. It included the featurette "The Making of That Thing You Do!," and two music videos.

Extended Edition DVD[edit]

On May 8, 2007, Tom Hanks' Extended Edition was released on DVD. The film's theatrical cut and an extended cut with 39 additional minutes of deleted scenes are included.

Many of the deleted scenes are devoted to character development. A tastefully steamy look at Guy's "make-out" session with Tina at his apartment is included. The extended version also goes more in-depth with Guy's developing relationship with Faye (via mild flirting) and his deteriorating relationship with Tina, as well as Tina's budding relationship with her dentist, Dr. Collins. It also suggests that the character portrayed by Tom Hanks (Mr. White) is not only gay but in a relationship with a man played by former NFL defensive lineman Howie Long.

More camera time is also devoted to the romance between the bass player and one of the singers of the Chantrellines. In the theatrical cut, this romance was depicted mainly as an unrequited crush on the part of the bass player; in the extended cut it is clearly shown that his efforts were successful.

At the end of the Extended Edition, rather than becoming a studio drummer on the recommendation of Del Paxton, Guy becomes a disc jockey for the jazz station KJZZ and records a documentary series of interviews with legendary jazz musicians.

2007 DVD repackage re-release[edit]

That Thing You Do! was packaged with Bachelor Party and The Man with One Red Shoe in the Tom Hanks Triple Feature DVD anthology set. The actual DVD appears to be the original 2001 disc, with the featurette and music videos.

Blu-ray release[edit]

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment released the film on Blu-ray on April 2, 2013. The Blu-ray includes the Theatrical and Extended cuts as well as all of the bonus features found on the 2-Disc DVD.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "That Thing You Do! (1996)". Box Office Mojo. 1996-11-15. Retrieved 2011-01-31. 
  2. ^ Drees, Rich (2007-08-18). "That Tune You Do: Writing The Music For THAT THING YOU DO". FilmBuffOnline. Retrieved 2016-02-05. 
  3. ^ a b Sollosi, Mary (2016-10-04). "That Thing You Do! 20th anniversary: The Wonders look back". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2017-04-27. 
  4. ^ "That Thing You Do: Various Artists: Music". Retrieved 2011-01-31. 
  5. ^ "KPOL Archive #1". Retrieved 2011-01-31. 
  6. ^ Compilation: The Nooney Rickett 4 in Pajama Party on YouTube
  7. ^ Tim Warden. "KCRG 1600 Cedar Rapids Survey 09/22/62". 
  8. ^ "45cat - The Wonders [Colpix] - Say There / Marilyn - Colpix - USA - CP 699". 45cat. 
  9. ^ Tim Warden. "The Wonders — Say There". 
  10. ^ Both records by the real Wonders can be found on YouTube.[citation needed]
  11. ^ Will Hodgkinson. "Sir George Martin". The Guardian. 
  12. ^ Mallory Curley, Beatle Pete, Time Traveller, p. 221, quoting Hanks's statement in Ottawa Citizen, 29 September 1996: " It's not John, Paul, George and Pete--it's John, Paul, George and Ringo, and you can't help but think two things. Number one, is Ringo the reason that the Beatles became the Beatles? And number two, Poor Pete."
  13. ^ Puig, Claudia (1996-10-08). "Weekend Box Office". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  14. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-05. 

External links[edit]