That Thing You Do!

That Thing You Do! is a 1996 American comedy film starring, written and directed by Tom Hanks, in his directorial debut. It tells the story of the rise and fall of a fictional 1960s one-hit wonder pop band, and it also stars Tom Everett Scott, Liv Tyler, Johnathon Schaech, Steve Zahn and Ethan Embry. The film also resulted in a musical hit with the titular song of the same name, which was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.[2]

That Thing You Do!
That Thing You Do! film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTom Hanks
Produced by
Written byTom Hanks
Music byHoward Shore
CinematographyTak Fujimoto
Edited byRichard Chew
Clavius Base
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • October 4, 1996 (1996-10-04)
Running time
CountryUnited States
Budget$26 million
Box office$34.5 million[1]


In the summer of 1964, in Erie, Pennsylvania, Guy Patterson, an aspiring jazz drummer, is working in his family's appliance store when he is asked by acquaintances Jimmy Mattingly and Lenny Haise to sit in with their new pop-rock band at a local talent show after their regular drummer Chad is injured. The band adopts the name "The Oneders" (pronounced "wonders", but often mispronounced "oh-NEE-ders") because Jimmy likes names that contain wordplay, like The Beatles. At the talent show, Guy launches into a faster tempo than Jimmy intended for his original song, "That Thing You Do". Jimmy is upset, but Guy's version wins them the talent show.

The Oneders' performance at the talent show earns them a paying gig at Villapiano's, a local pizza place. When an earnest fan asks for a record, they decide to record the song and sell 45s of it, with the help of Guy's uncle, a church music producer. Local talent promoter Phil Horace takes notice of the band and promises to get their record played on the radio within 10 days. Although Jimmy is apprehensive, Lenny convinces the band to sign with Phil. Guy's girlfriend, Tina, who tacitly supported him at first, dumps him after falling for her handsome dentist.

Phil gets the song on Pennsylvania radio and books the band at a rock & roll showcase concert in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They encounter technical difficulties, however, and are booed by the crowd. After the showcase, Phil brings a dispirited Guy to meet with Mr. White, an A&R representative for Playtone Records, who offers the band a contract and takes over as their manager. Mr. White re-spells the band's name as "The Wonders," offers them advice on style and presentation (including insisting that Guy should always wear sunglasses), asks them to join the Play-Tone tour of Midwestern state fairs, and suggests that Jimmy's girlfriend Faye join the tour as their "costume mistress." The bass player says that he has enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and will need to leave the band by the end of the summer, but Mr. White says he can still tour before then.

During the tour, The Wonders meet other acts, learn about the business, and become better performers. Jimmy spends time with a chanteuse while the bass player falls for a member of a girl group. "That Thing You Do" garners national radio airplay and the band's popularity soars. While most of the band enjoys their taste of fame, Jimmy isn't content just to tour and is itching to get back in the studio.

"That Thing You Do" reaches #7 on the Billboard charts. Mr. White takes the band off the tour and sends them to Los Angeles, California to do publicity there, including radio and film appearances. Faye is almost left behind when a frenzied crowd makes it nearly impossible for the group to get to their car, but Guy insists on going back for her. He also nurses Faye on the flight to L.A. when she is not feeling well. Jimmy seems not to notice his girlfriend's troubles or her new closeness to Guy.

Jimmy is increasingly frustrated with Mr. White's management and is desperate to cut another record. The other band members, however, take advantage of L.A.'s attractions. The bass player meets some active Marines and goes to Disneyland with them. Lenny starts dating a record company secretary and planning a trip to Vegas with her. Guy visits a jazz club and meets his idol, jazz pianist Del Paxton.

The day of the band's appearance on The Hollywood Television Showcase, a nationally televised live variety show, things start to go awry. The bassist is nowhere to be found, so Mr. White replaces him with an older, experienced session bassist known as "Wolfman". Guy is hungover; Jimmy is throwing up due to nerves; Lenny is preoccupied with his new girlfriend. Still, the Wonders manage to pull it together for their high-profile television appearance. However, when television captions introduce the members of the band, Jimmy's caption reads "Careful, girls, he's engaged!"

After the performance, Jimmy lashes out at Faye in the dressing room, insinuating that she was responsible for the "engaged" caption. He insists that they are not engaged and he has no intention of proposing. Heartbroken and weary, Faye calls Jimmy out and breaks up with him. Jimmy yells after her that he should have dumped her in Pittsburgh.

The next day, at a scheduled recording session, the original bass player is still missing and so is Lenny. (He has gone to Vegas and married his new girlfriend.) Mr. White has provided new material for Jimmy and Guy to record, but Jimmy wants to do his original songs. When Mr. White reminds him that the terms of their contract allow Play-Tone to dictate their material, Jimmy quits the band on the spot. Guy is now the only remaining Wonder. Mr. White assures him that such things are common in the music industry and compliments Guy on his smarts and integrity. Lingering in the studio since its time is already paid for, Guy plays a swinging, jazzy drum routine of his. Del Paxton hears him and is impressed enough to invite him to have an impromptu jam session. He tells Guy that he has the chops to make it as a drummer in L.A.

Guy returns to the hotel to get his things and check out. The bellhop informs him that Jimmy has checked out, but Faye is alone in the coffee shop. Guy tells Faye he plans to stay in L.A., while she says she will go back to Erie. Before leaving, she hugs him and tells him that none of this would have happened if he hadn't joined the band—and that that's a good thing. She goes out to the curb to call a cab. After watching her for a few seconds, Guy chases after her and kisses her. They leave their things with the bellhop and walk back into the hotel.

An epilogue reveals that Jimmy went back to Play-Tone and formed another hit-making band, the Heardsmen (a name Jimmy tinkered with before the Wonders), then had a successful career as a record producer; Lenny became a divorced hotel and casino manager in Nevada; the bass player earned a Purple Heart for injuries suffered at Khe Sanh in Vietnam, then began a career in construction in Orlando, Florida; and Guy and Faye married and moved to Bainbridge Island in Washington, where Guy teaches jazz composition at a music conservatory that they founded.


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
  • Eddie Lineberry, (Rain: A Tribute to The Beatles), appears as security guard in concert scene
  • Chris Ellis appears as Phil Horace, the band's first manager.
  • Kevin Pollak appears as Victor "Boss Vic Koss" Kosslovich.
  • Paul Feig appears as a KMPC Disc Jockey.
  • Clint Howard, actor and brother of Ron Howard, appears as the KJZZ Disc Jockey.
  • Gedde Watanabe appears as a Play-tone photographer.
  • Robert Ridgely appears as the Hollywood Showcase announcer.
  • Peter Scolari, Hanks' co-star in the TV series Bosom Buddies, plays Troy Chesterfield, host of "The Hollywood Television Showcase."
  • Bryan Cranston appears as astronaut Gus Grissom during "The Hollywood Television Showcase" scenes.
  • Marc McClure appears as the Hollywood Showcase director.
  • Tracy Reiner as Anita, the co-star of Weekend at Party Pier.
  • Barry Sobel has a cameo as "Goofball" in Weekend at Party Pier.
  • Jonathan Demme, one of the producers of That Thing You Do!, has a cameo as the director of Weekend At Party Pier.
  • 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, and shows far more interest in him than in her.
  • Colin Hanks, Hanks' son, 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."
  • Howie Long appears as Mr. White's driver/partner Lloyd in the extended cut; his part was entirely cut from the theatrical release.

Production and musicEdit

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.[3]

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.[4]

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 send-up 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.[5][6] 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; the vocal performance is reminiscent of Jackie DeShannon.

The Wonders' bassist (played by Ethan Embry) is unnamed in the film; he is credited simply as 'T.B. Player' (for The Bass Player). This is a joke based on the perception that bass players are often unknown and unappreciated. Embry later provided 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."[4]

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 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 Beach Ball.[7][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) WondersEdit

There were at least two real bands named the Wonders who made the record charts at various radio stations in the early 1960s. 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.[8]

The other Wonders had a regional hit record called "Say There" (b/w "Marilyn"; Colpix 699), released by Colpix Records in August 1963.[9] 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.[10] (There is a scene in the film in which a disc jockey at WCOL is seen playing "That Thing You Do!")[11]

References to the BeatlesEdit

  • 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.[12]
  • According to Tom Hanks, the film grew out of the idea of the Beatles' breakthrough after Pete Best's firing.[13]
  • 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.
  • When Guy and Tina meet after she arrives at Villapiano's for the group's paying gig, the owner of the restaurant mockingly refers to Guy as 'Ringo' and tells him that the group should have started their performing 'five minutes ago'.
  • When the band are guests on radio station KMPC Los Angeles, the DJ, as part of his introduction, says "But hey! I got some exciting guests on my show today. Makers of a hit record - visitors from the east....oops, hold on girls. Not THOSE mop-tops!"
  • Waiting for the nationally televised presentation of the group, former drummer Chad wonders about how many viewers would be watching and Guy's father answers asking him how many people saw the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show.
  • At the fictitious west-coast television broadcast the Hollywood Television Showcase, guest host Troy Chesterfield introduces The Wonders by saying, "The latest rock and roll group to challenge The Beatles to a hair-combing contest," referencing the similarity in both bands' unusual hair styles.
  • In the extended version of the film, the act "Paul Pope's Primitive Primates," which is only briefly mentioned in the theatrical cut, portrays four chimpanzees dressed up in suits and wigs, along with British accents, instruments, and the similar name "The Chimples" to mimic The Beatles.


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 springboard 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 listingEdit

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 57 reviews with an average rating of 7.17/10. 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". On Metacritic the film has a score of 71 based on 22 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". The film debuted at No. 3.[14] 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 mediaEdit

Initial releaseEdit

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 DVDEdit

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 DVDEdit

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.[16]

More camera time is also devoted to the tryst 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-releaseEdit

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 releaseEdit

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 alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "That Thing You Do! (1996)". Box Office Mojo. November 15, 1996. Retrieved January 31, 2011.
  2. ^ Hughes, Hilary (April 1, 2020). "With 'That Thing You Do!,' Adam Schlesinger Wrote One of the Best 'Fake' Songs in Film History". Billboard.
  3. ^ Drees, Rich (August 18, 2007). "That Tune You Do: Writing The Music For THAT THING YOU DO". FilmBuffOnline. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
  4. ^ a b Sollosi, Mary (October 4, 2016). "That Thing You Do! 20th anniversary: The Wonders look back". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved April 27, 2017.
  5. ^ "That Thing You Do: Various Artists: Music". Retrieved January 31, 2011.
  6. ^ "KPOL Archive #1". Retrieved January 31, 2011.
  7. ^ Compilation: The Nooney Rickett 4 in Pajama Party on YouTube
  8. ^ Tim Warden. "KCRG 1600 Cedar Rapids Survey 09/22/62".
  9. ^ "45cat - The Wonders [Colpix] - Say There / Marilyn - Colpix - USA - CP 699". 45cat.
  10. ^ Tim Warden. "The Wonders – Say There". Archived from the original on February 3, 2014. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
  11. ^ Both records by the real Wonders can be found on YouTube.[citation needed]
  12. ^ Will Hodgkinson (December 10, 2006). "Sir George Martin". The Guardian.
  13. ^ 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."
  14. ^ Puig, Claudia (October 8, 1996). "Weekend Box Office". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 1, 2011.
  15. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 5, 2016.
  16. ^ Dry, Jude (October 4, 2017). "'That Thing You Do!' Twenty-One Years Later: The Gay Subplot That Never Made it Into Theaters". IndieWire. Retrieved July 27, 2018.

External linksEdit