That Thing You Do Was Almost A Totally Different Movie

That Thing You Do Mr. White and The Wonders in a group photo

If That Thing You Do was an album, the watch party commentary from the recent Wonders reunion would be the ultimate liner notes. Throughout the evening’s tribute to writer/director, and recent SNL guest host, Tom Hanks’ classic comedy, and the late Adam Schlesinger’s timeless classic of a song, there were some interesting facts that came to light, thanks to all participating. One of the things we learned is that in earlier versions of the film, things played out rather differently.

As it turns out, an entirely different first act was supposed to detail The Wonders’ rise to fame, leading up to the pivotal moment where the group hears the song on the radio for the first time at Patterson’s Appliances. During the commentary, which saw Tom Everett Scott, Steve Zahn, Ethan Embry and Johnathon Schaech trading stories and raising money for a good cause, special guest star and unofficial That Thing You Do historian Colin Hanks came on board and dug deep into his memories of the film’s production.

With a memory as sharp as a tack, and a message about where his father’s character from the film is today, Colin Hanks and Tom Everett Scott told the following story about where That Thing You Do’s first act went in an earlier draft:

Colin Hanks: Did you guys ever read the version of the script where The Wonders/The One-ders actually got a gig playing at a church camp? And that was like a majority of the first act. Did anyone read that?Tom Everett Scott: Yeah, the first script I got, they go to a camp, a summer camp. And there was some bit with a kid who was always covered in Calamine lotion.Hanks: Per summer camp film tradition, I’m sure.Scott: And I think that’s where, maybe, Guy and Faye first hang out?Hanks: That was where they first hang out, and I think that’s where the recording in a church kinda came [in]. That was the only thing that kinda survived, and that’s went all the way up to them hearing the song on the radio for the first time.

The scene that survived the late hour culling was where The Wonders record That Thing You Do’s title track in a church, thanks to the aid of Guy’s Uncle Bob, played by recording artist/actor Chris Isaak. The simple fix that kept this scene, and allowed Tom Hanks’ script to change The Wonders’ whirlwind tour of fame to include some stops at the Mercy Hearst Talent Show and Villapiano’s Italian Restaurant, was that Uncle Bob was a producer of church music.

So instead of Liv Tyler’s Faye bonding with Tom Everett Scott’s Guy at said church camp, the eventual lovers of That Thing You Do’s surprise romance would meet at the diner, on that first day Guy chatted up the then fledgling band. However, that’s not the end to the huge changes that the film would see.

Another interesting tidbit of That Thing You Do trivia came towards the end of the watch party commentary, and it naturally covered the original coda to the film’s story about one-hit Wonders. According to Colin Hanks’ veritable encyclopedia of film knowledge, we were originally going to see bellhop/jazz aficionado Lamarr (Obba Babatundé) end the film very differently:

Hanks: There had been a whole sequence too where [Lamarr] turns to camera and starts talking to the camera about what happened to The Wonders.Steve Zahn: Yeah, so he broke the fourth wall?Hanks: He did break the fourth wall. But I remember, actually to show how many stages of this movie [there were], they test screened this movie in Sacramento, when I was still living up there, and I went to a test screening. And I remember the audience saying that it felt odd that the fourth wall was broken at the last moment. So maybe come up with some better things that happened to The Wonders. So that's how all of this stuff happened.

The ending that That Thing You Do would eventually land on was a series of photos detailing where each member of the group wound up in their futures. Though if you were wondering where Mr. Amos White landed in his life, he’s retired with his boyfriend Floyd (played in an extended cut scene by Howie Long).

While there were a lot of aspects that Tom Hanks’ director’s cut of That Thing You Do actually drew in better context, the original ending is one of those deleted moments that still hasn’t seen the light of day. It would be interesting to see how The Wonders’ lives were originally supposed to play out, with Obba Babatundé’s Lamarr breaking that fourth wall barrier to inform us.

Perhaps next year’s 25th anniversary will provide the opportunity to give the world another re-release of That Thing You Do, be it as a theatrical event or a new home video restoration. But for now, the fact that such new and exciting details have come to light have given the world more insight into how That Thing You Do could have been an extremely different movie. Also, Colin Hanks should consider going into business as the official historian for this particular film, because his knowledge is pretty deep.

That Thing You Do is available to stream through Cinemax and can be purchased or rented on Digital HD, Blu-ray, and DVD. Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for all the latest updates in the movies realm.

But if you consider yourself a big tipper, there’s a first pressing of the future Mondo vinyl release of the soundtrack waiting for you to make a bid. Either way, it’s a generous gesture for a good cause, and a rockin’ classic.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.