The state fair entertainment circuit of the mid-60s (upon which Hanks based the movie) actually existed until the mid-80s. Midwestern fair managers (and probably other geographic areas) would work together on routing and negotiate lowered performers' fees as a group.
Film debut of Tom Everett Scott. Tom Hanks was initially opposed to hiring Scott because of Scott's strong resemblance to a younger Hanks. He was finally convinced by his wife, Rita Wilson, who thought Scott was cute.
Tom Hanks named the beach band (Capn' Geech and the Shrimp Shack Shooters) after two seafood restaurants near Beaufort, South Carolina, where many scenes in Forrest Gump (1994) were filmed. Captain Geech's was on Lady's Island, but is now closed. The Shrimp Shack is still open for business on St. Helena Island.
Adam Schlesinger, the bassist of Fountains of Wayne, penned the title song in response to a contest being held by the studio. Their song won, being used in the movie. The movie was released shortly after their first album.
When the Oneders are playing at Boss Vic Koss' show in Pittsburgh, one of the other band names on the theater marquee is "Marilyn Lovell & The Geminis". This is a tribute to the wife of Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell (played by Tom Hanks in Apollo 13 (1995)) and the NASA space program.
Parallels with The Beatles: (1) The Wonders' original band name (The Oneders) is a play on words involving music nomenclature. (2) "That Thing You Do" is a sped-up version of a slow ballad ("Please Please Me" for The Beatles). (3) In The Beatles' appearance in The Ed Sullivan Show: Episode #17.19 (1964), a shot of John Lennon is accompanied by the caption "Sorry Girls, He's Married". In this film, Mattingly is shown with the caption "Careful Girls, He's Engaged" during their national TV debut. (4) Both acts first reached fame after replacing their original drummer. (5). Each group loses its original bass player (The Beatles' original bassist Stuart Sutcliffe died and The Wonders' bassist joins the Marines). (6). Last-minute, temporary replacement: The Wonders' bassist had to be replaced after he disappeared; during part of The Beatles' 1964 world tour, drummer Jimmy Nicol had to sit in for Ringo Starr, who was undergoing an emergency tonsillectomy. (7) In the extended cut, it's shown that the group's manager, Mr. White, has a boyfriend. The Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein, was also gay. (8) When The Wonders are running to their cars in Wisconsin to catch a plane to "the coast", Faye (Liv Tyler) gets mistaken for a female fan and stopped by the police from following the band. A similar incident happened when The Beatles were traveling to see Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. While running to board a train, John Lennon's then wife, Cynthia Lennon, was stopped because she was mistaken for a female fan. Unlike the film's version, no one came back to retrieve Cynthia before the train left the station.
During the montage of clips while a song plays, we see the band cavorting on a large map of the United States. At one point, one of the characters falls off of his bicycle at approximately the location of Cleveland, Ohio. This is because before becoming famous, Tom Hanks spent years there acting in local theater, and remains to this day a die-hard Cleveland Indians fan. The "stumble" therefore represents his time spent there on his way to national stardom.
Homeland Security Director (and Erie native) Tom Ridge, then the governor of Pennsylvania, visited the set during production and presented Tom Hanks with a Zippo lighter that was engraved with the film's logo (Hanks collects Zippos, which are manufactured in Pennsylvania.)
While trying to decide on a name for the band, the names glimpsed in Jimmy's notebook are: The Dollars, The Lords of Erie, The Pistunes, The Thorns, The Mozarts, The Echoes, The Ticks, The Didoctics, and The Flannels.
The scene where The Wonders perform live on The Hollywood Television Showcase was filmed at the Bob Barker Studio (Studio 33) at CBS Television City in Hollywood, California where the long-running hit game show The Price Is Right (1956) is taped.
The characters Jimmy Mattingly (played by Johnathon Schaech) and Lenny Haise (played by Steve Zahn) of The Wonders, have the same last names of the two astronauts Ken Mattingly and Fred Haise in the movie Apollo 13 (1995), which starred Tom Hanks.
On the May 12, 2015 broadcast of Hallmark Channel's Home & Family (2012), Johnathon Schaech recounted a story that described how he made up the "I quit" song on the spot during his audition, and it got him the job.
The story of the Wonders continued in the liner notes of the film's soundtrack album. It was revealed that following the group's appearance on the "Hollywood Television Showcase", "That Thing You Do!" rose to #2 in "Billboard". Jimmy's career with the Heardsmen was also detailed a little further, indicating that they recorded "I Need You (That Thing You Do)" and "She Knows It", the songs heard over the movie's end credits. The liner notes are attributed to A.M. White (as in Mr. White), who supposedly later became president of the Playtone label.
The television commercial that is shown on the Hollywood Showcase before The Wonders appear is for the new Ford Mustang at the 1964 World's Fair. It was broadcast on all three major networks simultaneously on April 19, 1964.
In the theatrical version of the film, Guy's sister Darlene only has one line - after her father announces that Guy left them "in a lurch" and promotes her, she asks: "Does that mean that you will start paying me?". In the extended cut however she has more lines, including berating Guy for mentioning their competition's name in home appliances when he pitches Tina's idea to their father at the shop.
In the extended cut of the film, when Phil Horace goes to Patterson's to tell Guy about the showcase, the song that can be heard playing in the background is the same song that the trio is playing at The Blue Spot, later on.
The Wonder's song debuts at 93, then climbs to 71 and 49 in successive weeks, as shown on edited Billboard Hot 100 lists from July 1964. The actual songs that were replaced on these lists were "All My Loving" by The Hollyridge Strings (93 on 7/4/64), "I Can't Hear You" by Betty Everett (71 on 7/11/64) and "Share Your Love With Me" by Bobby Bland (49 on 7/18/64).
Toni Basil, who recorded the song Mickey (1981) was the choreographer. In Mickey, she sings the line "You take me by the heart when you take me by the hand." The Chantrellines sing "I want you to know, when you hold me hand, you hold my heart."
Mr. White's (Tom Hanks) first name is 'Andy'. (revealed only once; when Play-Tone President, Sol Siler, (Alex Rocco) is interrupted by Jimmy (Johnathon Schaech) while Sol stuffs himself with a deli sandwich and angrily retorts: "ANDY, What in the bloody hell is this? Auditions during my lunchtime?..."; at that point, Mr. White pulls Jimmy away.) (Andy is also the name of the boy in the Toy Story movies, whose favorite toy is "Woody", voiced by Tom Hanks.)
During the scene where the members of the Oneders hear their song on the radio for the first time inside the Patterson's Appliances, the same couple walks in front of the store at the beginning of the scene and then again at the end of the scene.
In real life, no film producer would ever allow a group like the Wonders with a hot hit record to appear in a teen-oriented movie under a fake name, such as 'Captain Geech and the Shrimp Shack Shooters'. The Frankie and Annette Beach Party movies of the era, as well as all their many imitators, always included hit recording artists in abundance. Little Stevie Wonder, the Supremes, the Righteous Brothers, the Animals, Sonny & Cher, and many more appeared in period beach party movies, increasing the marquee value of such films.
The version of "That Thing You Do!" that was played at the Hollywood Showcase in the film, has a much louder and more arena sounding crowd on the soundtrack CD. In reality, it would have had a much smaller studio audience sound.
Once their single charts, the boys are shown playing new instruments that are historically accurate. TB Player has a Fender Jazz Bass, Lenny has a Fender Jaguar and Jimmy plays a Rickenbacker 360/12 (Model 360, 12 string). The 360/12 was introduced in 1964 with one of the first instruments presented to and played by George Harrison of the Beatles.
Boss Vic Koss' secretary is played by Kathleen Kinmont, and is named Abby. In her scenes, Kinmont has a striking resemblance to her mom, Abby Dalton, who was a major television star in the 60s, when That Thing You Do! was set.
Rick Elias: Contemporary Christian singer and songwriter, Rick Elias as the guitarist seated behind Jimmy during Diane Dane's rehearsal. Elias is also co writer on four songs from the film, "I Need You (That Thing You Do)", "She Knows It", "All My Only Dreams", and "Dance With Me Tonight".
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
According to the soundtrack's liner notes; 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, and Mr. White was promoted to president of the Play-Tone label.