It’s been nearly two decades since That Thing You Do!, but Johnathon Schaech still cherishes good memories from Erie, Pennsylvania! The actor, who played lead singer Jimmy Mattingly in the 1996 musical comedy, reflected on The Wonders and his former costars during a Reddit Q&A on Tuesday, Jan. 6.
Written and directed by Tom Hanks, the fan-favorite film followed a fictional ’60s pop band that made it big with their smash hit “That Thing You Do.” After hooking up with manager Mr. White (Hanks), it seemed like nothing could stop the small-town group — that is, until Jimmy’s ego and his fallout with girlfriend Faye Dolan (Liv Tyler) got in the way of their success. (Among other things.)
“I think that Liv is so lovable that it made him more of a beast than he was. He was just an artist caught up in what he was doing,” Schaech, 45, explained to fans Tuesday. “Most people get a kick out of Jimmy,” he added. “They’re usually very excited because they are a musician and they love that movie and I represent someone from their band.”
Even so, his character’s famous line “Should have dumped you in Pittsburgh!” still has fans reeling. “I had one kid after that movie give me a pout and try to kick me one time (he was a 10-year-old kid) so I had to explain to him it was just a movie,” the Vice star said. “People look at that film and think I’m like that in real life. I can be very very brooding but also very very sweet.”
Schaech starred in the movie alongside Tom Everett Scott (Guy Patterson, aka Shades), Steve Zahn (Lenny Haise), and Ethan Embry (T.B. Player). The trio had long training sessions to prep for their musical performances, which helped them get further into character.
“We were able to play all the songs, the chords, every single note. It was back in a time when people cared about film, and when they taught you what you’re supposed to learn,” said Schaech, who had no prior guitar-playing experience. “I just wanted to play guitar. And I got a chance to learn more than just basic chords.” Singer Mike Viola provided the vocals off-screen.
“They didn’t want an unknown singer, they wanted an unknown actor,” Schaech explained. “So one thing Tom would do — we would perform, prior to the film, for all the Sony executives. So during the course of filming it, sometimes Tom would take down the playback and bring up the volumes on our instruments and on my incredible vocals, haha! And it was very funny.”
“Tom Hanks was amazing then, he’s amazing now. Working with him was just…an awe-inspiring experience,” he added of the Oscar winner. “He’s as friendly as you can get. Gave me incredible confidence in interacting.”
It’s obvious how proud Schaech is of the film and what the fictional Playtone artists have left behind. “It was an amazing experience. It’s the one film that everyone, when they see it, they love it,” he said. “They play it non-stop on television. People are constantly rediscovering it, and new generations are coming to rediscovering it, musicians love it, I’ve made so many friends in the music world – when they recognize that I’m Jimmy from THAT THING YOU DO, every single one of ’em says ‘That’s like my band!’ That film is a feel-good movie.”