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Like a County Fair Without the Pig Races

RSVP / INTO THE NIGHT

October 02, 1996|MARK EHRMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Scene: A crowd of about 2,000 poured into Century City's very '80s-looking Cineplex Odeon Century Plaza on Monday night for the premiere of Tom Hanks' writing and directorial debut, 20th Century Fox's "That Thing You Do," which opens this weekend.

It was an anachronistic choice of venue, considering this is a period film chronicling the trajectory in the early '60s of a fictional one-hit-wonder band called The Wonders. Hanks also stars in the film along with his wife, Rita Wilson, Liv Tyler, Johnathon Schaech, Steve Zahn and Ethan Embry. Period flavor was more in evidence at the post-screening party in the parking lot across the street, which was done up to look like the Illinois County Fair, circa 1964 (site of a pivotal Wonders gig).

Who Was There: Hanks, Wilson and all the major cast members were present as well as producer Jonathan Demme. Many other celebs turned up to cheer Hanks on, including Ron Howard, Holly Hunter, Gary Sinise, Ellen DeGeneres, Elle MacPherson, Bill Paxton, Christine Lahti, Goldie Hawn, Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen. This being Monday, many made it an early night and skipped the party.

What They Wore: More to the point, what didn't they wear. For a film that reveled in '60s ambience, there was nary a Nehru jacket or Beatle boot in sight. Most guests seemed to have come straight from the office.

Chow and Decor: Fox went all out to make this one fun, fun, fun. There was a Ferris wheel and other carny rides and game booths. Casual eats were more prevalent than haute cuisine--cotton candy, candy apples, In-N-Out burgers, chili, chicken, ribs, fries and a tent full of "blue ribbon" pies. One big omission, though, occurred in the starch department. Except for the buns that came with the dogs and burgers, there was not a roll or slice of bread anywhere.

The Buzz: A nonverbal exit poll found many toes tapping and lips humming, suggesting that this film may be headed for a ride up the box office equivalent of the Billboard charts.

Been There / Done That: "You know, I've been told that you're supposed to be prepared for these three days that leave their watermark, I guess you'd call it," said Hanks, the undisputed star of the party. "Those are the ones where you first start filming, the day you finally stop filming and then the premiere. And, for me, every one of them has been met with a kind of 'OK, all right. Now, what's the next thing?' "

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