Mary Benjamin was dizzy.
Within minutes, she would find herself face to face with The Wonders – or at least, the actors who played the fictional rock band from the 1996 film “That Thing You Do!”
Sporting a Wonders t-shirt and carrying a handful of posters and pens, Benjamin, 34, admitted she was only 10 when the film hit the big screen.
Nevertheless, she remained “obsessed” by it.
So much so that when the Erie Seawolves hosted a 25-year Wonders reunion on a recent Saturday at UPMC Park, she traveled over seven hours from the Hudson Valley area of upstate New York to there. to assist.
“There is really quite a fandom in this movie,” Benjamin said. “It’s about the music. Pleasure. Hope. “
It’s also about Erie.
While 25 years have passed since The Wonders “made it to the Billboard charts”, the people of Erie still consider the group – which, in the film, was from Erie – a beloved part of the story. of the city’s pop culture.
“Fans of Erie adopted (the film) as their own and it’s something that has never really happened in my career,” said Tom Everett Scott, who played the band’s drummer Guy ‘ Shades’ Patterson.
“It was also my first film. I was 25 years old. And Tom Hanks, my idol, who was directing, chose me from a crowd of actors. So everything that happened afterward was icing on the cake. And coming to Erie is a very special cherry.
Steve Zahn, who played Leonard ‘Lenny’ Haise, the band’s lead guitarist, agreed, saying the enduring support from Erie fans is a real testament to the quality of the film.
“Box office success isn’t a good example of how to determine success, it’s really longevity,” he said. “I have made successful films, but nothing like that. It was not a success. We did not win an exorbitant amount of money. But it’s a success because it lasted over time.
“That Thing You Do! », Which tells the story of four young men in 1964 who form a band and succeed thanks to a catchy song – the namesake of the film – was not shot in Erie but rather in the city of Orange. , California, which has been converted to look like a ’60s Erie.
Johnathon Schaech, who played singer James “Jimmy” Mattingly II, said Erie was more symbolic, “the essence of a small town” that people could relate to.
“Erie has always represented ‘my little town’, and the movie is about chasing a dream that takes you away,” he said. “There comes a day in everyone’s life when the dream you dream of becomes ‘that thing you do’.”
Ethan Embry, who played “TB Player,” the band’s bassist, was unable to attend Saturday’s reunion due to health and safety protocols associated with a television series he is filming.
Embry did, however, appear via Zoom during the reunion roundtable, in which he expressed his gratitude to fans.
The panel discussion, chaired by SeaWolves broadcaster Greg Gania in front of a crowd of around 100 fans, featured several questions, mostly from Twitter fans, about Tom Hanks; memories from the film set; fan meetings; and casting and rehearsal anecdotes.
Zahn talked about improvisation and his joke during a card game scene – “You have to be quick with me. I’m from Erie, dad. – was improvised on the spot.
Scott said he received “boxes of VHS tapes” on Erie shortly after his casting, which included old commercials and news from WJET-TV, a memory that drew cheers and laughter from the crowd. .
After the chat, the cast participated in a fan meet and then launched the first SeaWolves game pitch.
The SeaWolves wore custom Wonders jerseys which were auctioned off online. Proceeds from the auction were donated to NoticeAbility, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping students with dyslexia identify their unique strengths and boost their self-esteem.
Gania said around 3,500 tickets have been pre-sold for the meeting, rivaling ticket sales on July 4.
After the game, participants watched a screening of “That Thing You Do! on the UPMC Park video card from the grass in the outfield.
For fans of the film, the experience was an unforgettable night.
“I was really drawn to the idea of having a dream, how quickly it can happen and how quickly it can go,” said Jimmy Boyce, a self-proclaimed “superfan” of the Chicago film. “It’s a metaphor for life. You have to capture those times when they are there because there is no guarantee that they will always be there later.