That Thing We Did: We’re ready for our close-up, Mr. Hanks

My boy and me on the set of That Thing You Do with Tom Everett Scott, 1995

“What size?” the wardrobe assistant asked, rifling through a garment rack full of pointy white cotton bras and silky slips, a measuring tape hanging from her neck. I was suddenly acutely aware of the line of women behind me, waiting to pick up their own period-perfect brassieres for the filming of Tom Hank’s directorial debut, That Thing You Do. I briefly debated tying that tape tightly around the wardrobe woman’s neck.

“34?” It came out as barely a squeak. Even with the additional plumpness that comes with motherhood, my breasts would never be called knockers.

She gave me a quick glance, and without asking my cup size, handed me something white and institutional looking — they were all white and institutional looking—the kind of serviceable bra I would have worn myself when I was a teenager in the sixties. 

“I don’t want to wear someone else’s bra. Can’t we just wear our own stuff?” a young brunette behind me in line asked. “It’s not like they’re gonna show, right?” 

“It’s a period film” the wardrobe assistant told her as she held up a full slip, trying to assess whether it would fit me or not. “Clothes hang differently when you wear them over the proper undergarments. We need to make sure the silhouettes are true to the 1960’s.” 

If I had eyes in the back of my head I was certain I would see an eye roll.

“Come on this way” another young woman directed me, a green cardigan and a patterned shirtwaist dress swinging from the hanger in her hand. “So you’re Mark’s wife, huh? He talks about you guys all the time. I’m Sarah. Let’s find something for Mr. Cutey Pie and then you guys can try stuff on.” 

“What’s your name, hon?” she knelt down and held a one piece jumper up to my son’s back.

“Russell” he told her, clear as a bell.


“Russell” I corrected her. “With an R.” And I wondered irritably if my husband talked about us all the time, why she couldn’t get our son’s name right. 

“Russell, hon, would you try this on for me please? I just know you’re going to look so handsome in this. Here, Mom, you guys can go in here.” She handed off the hangers, nodded toward the curtained compartment. 

Mom. Right, that was me. My husband’s wife. Our son’s mom. Seeing that son dressed in a one piece jumper consisting of a white shirt with vaguely puffy short sleeves and blue shorts I couldn’t help but ask if she was sure this outfit was meant for a boy.

“Yeah, I know. Crazy, right? That’s how they dressed little boys back then. Hey, wow! That dress looks great on you. A perfect fit. So what do you think? Feel good?”

“Yeah, I guess so.” Looking in the three way mirror, I had to admit it wasn’t terrible. While I’d hoped for something younger, more glamorous, I was still fighting the weight gain from carrying Russell, if I was honest, I knew I looked just like the typical early 1960’s housewife I was meant to portray. And Russell, standing there grinning in his little one piece playsuit, looked adorable.

“Hey, hey! You’ve got your daddy’s dimple in your chin, huh? Let me just take couple of polaroids and you guys can change back into your own things.” 

“That’s it?”

“That’s it.” 

When we came out of the dressing room she put our things together, safety-pinning manilla labels and our polaroid pictures to the hangers, and put our ‘costumes’ back on the rack. Later someone else would pack them on the wardrobe truck along with the hundreds of other clothes destined for the backs of ‘extras’ and a teamster would drive them to location. 

“See you next week in Orange,” she said, giving Russell a smiling wave goodbye.

We were ready for our closeup. 

That Thing You Do: Making Movie Magic

Part One  We’re Ready for Our CloseUp Mr. Hanks
Part Two  Making Movie Magic
Part Three  High Five: Get Set, Ready to Roll
Part Four  Extras Holding
Part Five  The Opening Credits, Our One Second of Fame  

This #MondayMemoir piece took place when we were living on Grandview Blvd in LA in 1995. For future reference I’ll file it under the On the Street Where I Lived tab at spot # 32. 


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