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Book Excerpt: Talk '90s with Me by Matt Pais

We are proud to present an excerpt from Talk '90s with Me by Matt Pais, in stores and online now. Get a copy here. And here's the official description of the book, followed by an excerpted interview with Tom Everett Scott, star of "That Thing You Do!".


Jurassic Park.” “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” “That Thing You Do!” “Boy Meets World.” “A League of Their Own.” “Home Alone.” “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.” “Doug.” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” “Newsies.” “American Pie.” “Cool Runnings.” “The Mighty Ducks.” These are not just movies and shows. They are legends, and for so many who grew up in the ‘90s, important markers of our childhood. If you could ask the stars behind these classics anything—with the purpose of taking conversations in different directions than any they’ve had before—what would you say? What would you learn?

In “Talk ‘90s with Me,” each interview begins by exploring the subject’s own ‘90s nostalgia and then poses topics they've never discussed. It creates a blend of memories and analysis that’s fresh and unexpected, fun and thought-provoking, silly and profound—offering something new to remember (including exclusive, stump-your-friends trivia!) while honoring the movies and shows you’ll never forget.

Maybe it feels like getting a drink with the stars; maybe it just feels like the kind of long phone call that people had a lot more in the ‘90s.


Just because an actor broke out while playing a fantastically nice person and constantly has come off that way in interviews for more than two decades doesn’t mean that when connecting for an interview they’ll be doing something kind and generous like, say, helping a brother-in-law move.

But, in fact, that’s exactly what Tom Everett Scott, aka objectively nice, likable drummer Guy Patterson in universally beloved nice guy Tom Hanks’ 1996 directorial debut “That Thing You Do!” is doing just before he calls. Not only that, but when I ask his preference among a batch of other movies from that year, he wants to give attention to and comment on each one, rather than just pick a favorite. A warm, present thing not everyone would do, which also goes for a remarkably endearing detail he shares about something he did on the set of Hanks’ film. Via email after our interview, he doesn’t just confirm the spelling of important educators in his life but includes additional praise and a link to an article about his middle-school music director retiring.

Of course, despite “That Thing You Do!” being an extraordinary movie about a young band’s fast rise and abrupt disintegration that is just as lovable now as when it came out, Scott shouldn’t be defined by just the one role. Though his time as a leading man (“American Werewolf in Paris,” “Dead Man on Campus”) was short-lived, he has worked steadily in the years since, with significant co-starring and supporting roles in everything from “ER” to “La La Land” to “13 Reasons Why” to “Boiler Room” to “Law and Order” to “One True Thing” to “I’m Sorry.” 

When you think back to the ‘90s, what’s something you’re nostalgic for? It could be absolutely anything. 

Starbucks still had kind of a mystique about it. You could still go to a video store. You could still browse the aisles of a video store. I miss that. My wife and I would spend more time looking for a movie to watch than actually watching the movie. And argue about which we were going to rent that night, and it never mattered what we got because she’d always fall asleep 15 minutes in. I guess I miss—there was a simplicity to it. I miss that simplicity of not being reachable at all times. That you could just rely on people leaving you a message on your voice machine. You know what I mean? It’s hard to even imagine that now, right?

Absolutely. It’s such an instinctual thing to check email or texts. People have to actively not do it as opposed to actively do it. 

Yeah, that’s a great way of putting it. You’re right. We just spend way too much time on our smartphones. We’re so inundated with this constant communication that it’s hard to even imagine that the only way you would really hear from anybody was over the phone, on a voicemail, if you weren’t home to pick up the phone when it rang or calling your machine from a pay phone and listening to your messages. That’s how you would meet friends out if you were out. If plans changed, you’d have to check your voice messages! It’s really crazy. How old are you? I don’t know; am I talking to somebody that remembers this?

Yeah, I’m 38. So I definitely remember. Even after college, which was now a long time ago, I think of how many texts or calls went back about the plan and settling things by conversation. And now that people have families and kids, the type of communication—one thing I wrote down to myself of an example that comes to mind for me about the ‘90s is having good conversations over the phone with friends. That just is not common anymore. 

Exactly. You could just be on the phone forever. When I moved to New York City in ‘92; I was there from ‘92-2001, but right after college—you were texting after college. We weren’t even texting. I would, like, sit on my fire escape. I lived in Manhattan; I was in Midtown. I was in this—not crappy because they were redone. They were called floor-through apartments or railroad apartments, where you had to walk through one room to get to the next room. I shared it with a couple guys, and we had the phone connected [near] the fire escape. You’d just open the window, sit on the fire escape, and we were all smoking cigarettes back then. We were stupid kids, not really caring about our health. So we were smoking cigarettes out on the fire escape and having long-ass conversations, and actually it was on that phone that Tom Hanks called me personally to ask me to be in “That Thing You Do!” And that whole process of him getting in touch with me was I had auditioned and I was waiting to hear back, and it had been an audition, a callback, a reading with Liv Tyler, a meeting with Jonathan Demme and then just waiting and feeling like it was close, it was going to happen maybe, and my agent was like, “Well, I’m going out for dinner tonight, and I’ll have my pager on me.” [Laughs] Or whatever device. And Tom Hanks called me at home in that apartment on that little phone by the fire escape. And I remember him asking me if I wanted to be in his movie, and I had to think about it for one millisecond. Yeah. That’s how I got my first film. That’s how I got my big break from Mr. Hanks, who is like a god to me.

That’s such a memorable location and image. When you’re going to get good news, being in a place where jumping for joy could lead to you plummeting several stories might not be the best place. 

[Laughs] My then-girlfriend, now-wife, Jenni, we were there together. We were living there for a month before we were going to move in together for the first time. And she was there, and we were holding the phone between us listening to Tom Hanks talk on the phone. We were giddy. 

I’m sure! Before we move on, I have to ask if you remember anything about the video store debates between you two that you mentioned before. 

Yeah. So our local place was called Channel Video. Channel Video was on Columbus Avenue between 83rd and 84th or 82nd and 83rd. It was right in that neighborhood. We would walk up there. There was a basement. On the street-level floor there was VHS, and then downstairs was the new DVD collection. And the really good stuff was the Criterion collection. I remember looking for foreign films and documentaries. We considered ourselves fairly hip and intelligent, so we wanted to find cool stuff like that. We were usually on the same page, but sometimes you’re not in the mood for that. Sometimes you just want to watch a mindless comedy. So the debates were usually when one of us wanted to watch a foreign film and you’d be like, “Ah, subtitles.” But the other one would be like, “Yeah, but I want to be smarter.”

I wonder if anyone ever rented a subtitled foreign version of “Tommy Boy” just to feel like they were splitting the difference. 

Oh, man, what a smart thing to do! Like, “Here’s what we’ll do. [Laughs] This is ‘Tommy Boy’ dubbed in Chinese, but with the English subtitles.” That’s not bad; that’s a good compromise. Doesn’t matter; my wife would be asleep in 15 minutes. She’d just put her feet in my lap, tell me to rub them, and be like a hypnotist. Boom; right out.

“That Thing You Do!” came out in 1996. From the following list of other movies from that year, what struck the biggest chord with you and why: “Swingers,” “A Time to Kill,” “Space Jam,” “Primal Fear,” “Multiplicity,” “Sling Blade,” “Jerry Maguire.” 

OK, so a couple of those I haven’t even ever seen. I’ve never seen “Space Jam.” I know that’s going to freak you out because you’re 38, but I’m 50, and it didn’t hit me. I didn’t get hit by “Space Jam.” I missed it. And my kids aren’t really sporty, so they didn’t watch it either. And they’re older now, so I apologize for not seeing “Space Jam.” I know people love it. “Multiplicity,” I know that’s Michael Keaton, and I know that Julie Bowen, who was in “American Werewolf in Paris” with me, was in “Multiplicity,” but I didn’t see that either. “A Time to Kill,” that was a John Grisham novel, maybe?

It was. 

Who starred in that? I can’t remember.

That was Matthew McConaughey, Ashley Judd and Samuel L. Jackson

Yeah. I know it, and I probably saw it, but I don’t really remember it. The obvious choice is “Swingers” because I went to the premiere. I’ve seen the movie multiple times since. It resonated with me because I was an actor and went through all the stuff that those guys went through. We were all coming out at the same time. “Swingers,” I love that movie. So that’s the obvious answer for me. But what were the other ones?

I said “Primal Fear,” “Sling Blade,” “Jerry Maguire.” 

I loved “Sling Blade.” I was talking like that guy for weeks after that. Billy Bob. “Sling Blade” is a good movie. That was the first time I’d seen Dwight Yoakam ever do any acting; he’s a good actor. And the late, great John Ritter is fantastic in that movie. I love “Sling Blade.” So that’s a close second. What were the other ones?

I appreciate it. I don’t want you to feel like you have to comment on each one. I was just asking your preferences. 

I do. That’s how I am. I’m very thorough.

That’s excellent. “Primal Fear” and “Jerry Maguire” were the others. 

I don’t remember what “Primal Fear” was about. Was that Harrison Ford?

That was Edward Norton’s breakout in the dual role. 

Oh yeah, yeah yeah yeah. That’s right. He switches to that other guy. The courtroom drama. It was OK; to me it’s not a memorable movie outside of it being Ed Norton’s breakout. And “Jerry Maguire,” I really like that. I may have maybe only seen it once or twice, but I really enjoyed it. I got to work with Renee Zellweger after that, and we stayed friends and we have the same manager. I love Renee very much. I think she’s amazing in that movie. I like that movie; I think that movie has some very memorable moments. For me it’s “Swingers,” and then “Sling Blade” probably second.

I appreciate how thorough you are. That speaks volumes. 

[Laughs] Yeah. I don’t know. Ask my wife how wonderful that is. [Laughs]

 

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