Comedy, Sports

Tom Wopat in: Kingpin

as: Roy Munson

It’s safe to say that Kingpin, from Nineteen-Hundred and Ninety-Six, is the greatest comedy bowling movie of all time. For this writer’s money, it’s better and funnier than the Farrelly Brothers other, more successful hits There’s Something About Mary and Dumb & Dumber. In fact, I can think of only one way to make the film better: add Tom Wopat.

Because no one could possibly surpass Bill Murray’s performance as Ernie “Big Ern” McCracken, and no one would buy a dashing actor like Wopat as the goofy, wide-eyed Ishmael Boorg, played by Randy Quaid, that leaves Woody Harrelson, the original Roy Munson, as the odd man out.

bowling

Why Not Wopat?

When we first see Roy Munson in Kingpin, he’s winning the 1979 Iowa state amateur bowling championship, and is a strapping young lad at the top of his game. He’s handsome, charismatic, and, of course, a stupendous bowler. Woody Harrelson was enyoungened for these first scenes, sporting a not at all convincing (probably intentionally so) wig and some sharp ‘70s threads.

Right off the bat, casting Tom Wopat as Roy Munson saves money in hair and makeup costs. Unlike Harrelson, Wopat still has a glorious mane of flowing hair, which, as seen in The Dukes of Hazzard, looks like ten million dollars with a ‘70s style job. Dukes showed, too, just how swell Wopat looks in the era’s fashion. He probably has clothes in his closet that are better and nicer than the costume Harrelson sports in this part of the flick. And they’re some really, really good costumes.

Later, after losing his bowling hand in a ball-return chute “accident” orchestrated by Big Ern (they really should put self-closing safety gates on those things), Munson is a bloated, balding shell of his former self. Wopat would’ve had to shave his head, which would have looked weird, but also more realistic than Harrelson’s earlier wig. Harrelson, being bald in real life, looks much more convincing here. I suspect, however, that the cost of shaving Tom Wopat’s head multiple times would’ve been less than that of the wig.

If you’re one of those disgusting ageists, you may argue against Wopat Munson on the grounds that Tom Wopat is a decade older than Woody Harrelson. While that is an accurate statement, I have a counterargument: so is Randy Quaid. In the film, Munson is “mentor” to Quaid’s Ishmael, and is, ostensibly, considerably older. However, Quaid is actually older than Harrelson by nine years, and Wopat by nearly a full year.

Quaid is, in fact, just ten days younger than Bill Murray, who plays his mentor’s mentor in the film and who would be, one would assume, potentially as much as decades older.

Nothing against Harrelson, but Wopat is a far, far more attractive fellow. For better or worse, this would make Munson more likeable, which would, in turn, make the character more sympathetic. Munson’s awful luck and deteriorated physical appearance are part of his sad sack charm—which he needs plenty of, as he’s a huge jerk for much of the film.

Photo credit: josephdevon via Scandinavian / CC BY-NC-SA

Action and/or Adventure, Drama, Television

Tom Wopat in: Game of Thrones

as: Ned Stark

In the blockbuster HBO series Game of Thrones (and the Song of Ice and Fire novels by George R.R. Martin on which the show is based), Eddard “Ned” Stark, is the honorable, loyal, and just lord of Winterfell and warden of the North—a vast portion of the story’s fictional kingdom of Westeros. Originally portrayed by Sean Bean, Ned was the show’s moral center and nominally its main character throughout the first season. However (SPOILER ALERT for a 6-year-old TV episode and a nigh 20-plus-year-old book), in the series’ ninth episode, Ned is executed by the newly-appointed king of Westeros, Joffrey Baratheon.

Always the same weather report with this guy.

Always the same weather report with this guy.

Because Sean Bean’s characters always seem to die in every plum role he plays (see: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring), we thought we’d give the poor guy a break and put someone else in the role, someone whose characters have never died onscreen. We are, of course, referring to the one and only Tom Wopat.

Representative Scene: Outside the Great Sept of Baelor

Ned Wopat, wrongly accused of treason, is forced to plead his case before Queen Cersei Baratheon (nee Lannister), her son Joffrey—who became king after the death of his father Robert—and the King’s Small Council. A huge throng of citizens from King’s Landing (the capitol of Westeros) has gathered to witness the spectacle.

Ned’s daughter, Sansa, has been captured by the Kingsguard—kind of the Westerosi Secret Service, but with a lot more swords and blatant, brutal murders of the King’s enemies. And, since King Joffrey is an insufferable little turd who orders killings left and right, those murders add up quickly. Learning that Sansa’s life is danger, and having struck something of a plea bargain with Cersei and Joffrey, Ned agrees to confess to his “crimes.”

Despite his confession, King Joffrey the Turd orders his goons to execute Ned Wopat anyway. Just as the executioner prepares to swing his sword and behead Ned, a trumpeter, previously hidden in the crowd, blasts out a rousing twelve-note call to arms. A Northern war wagon, painted bright orange, drawn by four of the mightiest chargers in all of Westeros, and driven by a hooded figure, comes barreling toward the sept. King’s Landingers diving out of its way as it speeds onward.

Ned kicks his would-be executioner’s legs out from under him, jumps to his feet, and dives into the cart as it passes. The hood of the driver’s cloak is blown back by the wind, and we see that it is his brother, Brandon Stark (played by John Schneider, naturally), who was long thought to be dead.

Brandon Schneider-Stark pilots the war wagon up the bed of a conveniently-placed-and-tilted-downward flatbed cart. With an exuberant “Yee-haw!” the Stark Boys, horses, and wagon ramp off the cart and fly through the air, up and over the walls of King’s Landing. They land perfectly on the other side, the horses hit the ground running, and they head due north to freedom.

Also, Sansa escapes somehow and meets up with them later.

Photo credit: Jedimentat44 via Foter.com / CC BY

Classics, Kids and/or Family, Sports

Tom Wopat in: The Mighty Ducks

as Hans the Hockey Guru

It may seem as though Tom Wopat is better suited, age- and acting style-wise, for the Gordon Bombay role in The Mighty Ducks. But Emilio Estevez owned that role so hard that it’s nigh impossible to imagine anyone else playing the part. I actually tried to write a “Wopat as Gordon Bombay” post, but I couldn’t get past the first sentence. Emilio Estevez is Gordon Bombay.

That said, Tom Wopat would make a valuable addition to the roster of stars in this family-friendly hockey classic. Joss Ackland is undeniably great as Hans, Gordon’s almost Yoda-like mentor on matters of hockey and the heart. But, Wopat could’ve turned the role into something truly unforgettable.

Key Changes

First off, instead of being a wise, older, family friend of Gordon’s, Hans Wopat would be a wise former peewee hockey teammate who went on to play in the NHL. Naturally, he played for the Minnesota North Stars, and after his career was over, he started building his sporting goods empire in the Minneapolis suburb of Eden Prairie (home of the District 5 peewee team that Gordon coaches).

GOOOOO Ducks!

GOOOOO Ducks!

Second, Hans Wopat would be a man of the times—he didn’t get to be the #1 hockey gear supplier in the State of Hockey by sticking to the old ways. In addition to offering skate sharpening at his shop, Hans Wopat would put himself head and shoulders above the competition by offering custom skate blade replacements. Using input from Gordon and team captain Charlie Conway and a wire EDM system, he would create a new style of blades that would help the Ducks skate faster and with greater agility and control. Hans’s “super skates” would be the Ducks’ secret weapon heading into the championship tournament.

Third, Hans Wopat would get in on the good time hockey shenanigans, taking a part-time role as an assistant coach. This would give Gordon somebody his own age to consult with during games, instead of just stupid whiny Charlie Conway. It would also allow the writers to add more adult—but still family-friendly—humor to the script.

Representative Scene

During a mid-season match against the Hawks, the Ducks’ hated rivals, Hawks coach Jack Reilly orders two of this team’s thugs to take out new Duck (and former Hawk) Adam Banks with a cheap shot. After the damage is done, Hans Wopat bolts from the Ducks’ bench and takes out Reilly with a spinning, Bo Duke-esque karate kick. Hans is then escorted from the hockey arena in handcuffs and is never seen nor heard from again. (As is the case in the real sequel—where the heck did Hans go?)

Photo credit: goaliej54 via Remodel / CC BY-SA

Classics, Comedy, Television

Tom Wopat in: Cheers

as: Sam Malone

Cheers is one of the most beloved television programs of all time, and Ted Danson’s portrayal of Sam Malone was undeniably a huge part of the show’s success. Danson won two Emmys and two Golden Globes for his performance.

Though it’s now quite hard to imagine anyone else in the role, several other actors auditioned for the part first, including Ed O’Neill (who later played Al Bundy in Married…with Children and Jay Pritchett on Modern Family), William Devane (now famous for his role on Knots Landing, among other things), and former NFL player Fred Dryer. John Lithgow missed his scheduled audition due to illness (what a different show that would have been).

What if Tom Wopat had jumped ship from The Dukes of Hazzard after its second season and won the role of “Mayday” Malone?

Wopat the World is blogged in front of a live studio audience.

Key Changes

To be honest, the Sam Malone part wouldn’t have needed many changes with Wopat instead of Danson. Wopat is a few years younger than Danson, but that likely wouldn’t’ve made any difference for the character. Wopat certainly had the right build to portray a former major league baseball player.

One thing that would have been different is the hair. Now, it cannot be denied that Sam Malone sported a glorious, manly mane throughout Cheers’ run. But, in reality, Ted Danson wore a hairpiece for much of that time; Sam ultimately revealed his baldness to Carla in the 1993 episode “It’s Lonely on the Top”. Tom Wopat has no such follicular impairment—in the ‘80s, the guy had hair for days. He still does, of course, it’s just considerably more tame at present.

Another, considerably larger change to the show: Diane never would have left. Tom Wopat’s Sam Malone just would’ve been too derned good looking and suave for it believable that any woman would want to leave him behind. Unfortunately, this would’ve made Cheers a far lesser show, as I feel that it was far better with Kirstie Alley in the cast. (Or, more accurately, without Shelley Long in the cast.)

Photo credit: Mario Sixtus via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Classics, Comedy

Tom Wopat in: The Big Lebowski

as: “The Dude”

This one’s a tough sell, no doubt about it. Jeff Bridges is brilliant in The Big Lebowski because he more or less is The Dude in real life. (If you’ve seen him on The Tonight Show or any other late night talk show, you know exactly what I mean). But, because he pretty much is The Dude anyway, is Bridges’ performance actually that great?

Yeah. It is.

But! What if, instead of casting an actor who more or less played himself, the Coen brothers instead chose an actor who had to stretch a little more? We are, of course, referring to Tom Wopat.

lebowski

Key Changes

At one point in the film, the character of Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski is described as being “maybe […] the laziest man on the planet.” And, indeed, The Dude sets a new standard for laid-back heroes. It’s hard to imagine that any actor other than Jeff Bridges could’ve brought that championship-caliber laziness to the role, no matter how hard said actor tried. (Trying hard to be lazy is your oxymoron of the week, folks.) So, with Tom Wopat in the role, we imagine His Dudeness as at least a bit more energetic.

As is, the story of The Big Lebowski kind of just unfolds around him, and none of his actions necessarily have any effect on the eventual resolution of the plot. In The Big Wopatowski, the slightly-invigorated Dude would be a bit more pro-active. Instead of just following along on Walter’s (John Goodman) crazy scheme to confront Larry about the stolen million dollars, El Duderino himself hatches the plan. The over-the-top conclusion of the scene, in which Walter finds a stranger in the Alps, would remain the same.

Similarly, near the end of the film, when The Dude, Walter, and Donny (Steve Buscemi) are ambushed and (rather pathetically) assaulted by the bizarre trio of Nihilists, Wopat’s The Dude would not stand idly by while Walter does all the fighting. Instead, some of Wopat’s stunt training from The Dukes of Hazzard would come into play, and Duder would trounce all three villains on his own.

This last point would add an extra layer of depth to the character, in a very Zen, Kane from Kung Fu kind of way. He’s lazy, and a self-described pacifist, but when the chips are down, he can completely kick @$$. Ultimately, we discover, that’s why he’s such a laid-back guy—he could knock the snot out of almost anyone, but instead, The Dude abides.

Photo credit: Profound Whatever via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Action and/or Adventure, Television

Tom Wopat in: MacGyver

as: Angus MacGyver (Who else?)

The timing of this one would’ve been perfect, as MacGyver began airing in the fall of 1985, after The Dukes of Hazzard had wrapped up its run in the spring of that year. Sure, Richard Dean Anderson would’ve been out of a job, but with Tom Wopat in the Angus MacGyver role, who would’ve missed him?

No one, that’s who. Wopat FTW!

Representative Scene: Opening Gambit

Obviously, for anyone to be a true MacGyver, they’ve got to do some MacGyvering. Anderson did a more than admirable job of this, as he basically invented it, but we think Tom Wopat could’ve been even better. The two actors share a similar physicality, and at the time had equally spectacular ‘80s hair. Luke Duke knew a thing or two about tinkering, having customized the General Lee to the hilt, so Wopat would likely have felt right at home rocking the Swiss Army Knife.

MacGyver’s “Opening Gambits” are the show’s cold opens where MacGyver MacGyvers his way out of a jam prior to the opening credits. Because they’re largely context-free, with MacGyver already elbow-deep in a mission, the Opening Gambits are a great place to start imagining Wopat in the role.

macgyver

Finding himself locked in a cluttered storage room by an unnamed villain, MacWopat must free himself using only what is readily available around him (as the character so often must).

Though he can’t just pick the dang lock, Tom MacGyver manages to unbolt a lengthy section of the room’s tubular ventilation shaft using just his bare hands. With a wide nylon packing strap he finds on one of the room’s many shelves, he secures the vent tube to a stack of wooden pallets.

MacWopat then stuffs a full beer keg, one of many stored in the corner of the room, into one end of the tube. The other end is pointed at the room’s sole door. He somehow unscrews the pressure gauge from the boiler (because of course that would be in the room, too) and jury rigs it onto the keg’s bunghole.

Using his sweet karate moves, our hero then smashes some of the wooden planks from the shelves into kindling, which he places into a handy metal bucket. He pours out a few bottles of whiskey onto the wood to help it light. However, Wopat then realizes he is sans fire starter. Fortunately, an overflowing ashcan yields a pack of matches.

Placing his bucket of kindling under the exposed end of the keg, MacWopat sets the wood and booze aflame. He watches as the pressure gauge slowly makes its way into the red. When he determines the time is right, Wopat gives the pressure gauge a swift kick. It snaps off, and the resulting jet of superheated beer sends the keg rocketing into the door, smashing it to splinters.

MacWopat escapes into the night. Roll opening credits.

Photo credit: Charles Williams via Foter.com / CC BY

Classics, Drama

Tom Wopat in: The Godfather

as: Michael Corleone

Though it’s hard to imagine anyone but Al Pacino in the role for which he won his first Academy Award nomination, the screen legend was not the film’s producers’ first choice for the part of Michael Corleone. Tom Wopat is not even remotely Italian, but neither are Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, or Ryan O’Neal, all of whom were in the running for the part at one time or another. In fact, the role originally went to James Caan, who ultimately would play Michael’s older brother Sonny in The Godfather.

Basically, what I’m saying here is, Tom Wopat could’ve (and would’ve) been fantastic as Michael Corleone.

"I'll  make him an offer... you know the rest."

“I’ll make him an offer… you know the rest.”

Notes

As The Godfather is essentially a perfect movie, I wouldn’t deign to suggest any major changes in the Michael role. There are, however, a few issues that would’ve needed to be addressed.

Pacino was 31 years old at the time The Godfather was shot; Wopat would’ve been only 20. However, I don’t see this as being a huge problem. In the movie, Michael Corleone is 25, so 20 wouldn’t have been too far off.

And, if the filmmakers worried that Wopat appeared to young, they could have used makeup to make him appear slightly older. They did a bang up job on Marlon Brando in his Oscar winning role as Vito Corleone—Brando was 41 at the time, but was made to look as though he was in his late 50s/early 60s.

Another potential problem is a matter of body type. In the book on which the movie is based, it is stated that Sonny Corleone is a tall, muscly fellow, while younger brother Michael is shorter and slighter. This wasn’t an issue in the actual film, as Caan, at five-foot-nine, really is a few inches taller than Pacino; Caan was also considerably broader than his wiry-framed co-star.

Wopat, however, stands an even six feet and has a more athletic build than Pacino. But, as countless films have shown, height differences can be easily compensated for with very, very basic filmmaking tricks. And, beside a young James Caan, young Tom Wopat would still have been much thinner—simple costuming choices could’ve further disguised this.

Finally, you may be thinking, “Al Pacino is one of the greatest actors of his generation. Could Tom Wopat really have held his own in a film like The Godfather?”

Well, you gosh darn Doubting Thomas, The Godfather was just Pacino’s third film role, and the first in which he had a major part. He was a relative unknown, as Wopat was at the time. Few people outside of Francis Ford Coppola suspected that Pacino was capable of delivering the exceptional performance that he did. Who’s to say that Tom Wopat couldn’t have knocked it out of the park, as well? The man’s got chops aplenty.

Photo credit: alvarezperea via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Kids and/or Family, Science Fiction and/or Fantasy

Tom Wopat in: The Harry Potter Series

as: Severus Snape

For Harry Potter fanatics—and fans of good books in general—Severus Snape is one of the most compelling and complex characters in the stories’ universe. The late, great Alan Rickman’s portrayal of Snape is nothing short of magnificent across all eight Potter films, particularly at the conclusion of the series when the character’s motivations and backstory are completely fleshed out. There are few actors who could’ve delivered a better performance in the role than Rickman.

Tom Wopat is one of them.

Key Changes

First of all, Tom Wopat is decidedly un-British. I’ve never heard him speak with a faux-British accent, but I bet he could totally nail it, because he’s Tom Wopat. However, without Rickman’s unique voice, Snape’s lines would’ve lost some of their snarl. An accented-up Wopat surely would’ve given his readings his own flavor, but different sections of dialogue would’ve stuck in viewers heads as Snape’s “signature” lines.

slytherin

Wopat is roughly five years younger than Rickman—not much of a difference, but it does put him more closely in line with the age the character would’ve been, according to information presented in the books. When the first movie in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (renamed the Sorcerer’s Stone for us Neanderthal Americans), was released in 2001, Wopat was 50 years old. Snape was a classmate of Harry Potter’s parents, and Harry himself is 11 when the story begins. This would mean that Harry’s parents were around 39 when he was born—not exactly how things are described in the books, but 40-ish is a little easier to fudge than 45-ish.

In the film series, particularly the early entries, Harry and his fellow Hogwarts students comment on Snape’s unpleasant appearance. It’s hard to believe that, even with the magic of movie makeup, the filmmakers could’ve uglied up Tom Wopat enough for these lines to land. Instead, the lines would’ve had to be changed. One of the older female students—a friend of Fred and George Weasley, perhaps—could’ve made a comment along the lines of “Professor Snape is so awful, I can’t stand his classes…but he sure is dreamy” or whatever British teenagers say.

Photo credit: Karen Roe via Foter.com / CC BY

Classics, Kids and/or Family, Science Fiction and/or Fantasy

Tom Wopat in: Labyrinth

as: Jareth the Goblin King

I’m sure you’re thinking this one is kind of a stretch, but hear me out…

While their careers couldn’t be more different, both Tom Wopat and the late, great David Bowie were pretty close to the top of the celebrity food chain in 1986 when Labyrinth was released. David Bowie spent most of the year David Bowie-ing, as is his wont. The Dukes of Hazzard had just ended its run on television after seven seasons, so Wopat would’ve been perfectly positioned to make a major move into film work.

labyrinth

Key Changes

For our “Tom Wopat as Jareth the Goblin King” re-imagining of Labyrinth, there are two key issues which must be addressed.

First, the music. Labyrinth is a brilliant, visually stunning movie, but the songs in it are all pretty terrible. Don’t get me wrong, Bowie gave us some genuine masterpieces, but “Magic Dance” is not one of them. (Same goes for the other four tracks the Thin White Duke wrote and recorded for the film). Wopat, being a singer as well, could’ve put a whole different spin on it. He likely would’ve created more organic, folk-inspired songs, which for my money would fit the film better. Why would a mythical creature—like Jareth—in a vaguely Medieval setting—like the labyrinth—sing weird, dancey ‘80s pop? An acoustic guitar (or a lute or whatever) seems more natural to Labyrinth’s world than a synthesizer.

Second, costuming and makeup. Bowie didn’t actually wear any costumes in the movie—he just showed up in his street clothes and they started shooting. I don’t think Wopat would’ve looked quite the same in all that spandex and bright colored makeup; the Jareth costumes would have to be a bit more… earthy, let’s say. Animal pelts/furs and rough-cut leather would be a little more in Jareth Wopat’s wheelhouse, methinks. This direction seems like it would work better with the change in music, as well. Makeup could still be used to give the character a fantastical look, but instead of reds and purples and pinks, maybe dark greens and blues—again, just a bit more organic looking.

Photo credit: 7th Street Theatre via Foter.com / CC BY

Classics, Comedy, Science Fiction and/or Fantasy

Tom Wopat in: The Back to the Future Trilogy

as: Biff Tannen

Wopat as the villain? Back to the Future’s Biff Tannen is one of the all-time great movie bad guys—you couldn’t say he’s a villain, exactly, just a massive jerk who has a way with the word “butthead.” And great though Thomas F. Wilson was in the role, we think Tom Wopat would’ve given it a little something extra by not only making Biff a jerk, but a good-looking jerk. (Which is the very worst kind.)

back to the future

Wopat would, of course, portray the young, middle-aged, and elderly versions of Biff through the magic of movie makeup. He would also play Griff Tannen in Back to the Future Part II and Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen in Back to the Future Part III.

Representative Scene: Café Kerfuffle & Skateboard Chase

Time-traveler Marty (Michael J. Fox) and George McFly (Crispin Glover) are at the counter at Lou’s Café, going over a plan for George to win the heart of Lorraine Baines (Lea Thompson). In walks Biff (Tom Wopat) and his gang of teenage ne’er-do-wells.

“Hey McFly,” Biff Wopat yells to George, “I thought I told you never to come in here. Well, it’s gonna cost you. How much money you got on you?”

Biff advances menacingly toward George, but Marty sticks his leg out and trips him. Biff is quickly back on his feet and now stands towering over the much, much shorter Marty.

“All right, punk,” says Tom Wopat as Biff, “now I’m gonna—”

“Whoa, Biff,” Marty says, pointing out the window over Biff’s shoulder. “What’s that?”

Biff is momentarily distracted, and Marty suckerpunches him in the face. Using the catlike reflexes he displayed in his action scenes in The Dukes of Hazzard, Wopat counters with a jab of his own, then sends Marty flying through the window with a spinning karate kick.

Marty quickly gets back to his feet, shaking shards of broken glass off his jacket. He spots a kid riding a homemade scooter down the street. Marty stops the kid, commandeers the scooter, and breaks it apart, creating a rudimentary skateboard. “I’ll get it back to you, all right?” he says as he skates out of frame.

Biff Wopat and crew emerge from the diner to chase Marty down on foot. With the help of his skateboard and a passing truck, Marty quickly outdistances them. Biff et al get in Biff’s car, a 1940s Ford convertible, inexplicably painted bright orange and with “01” stenciled on the side. (No Confederate flag on the convertible top, though—Biff may be a jerk, but he’s no bigot.)

Biff and company now give chase through the streets of Hill Valley, though Marty continues to elude them. When it appears the bad guys finally have Marty dead to rights, he escapes and sends the Ford barreling into a parked manure truck.

Instead of swerving and crashing broadside into the truck (as in the original film), Biff Wopat guns the engine. The truck’s bed is tilted upward to facilitate the unloading of manure (used as fertilizer), and Wopat uses it to ramp off of, sending his car flying through the air where it lands safely on the other side. He and his goons survive to torment Marty and George another day (of course).

Photo credit: JD Hancock via Foter.com / CC BY