Tom Wopat in: Mrs. Doubtfire

as: Stu Dunmeyer

With the late, great Robin Williams giving one of his best and funniest performances in the title role, you’re forgiven if you don’t remember who Stu Dunmeyer is in Mrs. Doubtfire. It’s Pierce Brosnan’s character, the suitor of Williams’ character’s ex-wife (played by Sally Field).

Surely you know where this is going: Tom Wopat is your new Stu Dunmeyer. It’s a B-level part at best, but there is not a snow cone’s chance in Phoenix that the biggest male part in this flick (Daniel Hillard/Mrs. Doubtfire, duh) could be played by anyone but Williams, and there are few roles, no matter how big or small, that can’t benefit from Wopatization.

Probably the scariest image of Mrs. Doubtfire you'll ever see.

Probably the scariest image of Mrs. Doubtfire you’ll ever see.

Key Changes

In Mrs. Doubtfire, Dunmeyer is not really the “bad guy,” per se, he’s more of a charming boor who rubs Williams’ character the wrong way simply because he’s dating his ex-wife. He’s kind of a jerk on several occasions, something that he can more or less skate by with because he’s so dang good-looking and has a splendid British accent. Viewers aren’t exactly supposed to like the character, but we’re not supposed to really dislike him, either.

Tom Wopat has no doubt got the “good looking” part covered, but he hasn’t the accent to go with it. That being the case, it seems like the character’s boorishness would be a harder sell. It might be that, with Wopat as Stu, a bit of a rewrite would be necessary. Either play up Stu being a jerk more, or have him be the same charming guy and up Hillard/Doubtfire’s irrational dislike of the guy. If done well, the latter idea seems like it would be the more comically fertile. Written right, it wouldn’t take away from Williams’ or Wopat’s characters’ likeability, it would just make their interactions funnier.

Additionally, a scene or two that showcased Wopat’s action-oriented skills (honed on The Dukes of Hazzard) would be a good comedic addition. Sure, Brosnan was James Bond, but he didn’t make his first 007 film until two years after Mrs. Doubtfire, so he was not yet established as a big-screen action guy (Remington Steele doesn’t count, because it’s a TV show). Read on for more thoughts on this particular angle.

Representative Scene

Mrs. Doubtfire contains a short but very funny scene where the Hillard family, along with Mrs. Doubtfire and Stu, are hanging out at a swimming pool. Fed up with Stu’s smarmy charm, Mrs. Doubtfire hucks a lime at Stu from the opposite side of the pool, hitting him in the back of the head, leading to one of my personal favorite lines in the film: “It was a run-by fruiting!”

In our Wopatized version, Stu spots the incoming citrus out of the corner of his eye and executes a spin kick that knocks the lime out of the air and splatters fruit pulp everywhere. “Oh my,” Mrs. Doubtfire shouts across the pool, “dodged a bullet there, laddie. It was a run-by fruiting!”

 Photo credit: henrivzq / Foter / CC BY

Tom Wopat in: The Living Daylights & License to Kill

as: James Bond

Fifty-plus years and 23 movies (and counting) into the series, the James Bond films are still going strong. Six different actors have played the lead roles over the years, the “bad guys” constantly change to reflect the sociopolitical landscape of the real world, and the overall quality of the films has varied greatly (put Moonraker up against Skyfall, for example), but one thing has remained a constant: James Bond is the man.

Of the half-dozen Bonds, two have been very, very good (Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig), but only one has been truly irreplaceable—Sean Connery, the original and still the best. With this in mind, we set out to recast one of the more forgettable Bonds with Tom Wopat. Timothy Dalton’s run seemed like the best fit.

Key Changes

First and foremost, Tom Wopat would’ve been the first American James Bond. It’s impossible to say if the filmmakers would’ve asked Wopat to feign a British accent for the role, or if his natural American voice would’ve been used. Other actors in the role have had non-British accents (Connery’s was Scottish, George Lazenby’s Australian), so perhaps the accent is not a requirement. However, if it had been, we’ve no doubt that Wopat would’ve totally nailed it.

The name's Wopat... Tom Wopat.

The name’s Wopat… Tom Wopat.

Second, Timothy Dalton’s two-film stint as James Bond marked something of a return to form for the character. Dalton (and the producers, directors, and writers) put some of the grimness and morality struggles from Ian Fleming’s source novels back into the character, who, as Roger Moore’s time in the role went on, became more and more cartoonish and superhero-eque. Gone were the “007 in space” plots, in favor of a more realistic approach.

Wopat’s certainly got the acting chops for a more complex Bond, but the natural comic charisma he showed on The Dukes of Hazzard—not exactly a comedy show, but certainly one with a sense of humor—would have no doubt shown through in places. With a little more levity to the proceedings, one of the big criticisms of Dalton’s Bond days (too dour) would’ve been avoided. This, in turn, likely would’ve made these two middling entries in the franchise into the classic installments they very nearly were. It probably wouldn’t have hurt at the box office, either.

Lasting Impact

As mentioned above, Dalton only hung around for two movies before the Bond hat was passed to Brosnan. Had the above scenario come to pass, we predict that Tom Wopat would not only have become the first American James Bond, but also the last James Bond ever. Not because he would’ve sunk the franchise, but because he would be so well-suited to and well-loved in the role that no one would ever want to replace him. He’d still be going strong, 10 films in, with each one breaking box office records set by the previous installment.

“But wouldn’t he have aged out of the part by now?” you may foolishly ask. Not at all—there’s no reason fictional characters can’t age along with the actors portraying them, and 007 is no exception. By now, at the still relatively young age of 63, Wopat would be playing Bond as an older-and-wiser elder statesman who can still kick @$$ and save the day with the best of them. (Liam Neeson is still convincingly knocking dudes’ heads in at 62.)

Sure, every new Bond adventure at this point would have to begin with scenes of the “James Bond is the only one who can handle this mission” and “please come out of retirement (again), James” nature. But it would be more than worth sitting through that tired routine every two or three years to see Tom Wopat, one of the most iconic actors of this or any generation, in one of the most iconic film roles of all time.

Photo credit: ClaraDon / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Tom Wopat in: Rocky

as: Rocky Balboa

*audible gasps all around*
“Are you outta your mind?”
*someone throws an empty beer bottle*
“Blaspheme!”

Alright, alright, I know this one is pretty crazy. Who could be more Rocky that Sly Stallone? He wrote the derned screenplay, for crying out loud, and this movie is basically the only reason he has a career to this day. Stallone as Rocky in Rocky is about as iconic as acting roles get.

But, seriously, think about it. Despite receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for the role, Stallone is far from a great actor. Originally, the producers wanted someone else to play the part, an established star like Burt Reynolds, Robert Redford, or James Caan. And while all those chaps are fine actors, I think we can all agree that Rocky would’ve sucked with any of them as the star.

You know who would’ve made a great Rocky? Tom Wopat.

If you squint and/or are slightly drunk, it already looks like Tom Wopat!

If you squint and/or are slightly drunk, it already looks like Tom Wopat!

Key Changes

For starters, Wopat is five years younger than Stallone. In the context of the movie, this would’ve made a huge difference, in my opinion. Stallone was thirty when the film was released, and it therefore stands to reason that so was his character. If you know anything about sports, you know that most athletes’ talents and/or skills start to decline right around that age. This seems like it would be especially true for an amateur boxer—professional pugilists may be able to stay in prime shape well past the big 3-0, but those guys have the trainers, doctors, nutritionists, and money required to stay that way. But a poor dead-end schmoe like Rocky, who works as a loan shark to pay his bills, wouldn’t’ve had those assets in his corner. After who knows how many bouts and bludgeonings, it’s doubtful that a 30-year-old nobody would’ve been in good enough shape, or had the skills, to hold his own against World Heavyweight Champion Apollo Creed. A tough, 25-year-old cat, though, one who’s taken far fewer lumps from both opposing boxers and life in general? Seems like he would’ve stood a much better chance.

Second, Sylvester Stallone stands 5-foot-9, Tom Wopat is an even 6-feet, and Carl Weathers (the original, fictitious, boxing Creed) is 6-foot-1. Being taller, and having a more comparable reach, would’ve made the climactic bout much more realistic. A four-inch arm span deficit can be huge in the boxing ring.

Finally, though we’ve mentioned before that Wopat could probably pass for Italian, it’s possible the filmmakers would’ve simply avoided the issue by changing Rocky’s heritage and last name. Wopat, being of Czech descent, potentially could have played Rocky Belinsky, Rocky Kochevar, or Rocky Dubin. Though none of them have quite the ring that “Rocky Balboa” does, that last one’s pretty dang good, if you ask me.

PS: As an accomplished singer-songwriter, Wopat also would’ve been able to reprise the role in Rocky: The Musical, which was an actual thing that happened.

Photo credit: SDWelch1031 / Foter / CC BY

Tom Wopat in: Quantum Leap

as: Dr. Sam Beckett

Quantum Leap was one of the most interesting network shows of the early 1990s. In it, Dr. Sam Beckett travels willy-nilly through time, taking the place of ordinary people at crucial times in their lives and hoping to “[set] right what once went wrong.” On his missions, if you can call them that, Sam appears to everyone else as the person whose place he’s taken; to viewers at home, he looked like Scott Bakula. Over five seasons and 90-something episodes, Sam saved people’s lives, fought mobsters, flew through the Bermuda Triangle, explored ancient tombs in Egypt, and was, in one instance, a chimpanzee astronaut.

Bakula did quite well in the role, scoring four Emmy nominations and a Golden Globe win. However, we feel there’s an actor who would’ve done even better and probably scored five Emmy wins, five Golden Globe wins, and, somehow, five Academy Awards for his work. That actor, of course, is Thomas Steven Wopat.

Why Not Wopat?

Quantum Leap debuted in 1989, roughly four years after Tom Wopat wrapped The Dukes of Hazzard—his previous success would’ve been recent enough that he was still fresh in viewers’ minds, but not so recent that people still would’ve automatically associated him with his prior role. (A few seasons off the ol’ tube after an wrapping up an iconic role can make a big difference in viewers’ perception of an actor—see the success, or lack thereof, of the former cast of Friends.)

Tom Wopat needs to appear in more things with "The Novel" appended to the title.

Tom Wopat needs to appear in more things with “The Novel” appended to the title.

The show was initially troubled by lackluster ratings, and even in its best years was never a runaway success. Having a bigger name like Wopat in the lead role could very well have alleviated this problem and helped the show run for longer. Just a few more episodes would’ve help Quantum Leap pass the unofficial 100-episode threshold usually needed for syndication (the show has been in syndication for a while now, on various networks, but more episodes equals more money for all involved). Even without that consideration, more episodes of a great television program would be a reward in and of itself.

As performers, Tom Wopat and Scott Bakula are cut from the same cloth. Both are ruggedly good looking dudes who can portray an everyman or a genius quantum scientist with equal believability. Both are originally from the Midwest—Wopat and Bakula hail from Wisconsin and Missouri, respectively. They’re roughly the same age, height, and build, and have similarly-colored hair. Visually, nothing about the show would’ve changed significantly with Wopat in the role. Except that Sam Beckett would’ve been even better looking.

Photo credit: thefuturistics / Foter / CC BY-NC

Tom Wopat in: Pirates of the Caribbean

as: Captain Hector Barbossa

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was the surprise blockbuster of 2003. Before it was released, I’m pretty sure everyone in the general movie-going public expected a film based on a second-tier Disneyland ride to be a total turd. Shockingly, in addition to raking in several metric butt-tons of cash, it was actually good. The sequels are a matter of diminishing returns, as sequels often are, but there’s no denying that The Curse of the Black Pearl is a dang good flick.

When talking about the Pirates movies, it’s impossible to ignore Johnny Depp’s work as Jack Sparrow. It became Depp’s career-defining role, and rightfully earned the actor an Oscar nomination. Actor and character have become inextricably linked, and there is straight up no way anyone could replace Depp in the role. That doesn’t mean, however, that some of the other major characters from the franchise couldn’t benefit from being recast. Specifically, we’re talking about Jack Sparrow’s nemesis-turned-comrade Hector Barbossa. Sorry, Geoffrey Rush, but Barbossa is ripe for Wopatization.

Yo ho, yo ho...

Yo ho, yo ho…

Key Changes

For one thing, Tom Wopat is American (obvs), while Geoffrey Rush is some kind of weird foreigner (JK: foreigners are generally pretty great; Rush is Australian). Barbossa’s accent in the Pirates films was one of those “sort of from anywhere, sort of from nowhere” brogues that you hear a lot from movie characters of ambiguous origin. Wopat’s take on the accent would’ve likely been different, perhaps more of a “Colonial American who’s spent years on pirate ship” kind of thing. Pirates in those days really did come from everywhere (as they do now, I suppose), so there’s no reason why Barbossa couldn’t’ve been from the Colonies.

For another, Wopat is the far better looking of the two actors, so it’s doubtful if the filmmakers would’ve buried his visage under the heaps of makeup and crusty facial hair they gave Rush. In fact, it’s more likely that they would’ve played up Wopat Barbossa’s good looks and made him something of a rival in that department to the dashing swashbuckler that is Jack Sparrow. Nothing quite like a lady torn by her growing attraction to two ruggedly handsome, combative pirates, eh?

Third, as the film was a good bit tongue-in-cheek with its humor (though, reportedly, many overt references to the theme park ride were removed from the script prior to shooting), there would have to be some sort of Dukes of Hazzard reference in there somewhere. Since painting a pirate ship Competition Orange and putting a big “01” on the side would be too ridiculous even for a movie where pirates turn into walking skeletons in the moonlight, it would have to be something a bit more subtle.

Perhaps Wopat Barbossa could slide across a section of deck railing to get behind his ship’s wheel, much like Luke slid across the hood of the General Lee in Dukes. Maybe one of the swabbies aboard the Black Pearl would be named Coltrane, as in Roscoe P. I don’t know, I’m no screenwriter. Just a ridiculously over-committed fan of Tom Wopat. If that’s a crime, lock me up.

Photo credit: Dankinia / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND