Action and/or Adventure, Classics, Thriller

Tom Wopat in: Jaws

as: Chief Martin Brody

Released in the summer of 1975, Jaws is often considered the first “blockbuster” movie, and it quickly became the highest grossing movie in history (at the time—it has since been passed by many times over, first and not least of which by Star Wars).

Though the main actors in the film are now fairly well known, at the time, director Steven Spielberg wanted to avoid “name” actors, feeling that anyone too famous would detract from the “everyman” feel of the film, and that the real star of the film should be the shark.

jaws

The lead role of Chief Martin Brody was originally offered to Robert Duvall, who was only interested in playing Quint (Robert Shaw’s character). Charlton Heston expressed interest, but Spielberg felt his screen persona was too “big” for a small town police chief. Ultimately, the role went to the late, great Roy Scheider, who unquestionably did a wonderful job in the part.

That’s not to say there’s not someone who could’ve done it better. And that someone, as I think you know, is Tom Wopat.

Key Changes

Scheider was 42 when Jaws was filmed; Wopat was 23 that year. This probably makes Wopat too young to believably portray a police chief. However, we can think of two easy potential workarounds for this:

1) Amity Island’s a small community, so maybe they have to take who they can get when it comes to their constabulary. Young Wopat Brody maybe isn’t the best man for the job, but he’s the only one who’s willing to take it. This would play well into the town’s collective disbelief when Brody first suggests that there’s a shark in their waters.

2) Wopat Brody isn’t the chief of police, merely a young hotshot patrolman—presumably, Amity is too small a town to have detectives on their police force. He constantly butts head with the chief (could still be Scheider, in a much-reduced role), and when he suggests that it may be a shark that’s been terrorizing the townsfolk, the chief joins in the chorus of skeptics.

Ellen Brody, Brody’s wife, would likely have been played by a younger actress (though Lorraine Gray was only in her late 30s at the time). Having a strapping, young Tom Wopat in the movie, the filmmakers probably would have included a few shots of shirtless Wopat on the beach or whatever. Other than that, the flick could stay essentially the same. Which is for the best, because dang Jaws is a good movie, amirite?!

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Classics, Comedy

Tom Wopat in: Joe Dirt

as: Clem Doore/Anthony Benedetti

Joe Dirt, once upon a time known as The Adventures of Joe Dirt, is a criminally underrated movie, and the only film David Spade ever starred in without Chris Farley that is even remotely watchable. A sequel was recently released on Crackle, whatever that is, but it just can’t hold a candle to the original. Plenty of folks knock on the original, too, but those people are unintelligent and unattractive, and should not be taken seriously.

Long story short: we love Joe Dirt. Our only suggestion for improvement: add Tom Wopat.

"Rule Number One: I'm Number One."

“Rule Number One: I’m Number One.”

Why Wopat?

Obvs we wouldn’t replace David Spade in the title role, as we’re pretty sure Spade actually is Joe Dirt in real life. The only other male character significant enough for a talent like Wopat’s is Clem Doore (former mobster Anthony Benedetti, now in Witness Protection), played by Christopher Walken.

Walken’s great, don’t get me wrong, but his performance kind of throws his interactions with Joe Dirt out of whack. Because David Spade is playing such an out-and-out “character” (i.e., no effort to make him seem like an actual person), the general weirdness of Walken’s performance (on par with most of his performances over the last 10-15 years) gives their scenes together the feel of two characters from wildly different comedy sketches thrown together.

With Wopat, you’d get more genuine acting. In place of Walken’s peculiar, signature line readings, with their odd pauses and questionable pronunciations, Wopat would give a more grounded, realistic performance as Clem. You could keep the scenes and all the dialogue the same, and with Wopat’s more actorly performance, Clem would turn into a more believable side character.

Tom Wopat’s about a decade younger than Christopher Walken, but that wouldn’t make much of a difference here. Some mention is made of Benedetti being a mob boss in the 1970s—simply update it to the ‘80s and nothing else really has to change. The Mafia was still going strong in the ‘80s, too.

And finally, as Joe Dirt himself is so obsessed with muscle cars, putting Wopat in the movie would afford the opportunity to work in the General Lee in a “cameo”. There’s a scene in the latter half of the film where Joe is leafing through an old issue of AutoTrader and finds an intriguing listing—we’d simply change the description of the car he’s reading about to match the General. “Check this out: ’69 Charger, competition orange… this guy wants fourteen grand! What?! This guy’s crazy.”

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Action and/or Adventure, Classics

Tom Wopat in: Die Hard

as: John McClane

Since its release nearly 28 years ago, Die Hard has become one of the landmarks of the action-adventure genre. It has become the standard by which all other “lone hero against impossible odds” movies are judged—to this day, action flicks are often pitched as “Die Hard on a ______”. (For example: Speed is “Die Hard on a bus”.)

Though the four sequels (so far) have been of decreasing quality–#2, Die Harder, was pretty dang good, actually—the original Die Hard is nothing short of a masterpiece of action filmmaking. Bruce Willis, previously known almost exclusively for his role in TV’s Moonlighting, turned the part of NYPD officer John McClane into a career-defining role.

Lego Die Hard

However, due to some complicated Hollywood contract structures, 20th Century Fox, the studio behind the flick, was legally obligated to offer the role to Frank Sinatra first. Sinatra passed, and the role was offered to Arnold Schwarzenegger, with the idea of turning the script into a sequel to Commando. Arnie passed, too, as did Sylvester Stallone, Harrison Ford, Burt Reynolds, and a number of other action stars of the era. Finally, Bruce Willis was cast and an action hero was born.

Why Not Wopat?

Released in the summer of 1988, Die Hard came shortly after the end of The Dukes of Hazzard. Tom Wopat would still have been fresh in viewers’ minds from his role on the show, but it would also likely have been far enough removed that he wouldn’t automatically be seen as Luke Duke. He was an established TV star, while Willis was just starting to garner widespread attention.

One of the chief knocks on Bruce Willis at the time of his casting was that he wasn’t a known “action star.” If anything, this made Wopat more suited to the role than Willis at the time, as Dukes had a good bit of action and stunt work in it. (Willis apparently did most of his own stunts in Die Hard, so that’s pretty cool.)

Wopat is four years older than Willis, an age difference that is essentially nil in Hollywood (at least for male stars), both have dark brown hair (Willis used to have hair, anyway), and the two are the same height. Physically, at least, the two are pretty much interchangeable.

However, if it’s actual acting skill you’re after, Wopat is clearly the guy for the job. Nothing against ol’ Bruno, but Tom Wopat has more dramatic chops in his little finger than Willis has in his entire torso, head, and face. Another part of what set Die Hard apart from other ’80s action flicks was its sense of humor, and for my money, Wopat is a better comedic actor than Willis, too. McClane’s back-and-forth with Carl Winslow down in the Nakatomi Plaza guard shack could’ve been even bigger and better.

Yipee-ki-yay, Tom Wopat!

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Action and/or Adventure

Tom Wopat in: Taken

as: Bryan Mills

Taken is perhaps best known as the movie that changed peoples’ reactions from “Oh yeah, Liam Neeson” to “Hell yeah, Liam Neeson!” It spawned two sequels and reinvented Neeson’s career, turning him into Hollywood’s go-to, @$$-kicking man of a certain age. It was a well-deserved career renaissance, but there’s another 65-year-old leading man who deserves some late-career accolades of his own.

Time to change “Oh yeah, Tom Wopat” to “Hell yeah, Tom Wopat!”

Wopatization…Engage!

Though not exactly known as an action star at the time Taken was made, Liam Neeson did have some experience in the genre, having been in the excellent Gangs of New York (albeit very briefly), the spectacular Batman Begins, and the existent Star Wars Episode I, among others. He also played a mean Jean Valjean.

FTFY.

FTFY.

Similarly, Tom Wopat has some action genre experience, notably The Dukes of Hazzard and Smallville, but is not really what anyone would call an action star. He mopped the floor with goons of all stripes on Dukes, though, so he would be plenty believable whooping up on a bunch of Albanian kidnappers. Just like Neeson, Wopat has more than ample chops to make a convincing older bad@$$.

One potential drawback to replacing Neeson is losing his distinctive voice. His “very particular set of skills” speech is perhaps the most memorable and well-known part of the film, and not just for the words: Neeson’s voice and delivery made that monologue an instant classic.

Wopat has got some rather golden pipes of his own, however. He’s a veteran of numerous Broadway musicals, and has carved out a fairly successful music career for himself, as well, releasing 10 albums across various genres since 1981, so it’s not like he’s Gilbert Gottfried or something. Wopat would’ve crushed that monologue, hard. And his version of it might well have been better—Liam Neeson always sounds a little weird when he speaks with an “American” accent instead of his natural Irish lilt.

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Action and/or Adventure, Science Fiction and/or Fantasy

Tom Wopat in: Independence Day

as: President Thomas Whitmore

Independence Day is the quintessential so-bad-it’s-good summer blockbuster. Not a lick of the “science” in the flick makes sense, but you don’t care while you’re watching it because Will Smith just KO’d an ugly, tentacled alien with a solid right. It’s one of those movies that you think about now, roughly 20 years later (and not long after its totally unnecessary sequel bombed like Ted Kaczynski’s mailbox), and wonder, “How did that turd make $800 million?” And then you rewatch and you’re like, “Oh yeah, because it’s entertaining as all get out.”

Nearly everyone in the surprisingly diverse cast is perfectly, um, cast. Cocky Fighter Pilot = Will Smith; Drunk Buffoon = Randy Quaid; Nerdy/Super Smart Guy = Jeff Goldblum. And Diamond Bill Pullman is great as President Whitmore, and crafts one of the best inspirational-speech-before-going-off-to-war/battle scenes in the history of that now-overused trope.

But you know darn good and well that Tom Wopat would’ve been better.

Why Wopat?

Part of Bill Pullman’s appeal is that he is the perfect everyman. So much so that he is often mistaken (and vice versa) for Hollywood’s second most perfect everyman, the similarly named (which surely compounds the problem) Bill Paxton. That’s world-class everymanning, that is.

FTFY.

FTFY.

However, I feel it works against Pullman in Independence Day. The film is set in “present day,” which, at the time, was 1996. Pullman’s character, Tom Whitmore, was a decorated fighter pilot in the Persian Gulf War and has since, of course, been elected president. Here’s where Pullman’s everymanness works against him: The first Gulf War lasted from late 1990 to early 1991, which means that in five years Whitmore went from soldier (likely an Officer) to Leader of the Free World.

Even the most decorated pilot in the history of aviation and/or warfare couldn’t ride that fact alone into the White House in just five years, without prior political experience. As we know, these days, any reasonable amount of prior political experience essentially guarantees that one will not be partaking in the actual fighting of any war. Politicians just start wars, they leave the fighting and dying to others—makes it easier to start more wars that way.

But: if that decorated fighter pilot (again, probably an Officer) was as ruggedly good looking and as charming as Tom Wopat? Especially a Charming Decorated Fighter Pilot Tom Wopat sporting a classic (though not very presidential) Tom Wopat Haircut? Get the heck outta here. That cat would win in a landslide. A landslide I tell ya!

THAT is why Tom Wopat should’ve been in Independence Day.

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Action and/or Adventure, Science Fiction and/or Fantasy

Tom Wopat in: Ant-Man

as: Hank Pym

The so-called Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU, is made up of (so far) 248 movies of varying quality. Iron Man was the first, and one of the best; The Incredible Hulk was the second, and quite a turd. Perhaps the most surprising entry in the franchise—surprisingly good, that is—is Ant-Man. Pretty much only die-hard comic book fans were familiar with the C-squad character before the movie came out, and the premise—super suit allows well-meaning former criminal to shrink down to microscopic size and fight crime somehow—is even more ridiculous than most MCU flicks.

Someone behind the scenes had the good sense to cast the charming, ever-likable, and ageless Paul Rudd as the title character, a.k.a. Scott Lang. His mentor in the film and the “original” Ant-Man, Hank Pym, was played by Michael Douglas. He should’ve been played by Tom Wopat.

Tom?

Tom?

Why Not Wopat?

On the surface, Wopat and Douglas are essentially analogous: both are handsome older white dudes. The only significant difference is that, despite having a fraction of the acting talent, Douglas is somehow the bigger star. This, to my mind, actually makes Wopat the better choice. It’s hard not to be distracted by the presence of Michael Douglas in a comic book superhero movie, because, in every role he’s ever played, he always Michael Douglas. Though Luke Duke is a far more iconic and memorable character than, say, Gordon Gekko, Tom Wopat can still play different roles, instead of just being the same guy in different costumes and with different dialogue coming out of his mouth.

Wopat is also just over seven years younger than Douglas. In the opening scenes of the film, as well as flashbacks and “archival footage,” we see OG Ant-Man in action, kicking Hydra arse in his prototype super suit way back in Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Nine. This would’ve made Wopat 38 at the time, while Douglas would’ve been 45. Super suit or not, more than a half dozen years would make a big difference on a dude’s superheroing abilities. Think about it from a real-world angle: there are quite a few 38-year-old professional athletes; there are no 45-year-old professional athletes.

Plus, with Wopat’s considerable stunt and fight-scene experience from his Dukes of Hazzard days, it just seems more realistic that he could handle a big bunch of baddies. Michael Douglas looks like he couldn’t even best a toddler in a fistfight these days.

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Classics, Drama, Sports

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 an acting role as you’ll ever see.

But, seriously, think about it. Despite receiving a 1977 Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for the role, and another earlier this year for his victory lap as an aging Rocky in Creed, Stallone is far from a great actor. Originally, the producers wanted someone else to play the part anyway, an established star like Burt Reynolds or 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.

rocky

But you know who would’ve been great as Rocky Balboa? 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 (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-length 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.

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Comedy, Sports

Tom Wopat in: Major League

as: Jake Taylor

Major League is probably the best baseball movie ever. (Feel free to debate that one in the comments, gang.) Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn (Charlie Sheen), Willie Mays Hayes (Wesley Snipes), Pedro Cerrano (Dennis Haysbert), and the rest of the ragtag Cleveland Indians of the film are the most beloved cinematic baseball team this side of the Rockford Peaches. One player, however, should’ve been subbed out for a free agent signing.

Take a seat on the bench, Tom Berenger. We’re sending in Tom Wopat as veteran catcher and team leader Jake Taylor.

cleveland

Why Wopat?

Truthfully, there wouldn’t be many changes needed to the script or any other aspects of the film with Wopat in the Jake Taylor role. Wopat is two years younger than Berenger, but at 38 (at the time Major League was filmed) he still would’ve been old for a professional athlete. At 6’1”, Wopat is two inches taller than Berenger, and slightly taller than the average catcher (they tend to be shorter because all the squatting they do game in and game out can take a toll on the knees), but that’s not of much significance in a movie version of baseball.

Of the two Toms, Berenger was arguably the bigger star in 1989, having won a Golden Globe and been nominated for an Oscar for his performance in Platoon just three years prior. However, Wopat was just four years removed from massive television success in The Dukes of Hazzard, which ended its run in 1985.

Nevertheless, as the film’s premise was based on the Cleveland Indians team being made up of unknown players and former stars, casting Wopat would’ve actually made more sense. There were multiple actors in the cast who went on to greater success shortly thereafter, just as their characters did (Snipes being the most notable example). Ergo, casting an actor who may have been seen as a few years past his prime* to play a ballplayer in the same situation would’ve been quite fitting.

Ultimately, we just want to watch Tom Wopat run around in a baseball uniform. To answer our question in the header above: Why the heck not Wopat?

* IRL, Tom Wopat is, and never will be, past his prime. “In his prime” is the only level he has or ever will operate on.

Photo credit: Peter Ciro Photography via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Action and/or Adventure, Original Wopatizations, Thriller

Tom Wopat in: The Gutenberg Device (An Original Wopatization)

as: Lucas Langdon

Everybody loves those stinkin’ Tom Hanks “Robert Langdon” movies, apparently—they just keep makin’ the damn things. After all, the rule in Hollywood seems to be: as longs as it doesn’t lose money, they’ll let you make another one. By his own admission, that’s the only way Kevin Smith has managed to have as long a filmmaking career as he has. So, for the inevitable Da Vinci Code, Part IV, we figured it would make sense to go the route of so many higher-numbered sequels and add a new character/cast member to inject some new life.

The new character: Robert Langdon’s better looking and even smarter brother Lucas. The actor: come on, do you seriously not see where we’re going with this?

Plot Overview

No one here is a pro screenwriter, so we’re going to keep this pretty general. We’ll let someone else fill in all the specifics and whatnot and just sit back and collect our sweet “Screen Story by” royalty checks. Anyway, it goes a little something like this:

Written by Steve Gutenberg.

Written by Steve Gutenberg.

An old, grizzled museum worker discovers something odd whilst restoring the Gutenberg Bible held by the New York Public Library. The old man is using some sort of ultraviolet light to inspect the pages and comes across cryptic markings, some kind of code. Naturally, Tom Hanks’ Robert Langdon is called in.

He and a local antiquities expert played by another random actress (picking up the mantle from Audry Tautou, Ayelet Zurer, and Felicity Jones) investigate and soon, of course, are on the run from a shadowy, unknown group. They flee NYC and seek assistance from Langdon’s older brother. (Tom Wopat, of course.)

Lucas Langdon is an expert in printing presses throughout history—including the press Gutenberg used to print the famous bibles. Using his extensive knowledge, Tom Hanks’ knowledge of symbology, and the antiquities expert’s, um, expertise, they suss out the secret and figure out who’s after them.

Unsurprisingly, an epic chase ensues, with the villains chasing our heroes across Stasbourg, France, where the good guys were inspecting Gutenberg’s original press in a publishing house/printing press museum (which we’re 100% sure is a real thing, for real). In the final kerfuffle, Lucas Langdon falls to his death in the jaws of a massive Heidelberg press, taking the Big Bad with him. (Not coincidentally, “Heidelberg” is the name of the bad guy.)

Don’t worry, though—Wopat’s character comes back to life (somehow) for Da Vinci Code V.

Photo credit: NYC Wanderer via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Comedy, Drama, Musicals

Tom Wopat in: High Fidelity

as: Barry

This was a tough one to figure out. We imagined that Tom Wopat would be a wonderful addition to the cast of 2000’s High Fidelity, but struggled with which role would be best for his talents. Initially, we had him taking over for John Cusack as Rob Gordon, the film’s protagonist, but ultimately decided that he’d be better in a smaller, but no less memorable role: Barry, originally portrayed by Jack Black.

Arranged autobiographically.

Arranged autobiographically.

Key Changes

In High Fidelity, Barry is a snarky music snob working at the Championship Vinyl record store owned and operated by Cusack’s character. Black turns in a brilliant, breakout performance, but we feel that Tom Wopat could’ve had the same effect. His Barry would be older, and ostensibly wiser, but no less of a jackass to any customer he feels in unworthy of spending time at the shop.

Wopat is about 15 years older than Cusack (18 years older than Black), so his Barry would be more attuned to the classics and oldies than Rob. He’d still be a know-it-all about every style, genre, and era of music, but would pepper his Top Five lists (a recurring preoccupation for Championship’s employees) with older references, both as legitimate choices and for comedic effect.

Barry Wopat’s age would be the butt of some good-natured ribbing from his co-workers, as well. In the original version of the film, Barry is shown to have a fondness for vintage clothes. With the older Wopat in the role, the clothes could remain the same, but they wouldn’t be “vintage” so much as “still wearing them from the first time around.” Upon receiving a compliment from a customer on his sweet “retro” threads, he would be deflated by an “Everything old is new again, right, Barry?” from Rob. Another customer, searching for an obscure “original recording” by Lead Belly (or some other long-dead artist), would be sent in Barry’s direction: “He’s just the guy to help you out. Barry and Lead Belly went to high school together.”

One aspect of the character that wouldn’t need to be changed is his spectacular singing voice. At the end of the film, Barry performs Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” with Barry Jive and the Uptown Five, his newly-renamed band (formerly Sonic Death Monkey). Rob, and everyone else at the show, expect Barry to be terrible. Instead, he blows doors down, with Jack Black providing his own vocals in the film. Tom Wopat is no stranger to singing and musical performance, and would be more than able to tackle the classic Motown track.

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