Tom Wopat in: Total Recall

as: Douglas Quaid

First off, let me point out that, while there have been two movie versions of Total Recall, we’re putting Tom Wopat in the 2012 film because the original, 1990 version is just too weird and too ‘90s to mess with—it truly is perfect in its imperfection. Besides, there’s a limit to how many times can we insert Wopat into Schwarzenegger movies.

Instead, we’re putting our beloved Tom Wopat into the lead role in the remake/reimagining of the film, taking the place of Colin Farrell, who should under no circumstances be the leading man in a would-be blockbuster movie of any type. This version is also more of a straightforward sci-fi action flick, and less of a campy, bizarro, sci-fi mindbender. That, too, makes it better suited to Wopatization.

Make that "Wopat Recall"

Make that “Wopat Recall”

Key Changes

The biggest change in a Wopat-for-Farrell swap is the age difference: Wopat is 25 years older than Farrell. However, this could actually work just fine, with minimal other alterations. Instead of being a production floor working stiff at the sheet metal stamping manufacturing company that builds all the police robots seen in the movie, the Quaid character could be the manager of the plant, having climbed the ladder from factory worker to head honcho of Tempco Manufacturing.

This change could make the rest of the film a bit more potent, in fact. As Quaid eventually discovers, he is actually a secret agent* who has been given new memories by former employers. Instead of just a few months of living this lie of a life, he would’ve been at it for decades. When he finally uncovers the truth, he would be even more torn between the “new” life he’s been living and his true identity.

One other potential concern regarding having a considerably older actor in the role: the ladies. Normal, real life people are usually married to someone roughly their same age (though there are certainly exceptions). But, in Hollywood movies, older dudes end up “married” to much younger women all the time. Would the parts of Quaid’s “wife” and secret agent ladyfriend still have been played by Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel, respectively? Quite possibly, because, Hollywood is stupid that way.

As for the action sequences, not a lot would need to change. Still spry and athletic in his early 60s, Wopat could easily hold his own in fight scenes and chases across the late-21st century landscape.

* Or is he?! Dun dun DUNNNN!

Photo credit: kire / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Tom Wopat in: Armageddon 2 (A—More or Less—Original Wopatization)

as: Mark Frost

First off, let me say that, despite its obvious scientific inaccuracies and the fact that it’s directed by noted schlockmeister Michael Bay, I absolutely love Armageddon. I can’t really explain why, but I do. Hard. Which is why I would love to see a sequel, as utterly ridiculous as it would inevitably be.

As you may recall, the hero of the original Armageddon was Harry Stamper, played by Bruce Willis with typical Bruce Willisness. You may also recall that Harry got blown to smithereens at the end of the flick, sacrificing himself to ensure the detonation of the bomb that would blow up the “planet killer” asteroid.

To replace the Harry character in Armageddon 2: Armageddon Harder you’d need an actor who can fill ably fill those empty, Bruce Willis-sized shoes. That actor is Tom Wopat.

Plot Synopsis

Much like the original film, Armageddon 2 is about a giant asteroid that’s on a collision course with Earth, and the heroic oil rig workers and astronauts who work together to save the day. In Armageddon 1, Willis played the father of Liv Tyler’s character, Grace Stamper; in Armageddon 2, the lead character, Mark Frost, is the father of Ben Affleck’s character from the first film, A.J. Frost. (We’re going to assume that all the characters who didn’t die in the first film will be returning for the sequel, as will the actors who portrayed them.)

Here's a simple solution.

Here’s a simple solution.

Again, the US guvment detects an incoming asteroid—this one FOUR times the size of Texas—and comes up with a cunning plan to stop it: the same plan they used 17 years ago when it happened the first time! They round up A.J. and the rest of the gang, but determine that stopping a bigger asteroid requires a bigger crew. A.J. immediately volunteers his father, Mark (played by Tom Wopat).

A.J., Grace, et al set out to track Mark/Wopat down. They find him working in the booming oil fields of North Dakota, operating a frac sand plant. He hasn’t worked on an actual oil rig in years, he explains, and so has lost his touch for the precision deep-drilling needed for the mission. A.J. eventually convinces him to join them, and they set off for NASA HQ in Houston for training.

As NASA no longer flies its own space missions, the project is a joint venture between American and Chinese space agencies, and Chinese astronauts are training with A.J., Mark, and the US team. Mark, being an old-school, true-blue-American type, is more than a little reluctant to work with, as he puts it, “those Commie SOBs.”

The training goes remarkably well for the most part, as many of the crew went through a similar process in Armageddon 1. The whole gang takes off into space, this time in THREE separate shuttles—the Freedom 2, the Independence 2 and the Liberty. As in the first film, the crew is divided up into multiple teams to ensure success in case one of them crashes into the asteroid and dies horribly (or fails in another, less spectacular fashion).

After a quick pit stop at the International Space Station, which does not go down in flames like Mir did in a similar situation in the first film, all three shuttles fly out to meet the asteroid head on, having learned a valuable lesson the last time out about approaching a colossal space object from behind. Nevertheless, Freedom 2 is struck by flying debris and is destroyed; her entire crew dies with her.

Independence 2 and Liberty land safely on opposite sides of the asteroid and commence drilling, with A.J. leading the crew of the former ship and Wopat captaining the team from the latter. Both team work to drill to the center of the asteroid, so that another ginormous nuclear bomb can be stuffed inside. A.J.’s team is doing exceptionally well at first, hitting the various depth checkpoints well before the allotted time has passed. The other group initially fares poorly, as Mark continues to butt heads with his Chinese teammates.

Before long, A.J.’s drill hits another gas pocket, and the ensuing explosion (because everything unexpected must lead to an explosion in a Michael Bay movie) leaves A.J. injured and unable to continue his task. The drill itself, a new-and-improved version of the Armadillos from the first film, is damaged but still functional; they also lose the ability to communicate with the Liberty team. One of the Chinese team members takes control of the Armadillo and continues drilling.

Meanwhile, Wopat and crew are hitting their stride. Mark, despite his ongoing disputes with his Chinese colleagues, rediscovers his deep-drilling groove and is soon closing in on the target depth. However, their slow start means that the “zero hour,” the time by which they absolutely must detonate their bomb, is rapidly approaching.

To make matters worse, miscommunication between Mark and a Chinese crewman lead to their team’s drill being incapacitated following another (larger and louder than necessary) explosion. Following a considerable verbal and physical altercation, Wopat sets out to deploy the bomb, shoving it ahead of him into the hole he’s drilled. He knows they haven’t reached their mark, but there is no other alternative.

As he reaches the bottom of the hole, Mark/Wopat realizes that he’s in the same scenario that Harry Stamper found himself in all those years ago. Knowing he will likely die, he apologizes to his Chinese teammates in the kind of manly-yet-tearjerking monologue common to action movies of this ilk.

Just when all seems lost, Independence 2’s team’s drill breaks through the opposite side of Mark’s asteroid hole. The two teams combined to drill a hole all the way through the asteroid, albeit unintentionally. The Chinese crew member operating the other Armadillo makes a totally hilarious joke about digging a hole to America.

Wopat rides to the surface on the Armadillo’s extendable arm, but not before placing the second bomb (from the Independence 2). The hole through the asteroid somehow makes communication between the two teams possible again, and after a quick explanation of what happened, everyone hastily climbs aboard the spaceships.

They take off and are clear of the asteroid with a full minute to spare. The bombs detonate, the asteroid is essentially vaporized, and everyone lives happily ever after. Except all those poor saps who blew up with the Freedom 2, but none of them were main characters anyway, so who cares?

Photo credit: originalrobart / Foter / CC BY-NC

Tom Wopat in: Walk the Line 2 (A [Sort of] Original Wopatization)

as: Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash is one of the most influential and enduring figures in American music. His distinctive voice and outlaw image made him popular with fans of all music genres, and he remains one of the best-selling recording artists in country music, year in and year out, over a decade after his death. Walk the Line, a film based on Cash’s early life and relationship with fellow singer June Carter was released in 2005 to much critical and commercial success.

But, as the Man in Black’s recording career spanned more than five decades, Walk the Line really only told part of the story. So much more happened in Cash’s life that a sequel, covering his later years, could easily contain enough drama and excitement to bring moviegoers back for more.

While Joaquin Phoenix did a fantastic job as the young, rebellious Cash in the original Walk the Line (earning an Oscar nomination in the process), a more seasoned actor would be needed to portray the older, still plenty rebellious Johnny Cash in a sequel. And we think no one could be better than Tom Wopat.

Because you're mine/I walk the line...2!

Because you’re mine/I walk the line…2!

Why Wopat?

Unlike Phoenix, who had to learn to play guitar specifically for the role, Tom Wopat already has plenty of six-string experience. He’s also an accomplished singer and songwriter, with multiple albums under his belt. (It should be noted that Phoenix did perform all his own vocals in Walk the Line 1.)

At an even six-foot-tall, Wopat is just a couple of inches shorter than the long and lanky Cash. (Phoenix is only 5’8”.) Height doesn’t really matter than much, but Cash was famously taller than most of his contemporaries, and a little authenticity can go a long way.

Two of the most interesting (and film-ready) tales from Cash’s first autobiography, Man in Black, were left out of Walk the Line 1, as they occurred after the events depicted in the film. Both would be perfect showcases for Wopat’s skills.

The first saw Cash, jazzed on pills of some kind, bail out of his speeding Cadillac as he rounded a curve on a mountain road. He was hauling a propane tank for his camper in the back of the car, and smelled a leak. Rather than pull over and deal with it as a rational person would, the hopped-up Cash dove from the moving car. It crashed into a tree and exploded, the fireball singeing Cash’s face and sending him to hospital with superficial but scary burns.

The second anecdote involved Cash, again under the influence of illicit drugs, tearing through the desert in an old Army Jeep he had bought. He was ostensibly headed out for a solo camping trip, but got so loopy that he lost control of the truck as he drove down a mountainside and wound up barreling out of control through the dunes. In this instance, too, Cash crashed his vehicle into a tree. (A mesquite, maybe? Don’t remember for sure.) He was in it this time, though he wasn’t injured in any significant way.

Both of these scenes would allow Wopat to use the stunt-driving skills he honed during his Dukes of Hazzard days. They would also present a unique showcase for his acting chops, as they could be played for equal parts comedy and tragedy—visually, they could be very, very funny if done right, while Wopat/Cash’s realization of how his drug use is starting to affect his life could be the stuff of an awards show highlight reel.

Photo credit: The Art of York Berlin / Foter / CC BY-ND

Tom Wopat in: Wayne’s World (the Movie)

as: Benjamin Kane

In the first of the three Wayne’s World movies, Benjamin Kane is the closest thing to a villain that Wayne (Mike Myers) and Garth (Dana Carvey) encounter. He attempts to cash in on the success of the “Wayne’s World” show-within-the-movie and turn it into a forum for cheap sponsorship for his advertising clients. In the end, “Bunjamin” gets his comeuppance, Wayne gets the girl, and “Wayne’s World” is restored to its original, low budget but well-loved format.

Originally, the would-be TV producer and all around jerk is played with a nigh perfect balance of sleaze and charm by Rob Lowe. But we propose that with Tom Wopat as Kane, an even better, truly perfect balance would have been struck, and Wayne’s World would’ve been all the better for it.

Party...on?

Party…on?

Key Changes

One thing to note is that Tom Wopat is about a dozen years older than Rob Lowe. However, when the film was released in 1992, Wopat was only 41, so it’s not really an issue. It’s never really specified how old Kane is supposed to be, and Hollywood plays young all the time (seems like every high school movie features at least one actor in his 30s playing a teenager).

Over the course of Wayne’s World, it is made rather obvious that Benjamin Kane owes a good portion of his success to his good looks. And, there’s no doubt that Lowe is a handsome fellow. But put him and Tom Wopat side by side, and they look like they could be brothers—Wopat being the better looking one. If anything, with Wopat in the role, there would’ve been even more room for “skating by on his looks” gags.

With Wopat’s real-life guitar playing experience, the writers could’ve added a scene where Benjamin and Wayne square off in a friendly “guitar duel.” Wayne, the would-be metalhead and guitar hero, would bust out a monster solo, contorting his face into all manner of goofy “solo faces” and finishing with the “out of breath” physical comedy bit that Myers does so well. Kane/Wopat would then pick up Wayne’s guitar and, casually and easily, knock out a killer guitar line that puts Wayne’s playing to shame, all with Wopat’s face and hands in frame the whole time. Kane doesn’t break a sweat, and Wayne is completely befuddled.

And finally, with Wopat’s Dukes of Hazzard past and Wayne’s World’s fondness for spoofing pop culture, one of the movie’s “fake endings” could’ve included a chase scene in which Wayne and Garth, in their AMC Pacer (the Mirth Mobile), escape Kane and his suspiciously familiar orange 1969 Dodge Charger. Turning the Dukes’ convention on its ear, the Mirth Mobile would’ve been the car to make the climactic, slow-motion jump to safety, while the General Lee careens off the road and into the river.

Photo credit: MEDIODESCOCIDO / Foter / CC BY

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 is the show’s moral center and nominally its main character throughout the first season. However (SPOILER ALERT for a 3-year-old TV episode and a nigh 20-year-old book), in the series’ ninth episode, Ned is executed by the newly-appointed king of Westeros, Joffrey Baratheon.

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.

"And now, over to Ned Stark with the weather. Ned?"

“And now, over to Ned Stark with the weather. Ned?”

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 was named 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, they add up quick. 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 an eleven 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 / Foter / CC BY

Tom Wopat in: Jingle All the Way

Has there ever been a better holiday movie than Jingle All the Way? Has there ever been a better, more nuanced performance in a holiday movie than the one Arnold Schwarzenegger turns in as Howard Langston in Jingle All the Way? The answer to the first question is a resounding “No.” The answer to the second is, “There would be if Tom Wopat had played the part instead.” Let’s speculate further, shall we?!

Why Wopat?

For starters, Jingle All the Way was filmed and set in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. Tom Wopat is originally from Lodi, Wisconsin; Arnold Schwarzenegger is from Thal, Styria, Austria. Wopat’s natural Sconnie accent would’ve been far more geographically accurate than Arnie’s Austrian one. Additionally—and I say this as an unapologetic Schwarzenegger fan—it would’ve been much easier to understand the dialogue with Wopat as Howard Langston. Ah-nuld’s accent seemed to be particularly thick in this flick, for whatever reason.

Happy Holidays, dear reader!

Happy Holidays, dear reader!

Second, Tom Wopat makes a much more believable, regular joe mattress salesman. I always find it odd when Schwarzenegger plays characters that just have normal jobs, because, for example, why would a mattress salesman be built like a professional bodybuilder? Maybe stick with playing legendary warriors and killer cyborgs and genetically engineered superhumans, Arnold. Wopat is an average-sized fellow and would be more convincing in an everyday job occupation like mattress salesmanship.

Wopat would definitely not fill out the Turbo-Man costume Langston sports at the end of the flick nearly as well as Schwarzenegger, however.

Wopat’s comparative averageness would also make at least one other scene in the movie more believable, as well. After a confrontation with Jim Belushi’s evil, toy-counterfeiting Mall Santa character, Langston escapes a police raid by posing as an undercover cop. It seems far more likely that an average, not-the-size-of-a-phone-booth guy would be able to sneak out the door under that ruse. The other policemen would probably recognize a Mr. Universe-looking guy on the force, or, more accurately, recognize that Mr. Universe was most definitely not a fellow cop because wouldn’t they remember that huge guy?

How about that average dude who looks like an older Luke Duke, recognize him? I don’t know, I think his name’s Stoharski; I’ve definitely seen him around before.

Photo credit: smcgee / Foter / CC BY-NC

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. 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.

Spoiler alert?

Spoiler alert?

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 the heck British teenagers say.

Photo credit: Denise P.S. / Foter / CC BY-ND

Tom Wopat in: Star Trek (The Original Series)

as: Captain James T. Kirk

In reality, Tom Wopat was just fifteen years old when Star Trek debuted in 1966. But, for the purposes of this blog, we’re going to imagine he was old enough for the part of Captain Kirk, a role that was, of course, originally made famous by William Shatner (who was thirty-five when he first sat in the captain’s chair).

Key Changes

We’ll more or less split the age difference and imagine that Wopat was twenty-eight when he won the role of Kirk (the same age he was when The Dukes of Hazzard began in 1979). With a younger and far more strapping actor as Kirk—no offense to Shatner, but he was more than a little doughy—the writers could’ve upped the ante on the Captain’s physical altercations with alien creatures and other enemies. Gone would be the poorly choreographed, obviously pulled punches of Shatner’s action scenes, replaced with more athletic combat heroics. A Starship captain famous for his jumping spin kicks (or his spinning jump kicks) would’ve struck fear into many a Klingon heart.

Additionally, as it is widely known that Tom Wopat looks quite dashing in blue, Star Trek’s costumes would likely have been altered so that blue was the uniform color for the Command and Flight Crews, with yellow instead being for Science and Medical personnel. Red shirts would still die by the handful.

Too many Kirks in the kitchen spoil the soup.

Too many Kirks in the kitchen spoil the soup.

Shatner, of course, played Kirk with more than a smirk of cockiness when appropriate. Chris Pine’s portrayal of the character in the recent “reboot” Star Trek films, turned this up to 11. Both actors gave the character an air of brashness, but with the smarts and skills to back it up. Tom Wopat’s take on Captain Kirk likely would’ve been a bit different—we envision Wopat-Kirk as more of a rugged, roguish, charmer; less smirk, more winning smile. Something along the lines of Indiana Jones (particularly in the opening gambit of Temple of Doom) or (whoda thunk?) Luke Duke.

Photo credit: JD Hancock / Foter / CC BY

Tom Wopat in: That ‘70s Show

as: Red Forman

Make no mistake, Kurtwood Smith could do more with the word “dumbass” than most actors could do with an entire page of dialogue and a samurai sword. As Red Forman in That ‘70s Show, he was nigh perfect as the old school, tough love-dispensing father to the show’s main protagonist, Eric (played by Topher Grace).

But, what if that same no-nonsense character was given a bit more charm and a whole mess more good looks? Had Tom Wopat portrayed Red, it’s possible that the elder Forman would have gradually become more of a focus on the show, squeezing Eric out to supporting-player status (a la Homer over the course of the first several seasons of The Simpsons).

Key Changes

No offense to Kurtwood Smith, but Tom Wopat is a much better-looking dude. That in itself paves the way for running jokes throughout the course of the series. Specifically, we envision lots of references by Eric’s girlfriend, Donna, and friend who is also a girl, Jackie, to Red’s attractiveness. Mostly, it would be a way for the gals to needle Eric, who himself was sort of a goony looking guy. There would almost certainly have been a storyline somewhere in the show’s eight seasons where Jackie actually developed a harmless, minor, if misguided, crush on Red.

In this same vein, the other guys in Eric’s group of friends, Hyde, Kelso, and Fez, would have turned to Red Wopat more often for advice on the ladies. “Red, you’re a good-looking guy,” Hyde/Kelso/Fez would undoubtedly have begun at some point (or multiple times—that’s how running gags work, after all), before asking Red what he should do in whatever the situation was.

Next, it should be noted that Wopat is about nine years younger than Smith. This isn’t really a problem as far as “being old enough to be Eric’s parent” goes, as Wopat and Debra Jo Rupp, who played Eric’s mother, Kitty, are the same age. However, it maybe would age Red out of having served in both WWII and the Korean War—with the younger actor in the role, Red probably would’ve been written as only a Korean War vet. This wouldn’t change the character much, as few if any of Red’s storylines hinged on his military service, but it may have necessitated a slight re-write of Kitty’s and his “meet-cute” story, one of the best (and most perfectly cast) flashbacks the show ever did.

It's no General Lee, that's for dang sure.

It’s no General Lee, that’s for dang sure.

Finally, while the Vista Cruiser station wagon that Red bequeaths to Eric in the series pilot is a perfectly fine automobile… well, come one. This is Luke Duke we’re talking about here. It would’ve been an absolutely fantastic gag had Red Wopat instead gifted his son with a competition orange Dodge Charger. It would’ve been anachronistic, as well, seeing as how The Dukes of Hazzard didn’t premiere until 1979, but hey, if don’t overthink it, it’s a pretty rad setup. Eric and friends would’ve gotten up to far more hijinks with a hot rod to drive around in.

Photo credit: aldenjewell / Foter / CC BY

Tom Wopat in: The Sopranos

as: Silvio Dante

When The Sopranos first started its run, James Gandolfini and Tom Wopat had roughly the same star power, so it’s not unthinkable to imagine Wopat being cast in the lead role of the series. But, given how flat-out spectacular Gandolfini was as Tony Soprano, it’s clear that no other actor could’ve played the part as well.

Silvio Dante is another story, however. Don’t get me wrong, Steven Van Zandt was a revelation as Tony’s consigliere—who knew Bruce Springsteen’s lead guitarist could act?—but Tom Wopat could have, nay, would have been even better.

If this guy can convincingly portray a mobster, why not Wopat?

If this guy can convincingly portray a mobster, why not Wopat?

Key Changes

While nearly all the actors in major roles (and many minor ones) in The Sopranos really are of Italian heritage, Tom Wopat is not. This generally isn’t a big deal in Hollywood, where people professionally pretend to be people they’re not, but on a show that’s about the Mafia, and that does a very good job playing up the importance of the Mafia’s “rules,” it could’ve been a deal breaker. However, there is precedent for non-Italians holding important positions in the mob in fiction: Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) in The Godfather was the Corleone family consigliere for many years, despite being 100 percent Irish.

Though it wouldn’t be much of a stretch for Wopat to portray an Italiano—he’s certainly got the hair for it!—it’s possible that the character would’ve been rewritten in more of a Tom Hagen mold. An “outsider,” if you will, that nevertheless is a trusted member of Tony’s crew. Perhaps he grew up in the same neighborhood as Tony and, after an initially contentious relationship that resulted in many a fisticuff, the two gained a grudging respect for one another that evolved into true friendship.

If the writers did take that angle, the character would, of course, need to have a different, non-Italian name. Our suggestion: Jimmy “The Duke” Lucas. (See what we did there?) A good number of characters on The Sopranos are addressed almost exclusively by their nicknames—Paulie Walnuts, Uncle Junior, Big P-word and Little P-word, Johnny Sack, even Silvio was often referred to as just “Sil”—so Wopat’s character could’ve been called both Jimmy and Duke in equal measure.

Apart from that, the character could’ve remained essentially the same. Tom Wopat could easily have brought the same balance of gravitas and humor to the Silvio (or Jimmy) role that Van Zandt did. He looks great in a suit (as Silvio was almost always dressed to the nines). We’ve seen him beat up goons on The Dukes of Hazzard, so him knocking the stuffing out of a guy with a Dust Buster would’ve been completely believable. And, while we don’t have anything to support this, Wopat probably smokes a mean cigar, too.

Photo credit: Nuevo Anden / Foter / CC BY-NC