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

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 Letterman lately, 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.

Key Changes

At one point in the film, the character of Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski is described as being “maybe […] the laziest man in the whole country.” 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.

FTFY

FTFY.

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. For example, 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 The Dude 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 / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

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 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 has given 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: Bakarti / Foter / CC BY

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.

Notes

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

FTFY

FTFY

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 some 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: jdxyw / Foter / CC BY-SA

Tom Wopat in: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

as: Aragorn

Viggo Mortensen, the actor who ultimately portrayed Aragorn in the blockbuster Lord of the Rings trilogy, did a mighty fine job. He was so into the character, according to interviews in the films’ DVD special features, that he would carry his sword with him at all times (even after shooting wrapped for the day), he learned the entire Elvish language J.R.R. Tolkien created (as opposed to just learning his few Elvish lines phonetically), and, after production, he bought the horse that he rode in the second and third films. And, he was just the right amount of “unknown actor” that he’s been hard-pressed to shake the “Hey, you’re Aragorn” thing in later roles; it’s equally hard to imagine anyone else playing the part.

However, Mortensen was not the filmmakers’ first choice—an equally (mostly) unknown actor named Stuart Townsend initially won the part. After four days of filming, director Peter Jackson recast Mortensen in the role, feeling that Townsend was too young the character who would become King of Middle Earth.

Tom Wopat is eight years older than Viggo Mortensen (in the films—and the books, of course—the character is 87). And he would have been a perfect choice to play Aragorn.

That could be a Tom Wopat action figure.

That could be a Tom Wopat action figure.

Key Changes

At the time the films were released, Tom Wopat would’ve been one of the more widely-known members of the cast—not necessarily by name, but most people would’ve recognized Luke Duke amongst the Fellowship before probably 90 percent of the other actors. This would likely have changed the dynamic of the film somewhat—Aragorn is one of the trilogy’s most important characters as is, but with a more famous face, he probably would have received an even larger allotment of screen time.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Tom Wopat with a beard, but I doubt it would’ve been a problem for him to grow the appropriate amount of facial hair for the role. There’s always makeup, too, if actually growing a beard was out of the question. And—if we want to get down to the real nerdy nuts-and-bolts of the character—Aragorn wasn’t actually supposed to have a beard, anyway. In Tolkien’s Unfinished Tales, it specifically states that he doesn’t, due to his half-Elven heritage (for whatever reason, Tolkien elves don’t grow facial hair).

Other than that, not much would need to be different. In hair color, height, and build, Wopat and Mortensen are pretty much Even Stevens. Both have recorded and released a number of music albums, and for my money, Wopat has the better voice, which would have made the few scenes in which Aragorn sings more enjoyable.

Photo credit: Dean Lin / Flickr / Creative Commons License

Tom Wopat in: Cheers

“This post was written before a live studio audience.”

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?

Perhaps the most welcoming sight in TV history.

Perhaps the most welcoming sight in TV history.

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, alternately, without Shelley Long in the cast.)

Photo credit: Foter / CC BY-SA

Tom Wopat in: Charlie & the Chocolate Factory

as: Willy Wonka

Please note that this Wopatization is for the 2005, Tim Burton-directed version of the story. The original, far superior Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, with Gene Wilder in the title role, is beyond reproach.

In this case, we’d replace Johnny Depp’s bizarre, misguided take on the character with a much more measured, but still stylized, portrayal by (of course) Tom Wopat.

Key Changes

Wopat’s Wonka (Willy Wopat?) would be less of a Michael Jackson-esque weirdo and more in line with Wilder’s interpretation from 1971. No Prince Valiant haircut, no disturbingly perfect teeth, no squeaky voice. Costuming would remain largely the same, and the overall story would be essentially the same, but we’d eliminate the strange and unnecessary “Wonka’s father was a dentist” backstory thing. We’d also add a few new wrinkles and a gag or two that draw on Wopat’s most famous prior role.

Also, all the Oompa-Loompas look like Boss Hogg.

Setting a new record for Williest Wonka.

Setting a new record for Williest Wonka.

Representative Scene: Veruca Salt & The Chocolate Factory’s Pneumatic Conveyors

After Augustus Gloop falls into the river of chocolate and Violet Beauregard turns violet, Veruca Salt comes across the Chocolate Factory’s squirrels, who are tasked with removing “bad nuts” from the good ones that will eventually go into Wonka’s chocolate bars. Veruca, being the spoiled rich kid she is, decides she wants one of the trained squirrels for her very own.

The squirrels don’t take kindly to these shenanigans and take matters into their own paws. (Here’s where we deviate from the script a bit.) Rather than let the squirrels be all evil and attack-y, Willy Wopat intervenes and prevents them from sending Veruca down the “bad nut” trash chute. Unpredictable critters that they are, the whole scurry takes up the offensive against Wonka and his visitors.

Using his Dukes of Hazzard stunt and fight training, Wopat engages the enraged squirrels in hand to paw combat. With a right hook here and a spin kick there, he’s dispatching the squirrels in rapid fashion. Though Willy Wopat is the only one actively fighting the squirrels, they are clearly intent on attacking the young Ms. Salt. The woodland critters’ sheer numbers quickly become too great to withstand.

Rather than continuing to battle the squirrels, Willy Wopat instead shuffles Veruca over to a nearby giant tube with a curiously kid-sized and –shaped opening. It’s the same pneumatic conveying system that pulled Augustus from the chocolate reservoir, and as soon as Veruca’s inside, Wonka slides a previously-hidden panel closed and shwoop! Off she goes into the bowels of the Chocolate Factory, never to be seen again…

…until the end of the movie when they trot out all the kids to show that they weren’t really hurt or killed or anything, because it’s a family movie.

Photo credit: @DrGarcia / Foter / CC BY-NC