Comedy, Sports

Tom Wopat in: Kingpin

as: Roy Munson

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

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

bowling

Why Not Wopat?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Action and/or Adventure, Drama, Television

Tom Wopat in: Game of Thrones

as: Ned Stark

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

Always the same weather report with this guy.

Always the same weather report with this guy.

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

Representative Scene: Outside the Great Sept of Baelor

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Jedimentat44 via Foter.com / CC BY

Classics, Kids and/or Family, Sports

Tom Wopat in: The Mighty Ducks

as Hans the Hockey Guru

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

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

Key Changes

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

GOOOOO Ducks!

GOOOOO Ducks!

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

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

Representative Scene

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

Photo credit: goaliej54 via Remodel / CC BY-SA

Classics, Comedy, Television

Tom Wopat in: Cheers

as: Sam Malone

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

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

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

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

Key Changes

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

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

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

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

Classics, Comedy

Tom Wopat in: The Big Lebowski

as: “The Dude”

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

Yeah. It is.

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

lebowski

Key Changes

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

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

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

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

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