Comedy, Science Fiction and/or Fantasy

Tom Wopat in: Galaxy Quest

as: Jason Nesmith

Galaxy Quest is a hugely underappreciated film, a pitch perfect parody of the original Star Trek series, its devoted fans, and the show’s stars (or at least the public perception of them). In Galaxy Quest’s show-within-a-movie, also called “Galaxy Quest,” Jason Nesmith was the William Shatner analog—a brash, bold actor of limited range whose ego was stoked by his role as Captain and whose career never escaped the shadow of his signature role.

In Galaxy Quest, Nesmith is portrayed by Tim Allen, who delivered a splendid, and splendidly Shatner-esque performance. However, we feel that a certain other actor, who himself has been pigeonholed by his most famous work, would have done an even better job. We are, of course, referring to Thomas Steven Wopat.

Galaxy Quest

Why Wopat?

We previously speculated that Wopat would’ve been an ideal choice to play Captain Kirk on Star Trek, so why not cast him in a role that spoofs that character and show?

As mentioned, Tom Wopat will likely never be remembered for anything as much as his role as Luke Duke on The Dukes of Hazzard. This gives him the perfect amount of real-life insight to portray a character like Jason Nesmith, who is in essentially the same situation, career-wise. While Tim Allen is also very well known for one particular role (Tim Taylor on Home Improvement), he has also had a fairly successful movie career, starring in both the Santa Clause and Toy Story series, among other films.

In Galaxy Quest, Nesmith removes his shirt multiple times and with little to no provocation or actual need to do so, mirroring Shatner’s frequent shirtlessness. Though these scenes are played for laughs, it wouldn’t have hurt if the guy removing his shirt was a bit more fit and trim. Though he’s a few years older than Allen, Wopat is still in far better shape. A shirtless Wopat probably have been far better received by the film’s female viewers.

Nesmith is involved in a few fight scenes in the film, the choreography of which is intentionally clumsy and unimpressive, mirroring Kirk’s fight scenes on Star Trek. However, we feel it would’ve been even funnier to have the character be revealed to be an excellent fighter, kicking alien butt much to the surprise of his former co-stars. He would go on to explain that his fight scenes in the “Galaxy Quest” meta-show were crappy and poorly done only because of the limitations of the show’s director and budget. Someone like Wopat, who had a good deal of stage combat experience as a rough and tumble Duke boy, would’ve been perfect in such scenes.

Parenthetically

Wopat guest starred in a Season 7 episode of Home Improvement. He played a somewhat shady manufacturer’s rep trying to strike a deal with Binford for sales of a new line of Teflon machining equipment. He also hit on Jill, which—not cool bro. Not cool.

Photo credit: RJ Bailey via Foter.com / CC BY

Action and/or Adventure, Drama, Television

Tom Wopat in: Sons of Anarchy

as: Bobby Elvis

It’s been almost two years since Sons of Anarchy wrapped up its epic seven-season run on FX. The Shakespearian biker-gang drama went out guns a-blazin’ with a final season that shook the show’s Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original (SAMCRO) to its foundation. Lots of characters, both beloved and behated, wound up taking dirt naps by the end, and, arguably, none of those final season deaths had more of an effect on SOA’s ultimate resolution than that of Robert “Bobby Elvis” Munson. I know I teared up when Bobby bit the dust.

Perhaps the only way it could’ve had a bigger impact is—you guessed it—if Tom Wopat had played the part.

Wopat of Anarchy

SOA

Bobby Elvis was originally portrayed by Mark Boone Junior, and, other than their physical differences, he and Tom Wopat are essentially analogous. Both are accomplished (if unheralded) singer-songwriters, both are Midwesterners (from Ohio and Wisconsin, respectively), and both are in their early sixties. Both clearly know their way around high-powered vehicles, as Boone and Wopat both did much of their own driving in Sons and Dukes of Hazzard (though Bobby’s motorcycle is a decidedly different beast than the General Lee).

On Sons of Anarchy, Bobby Elvis is, generally, the level-headed voice of reason among the MC’s leaders. Wopat’s laidback, soft-spoken style would perfectly fit this aspect of the character. It’s easy to picture Bobby Wopat talking some sense into (or at least attempting to) Ron Perlman’s Clay Morrow or Charlie Hunnam’s Jax Teller as they sit around the big table at the club’s meetings.

At a good five inches taller than Boone, Wopat would be more on the level, physically, with Perlman’s imposing gang leader. Though Clay and Bobby never came to blows, a taller (though much thinner) Bobby could’ve given the character more weight (ironically) in their interactions.

Early on in the series, we see how Bobby got his nickname: he’s a semi-professional Elvis impersonator. The long-haired, bearded, portly Boone didn’t look much like Elvis, but he sold it with his enthusiasm and far-better-than-expected singing. I think we can all agree that Tom Wopat would make a much more convincing faux-King of Rock & Roll, and we know he’d be more than capable of singing some Elvis tunes. After Bobby’s first appearance in his Elvis getup, we never see him performing again. With Wopat in the role (and doing a much better job of Elvising), it’s possible it would’ve been more of a recurring thing, a bit of comic relief to lighten the often-heavy overall tone of the show.

Photo credit: anieto2k via Source / CC BY-SA

Classics, Comedy, Musicals, Science Fiction and/or Fantasy

Tom Wopat in: Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure

as: Rufus

1988’s Bill & Ted Excellent Adventure is one hell of a weird movie: two high school metalheads are given a time-traveling phone booth to help them pass a history test—if they fail, the future of civilization will be in serious jeopardy. If that sounds like a pretty dumb premise, that’s because it is. It’s also hilarious and brilliantly executed and acted (with Keanu Reeves basically playing what is now the public’s perception of his IRL persona). It also features an ingenious—and paradox free!—time-travel workaround by the heroes that ultimately saves the day.

The San Francisco Giants know what's up.

The San Francisco Giants know what’s up.

In the film, the late, great George Carlin plays Rufus, a somewhat mysterious mentor from the future who was sent back in time to set Bill S. Preston, Esquire, and Ted “Theodore” Logan off on their excellent adventure. Reportedly, the producers were originally considering “serious” actors for the role, such as Sean Connery, until someone jokingly suggested Carlin. The legendary comedian was offered the part, accepted, and the rest is history.

But what if Carlin had turned them down? What if, instead, they chose Tom Wopat, the greatest actor of this or any time period?

Key Changes

Though Tom Wopat has worked on sitcoms—The Dukes of Hazzard was a pretty funny show sometimes, too—he can’t compete with George Carlin in the humor department. As such, the Rufus character would likely have leaned more toward the serious tone the writers originally intended. Wopat’s got dramatic chops for days. (Though, in a movie where Napoleon Bonaparte goes to a modern SoCal waterslide park, how “serious” could it have been?)

Another potential change could’ve made the film’s emphasis on the importance of music in the future more pronounced. In Excellent Adventure’s denouement, Rufus presents Bill and Ted with shiny new guitars. Before handing them over, though, he shreds a blistering solo on one of the guitars. In the film, the guitar solo-ing hands are not Carlin’s, but rather those of Stevie Salas, an accomplished studio musician and film score composer (who, not coincidentally, wrote the score for this movie). Wopat can sling a mean ax in his own right, and therefore could likely have performed the solo himself in a single shot. The added authenticity would’ve gone a long way, in our opinion, and added to the mystique of the future seen briefly in the film. Why is Rufus, ostensibly just a messenger, so good on guitar? Is everyone in the future an excellent musician? Just how does one “be excellent” to another?

Our third picked nit is strictly aesthetic. In Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, George Carlin appears essentially as he always did in the late 1980s (except for the costumes). He wears his same usual beard and keeps his long hair in a ponytail. There’s nothing wrong with this look, of course, and it certainly served Carlin well for a number of years. However, in that briefly-glimpsed future mentioned above, all the other actors are sporting futuristic, yet distinctly ‘80s, hairdos (or are they distinctly ‘80s, yet futuristic, hairdos?) along with their sparkly costumes. Tom Wopat, with his glorious flowing mane, could’ve been given one of the greatest future-’80s/’80s-future hairstyles in motion picture history. And so, great opportunity was lost…

Photo credit: E Steuer via StoolsFair / CC BY

Drama, Musicals

Tom Wopat in: I’m Not There

as: Billy the Kid (a.k.a. “Bob Dylan”)

The 2007 sort of-biopic I’m Not There opens with a caption reading, “Inspired by the music and many lives of Bob Dylan.” To that end, six different actors portray Dylan in different guises that represent the different stages of the musician’s long and storied career. Each of the assorted thespians delivers a fine performance, and the overall result is an intriguing if uneven film that ultimately seems like the closest anyone outside Dylan’s circle will ever get to “knowing” the notoriously elusive singer-songwriter.

Among the half-dozen actors playing “Bob Dylan” are Oscar winners Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, and Cate Blanchett. (Yes, a woman plays Bob Dylan, and she turns in perhaps the best portrayal of the bunch.) Another is Richard Gere. If any member of the main cast of this flick is replaceable, it’s him.

We’ve already suggested that Tom Wopat take Dylan’s place in another film involving Billy the Kid. It seems pretty logical that Wopat play the “Billy the Kid” version of Dylan here.

The Times They Are A-Changin' 1

Why Not Wopat?

Tom Wopat is two years younger than Richard Gere, so not much would change in that respect: this “Billy the Kid” would still be an older, wiser, wizened version of Dylan, still the aged outlaw. And we already know that Wopat looks dang good in Western-style attire, so not even the costumes would’ve needed changing.

As he’s searching for his dog Henry, and meets up with a friend named Homer, it’s clear that Billy the Kid is meant to represent Basement Tapes-era Dylan. (“Don’t Ya Tell Henry” and “Open the Door, Homer” being two tracks off that landmark album.) Ergo, it’s only fitting that another Basement Tapes song, “Goin’ to Acapulco” is performed during this part of the film. The song’s jangling acoustic guitars and ragged vocals make it a perfect fit for the Old West-esque setting, as well.

However, there is one glaring problem: it’s not Billy the Kid singing the song. There’s probably a good reason Jim James of My Morning Jacket sings “Goin’ to Acapulco” instead of Gere, but it would likely have been a more powerful and memorable moment in the film if the Dylan character sang it himself. As such, Tom Wopat would be ideal.

Wopat has released something like ten albums in his career, in styles ranging from rock ‘n’ roll to country-western to classic pop standards. Dylan himself has famously made a number of stylistic shifts throughout his recording career. The two make a good match by that metric. Plus, Wopat can play guitar, something that it seems like any cinematic portrayal of Bob Dylan should do. Gere doesn’t so much as touch an instrument of any kind in his segment of I’m Not There. (Poser.)

Also: while they don’t exactly look alike, there’s a much closer resemblance between Wopat and Dylan than there is between Dylan and Gere.

Photo credit: irishindeed via Instagram

Classics, Comedy, Science Fiction and/or Fantasy

Tom Wopat in: Ghostbusters

as: Louis Tully

It was difficult deciding which character in Ghostbusters would benefit the most from Wopatization. Bill Murray’s Peter Venkman is one of the most beloved and quotable comedy characters of all time, so we wouldn’t dare mess with that. Dan Aykroyd, the film’s Ray Stantz, can up with the idea and co-wrote the film, so he should definitely stay in the picture. The late, great Harold Ramis portrayed Egon Spengler, and as the movie’s other co-writer, he, too, must remain in the cast. Ernie Hudson is his uniformly excellent self as Winston Zeddemore, so we wouldn’t want leave him out, either.

It's no General Lee, but it'll do in a pinch.

It’s no General Lee, but it’ll do in a pinch.

The only logical choice, then, is to put Tom Wopat in the Louis Tully role. The part was originally intended for John Candy, and the character was first written as an uptight, suit-and-tie wearing business man. Candy ultimately passed on the film, and Rick Moranis stepped in, making the character more of a geeky nerd. (Or was he a nerdy geek?) Moranis does a fine job, but he’s no match for Tom Wopat.

Key Changes

With Tom Wopat as Louis Tully, the character would have to be changed yet again. Wopat’s too laid back to play an uptight suit, and too darned good looking to play a nerdy geek/geeky nerd. Instead, the Wopat Tully character would be more of a hippie Zen-master type. He’d still be an accountant, but instead being of all nebbishy and stereotypically “accountant-y”, he’d a chilled out guy who “finds peace” in calculating numbers.

Because Ghostbusters was released in 1984, when The Dukes of Hazzard was at its peak, the filmmakers would likely want to give Wopat a slightly bigger, more active role. Instead of just being a side character who kinda-sorta tags along on the Ghostbusters’ adventures, he’d use his mathematical skills to help them construct their equipment. We’re not sure how that would work, exactly, but the design stages of most complicated electromechanical equipment require a lot of math, so there you go. Someone else can work out the specifics. (We’re not professional screenwriters over here.)

Also, as Wopat is clearly a more athletic person in general than Moranis, we’d extend the chase scene during which Tully is hunted down by those big demon-dog-monster things. Instead of just a brief sprint through a park before getting run down, Wopat Tully would lead the beasts on a long, comical chase through the neighborhood. A hot dog cart would be exploded; a horse would get startled and bolt off into the night, dragging its hansom cab passengers with it; a busy restaurant kitchen would be barreled through; several windows would get shattered. All in all, it would be much funnier and more exciting.

Wopat would, of course, have reprise the role in Ghostbusters II. He clearly would not have made the cut for the recent remake, however, as he is a dude.

Photo credit: greenboxhouse via Remodel Blog / CC BY-NC-ND