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.

Photo credit: RoGeRroro via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

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.

Photo credit: jaztuck3000 via StoolsFair / CC BY