Classics, Comedy

Tom Wopat in: Joe Dirt

as: Clem Doore/Anthony Benedetti

Joe Dirt, once upon a time known as The Adventures of Joe Dirt, is a criminally underrated movie, and the only film David Spade ever starred in without Chris Farley that is even remotely watchable. A sequel was recently released on Crackle, whatever that is, but it just can’t hold a candle to the original. Plenty of folks knock on the original, too, but those people are unintelligent and unattractive, and should not be taken seriously.

Long story short: we love Joe Dirt. Our only suggestion for improvement: add Tom Wopat.

"Rule Number One: I'm Number One."

“Rule Number One: I’m Number One.”

Why Wopat?

Obvs we wouldn’t replace David Spade in the title role, as we’re pretty sure Spade actually is Joe Dirt in real life. The only other male character significant enough for a talent like Wopat’s is Clem Doore (former mobster Anthony Benedetti, now in Witness Protection), played by Christopher Walken.

Walken’s great, don’t get me wrong, but his performance kind of throws his interactions with Joe Dirt out of whack. Because David Spade is playing such an out-and-out “character” (i.e., no effort to make him seem like an actual person), the general weirdness of Walken’s performance (on par with most of his performances over the last 10-15 years) gives their scenes together the feel of two characters from wildly different comedy sketches thrown together.

With Wopat, you’d get more genuine acting. In place of Walken’s peculiar, signature line readings, with their odd pauses and questionable pronunciations, Wopat would give a more grounded, realistic performance as Clem. You could keep the scenes and all the dialogue the same, and with Wopat’s more actorly performance, Clem would turn into a more believable side character.

Tom Wopat’s about a decade younger than Christopher Walken, but that wouldn’t make much of a difference here. Some mention is made of Benedetti being a mob boss in the 1970s—simply update it to the ‘80s and nothing else really has to change. The Mafia was still going strong in the ‘80s, too.

And finally, as Joe Dirt himself is so obsessed with muscle cars, putting Wopat in the movie would afford the opportunity to work in the General Lee in a “cameo”. There’s a scene in the latter half of the film where Joe is leafing through an old issue of AutoTrader and finds an intriguing listing—we’d simply change the description of the car he’s reading about to match the General. “Check this out: ’69 Charger, competition orange… this guy wants fourteen grand! What?! This guy’s crazy.”

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Action and/or Adventure, Classics

Tom Wopat in: Die Hard

as: John McClane

Since its release nearly 28 years ago, Die Hard has become one of the landmarks of the action-adventure genre. It has become the standard by which all other “lone hero against impossible odds” movies are judged—to this day, action flicks are often pitched as “Die Hard on a ______”. (For example: Speed is “Die Hard on a bus”.)

Though the four sequels (so far) have been of decreasing quality–#2, Die Harder, was pretty dang good, actually—the original Die Hard is nothing short of a masterpiece of action filmmaking. Bruce Willis, previously known almost exclusively for his role in TV’s Moonlighting, turned the part of NYPD officer John McClane into a career-defining role.

Lego Die Hard

However, due to some complicated Hollywood contract structures, 20th Century Fox, the studio behind the flick, was legally obligated to offer the role to Frank Sinatra first. Sinatra passed, and the role was offered to Arnold Schwarzenegger, with the idea of turning the script into a sequel to Commando. Arnie passed, too, as did Sylvester Stallone, Harrison Ford, Burt Reynolds, and a number of other action stars of the era. Finally, Bruce Willis was cast and an action hero was born.

Why Not Wopat?

Released in the summer of 1988, Die Hard came shortly after the end of The Dukes of Hazzard. Tom Wopat would still have been fresh in viewers’ minds from his role on the show, but it would also likely have been far enough removed that he wouldn’t automatically be seen as Luke Duke. He was an established TV star, while Willis was just starting to garner widespread attention.

One of the chief knocks on Bruce Willis at the time of his casting was that he wasn’t a known “action star.” If anything, this made Wopat more suited to the role than Willis at the time, as Dukes had a good bit of action and stunt work in it. (Willis apparently did most of his own stunts in Die Hard, so that’s pretty cool.)

Wopat is four years older than Willis, an age difference that is essentially nil in Hollywood (at least for male stars), both have dark brown hair (Willis used to have hair, anyway), and the two are the same height. Physically, at least, the two are pretty much interchangeable.

However, if it’s actual acting skill you’re after, Wopat is clearly the guy for the job. Nothing against ol’ Bruno, but Tom Wopat has more dramatic chops in his little finger than Willis has in his entire torso, head, and face. Another part of what set Die Hard apart from other ’80s action flicks was its sense of humor, and for my money, Wopat is a better comedic actor than Willis, too. McClane’s back-and-forth with Carl Winslow down in the Nakatomi Plaza guard shack could’ve been even bigger and better.

Yipee-ki-yay, Tom Wopat!

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Action and/or Adventure

Tom Wopat in: Taken

as: Bryan Mills

Taken is perhaps best known as the movie that changed peoples’ reactions from “Oh yeah, Liam Neeson” to “Hell yeah, Liam Neeson!” It spawned two sequels and reinvented Neeson’s career, turning him into Hollywood’s go-to, @$$-kicking man of a certain age. It was a well-deserved career renaissance, but there’s another 65-year-old leading man who deserves some late-career accolades of his own.

Time to change “Oh yeah, Tom Wopat” to “Hell yeah, Tom Wopat!”

Wopatization…Engage!

Though not exactly known as an action star at the time Taken was made, Liam Neeson did have some experience in the genre, having been in the excellent Gangs of New York (albeit very briefly), the spectacular Batman Begins, and the existent Star Wars Episode I, among others. He also played a mean Jean Valjean.

FTFY.

FTFY.

Similarly, Tom Wopat has some action genre experience, notably The Dukes of Hazzard and Smallville, but is not really what anyone would call an action star. He mopped the floor with goons of all stripes on Dukes, though, so he would be plenty believable whooping up on a bunch of Albanian kidnappers. Just like Neeson, Wopat has more than ample chops to make a convincing older bad@$$.

One potential drawback to replacing Neeson is losing his distinctive voice. His “very particular set of skills” speech is perhaps the most memorable and well-known part of the film, and not just for the words: Neeson’s voice and delivery made that monologue an instant classic.

Wopat has got some rather golden pipes of his own, however. He’s a veteran of numerous Broadway musicals, and has carved out a fairly successful music career for himself, as well, releasing 10 albums across various genres since 1981, so it’s not like he’s Gilbert Gottfried or something. Wopat would’ve crushed that monologue, hard. And his version of it might well have been better—Liam Neeson always sounds a little weird when he speaks with an “American” accent instead of his natural Irish lilt.

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Action and/or Adventure, Science Fiction and/or Fantasy

Tom Wopat in: Independence Day

as: President Thomas Whitmore

Independence Day is the quintessential so-bad-it’s-good summer blockbuster. Not a lick of the “science” in the flick makes sense, but you don’t care while you’re watching it because Will Smith just KO’d an ugly, tentacled alien with a solid right. It’s one of those movies that you think about now, roughly 20 years later (and not long after its totally unnecessary sequel bombed like Ted Kaczynski’s mailbox), and wonder, “How did that turd make $800 million?” And then you rewatch and you’re like, “Oh yeah, because it’s entertaining as all get out.”

Nearly everyone in the surprisingly diverse cast is perfectly, um, cast. Cocky Fighter Pilot = Will Smith; Drunk Buffoon = Randy Quaid; Nerdy/Super Smart Guy = Jeff Goldblum. And Diamond Bill Pullman is great as President Whitmore, and crafts one of the best inspirational-speech-before-going-off-to-war/battle scenes in the history of that now-overused trope.

But you know darn good and well that Tom Wopat would’ve been better.

Why Wopat?

Part of Bill Pullman’s appeal is that he is the perfect everyman. So much so that he is often mistaken (and vice versa) for Hollywood’s second most perfect everyman, the similarly named (which surely compounds the problem) Bill Paxton. That’s world-class everymanning, that is.

FTFY.

FTFY.

However, I feel it works against Pullman in Independence Day. The film is set in “present day,” which, at the time, was 1996. Pullman’s character, Tom Whitmore, was a decorated fighter pilot in the Persian Gulf War and has since, of course, been elected president. Here’s where Pullman’s everymanness works against him: The first Gulf War lasted from late 1990 to early 1991, which means that in five years Whitmore went from soldier (likely an Officer) to Leader of the Free World.

Even the most decorated pilot in the history of aviation and/or warfare couldn’t ride that fact alone into the White House in just five years, without prior political experience. As we know, these days, any reasonable amount of prior political experience essentially guarantees that one will not be partaking in the actual fighting of any war. Politicians just start wars, they leave the fighting and dying to others—makes it easier to start more wars that way.

But: if that decorated fighter pilot (again, probably an Officer) was as ruggedly good looking and as charming as Tom Wopat? Especially a Charming Decorated Fighter Pilot Tom Wopat sporting a classic (though not very presidential) Tom Wopat Haircut? Get the heck outta here. That cat would win in a landslide. A landslide I tell ya!

THAT is why Tom Wopat should’ve been in Independence Day.

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Action and/or Adventure, Science Fiction and/or Fantasy

Tom Wopat in: Ant-Man

as: Hank Pym

The so-called Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU, is made up of (so far) 248 movies of varying quality. Iron Man was the first, and one of the best; The Incredible Hulk was the second, and quite a turd. Perhaps the most surprising entry in the franchise—surprisingly good, that is—is Ant-Man. Pretty much only die-hard comic book fans were familiar with the C-squad character before the movie came out, and the premise—super suit allows well-meaning former criminal to shrink down to microscopic size and fight crime somehow—is even more ridiculous than most MCU flicks.

Someone behind the scenes had the good sense to cast the charming, ever-likable, and ageless Paul Rudd as the title character, a.k.a. Scott Lang. His mentor in the film and the “original” Ant-Man, Hank Pym, was played by Michael Douglas. He should’ve been played by Tom Wopat.

Tom?

Tom?

Why Not Wopat?

On the surface, Wopat and Douglas are essentially analogous: both are handsome older white dudes. The only significant difference is that, despite having a fraction of the acting talent, Douglas is somehow the bigger star. This, to my mind, actually makes Wopat the better choice. It’s hard not to be distracted by the presence of Michael Douglas in a comic book superhero movie, because, in every role he’s ever played, he always Michael Douglas. Though Luke Duke is a far more iconic and memorable character than, say, Gordon Gekko, Tom Wopat can still play different roles, instead of just being the same guy in different costumes and with different dialogue coming out of his mouth.

Wopat is also just over seven years younger than Douglas. In the opening scenes of the film, as well as flashbacks and “archival footage,” we see OG Ant-Man in action, kicking Hydra arse in his prototype super suit way back in Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Nine. This would’ve made Wopat 38 at the time, while Douglas would’ve been 45. Super suit or not, more than a half dozen years would make a big difference on a dude’s superheroing abilities. Think about it from a real-world angle: there are quite a few 38-year-old professional athletes; there are no 45-year-old professional athletes.

Plus, with Wopat’s considerable stunt and fight-scene experience from his Dukes of Hazzard days, it just seems more realistic that he could handle a big bunch of baddies. Michael Douglas looks like he couldn’t even best a toddler in a fistfight these days.

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