Classics, Comedy

Tom Wopat in: Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

as: Champ Kind

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy is one of the funniest films ever made by man or ape. We’ve seen it probably a hundred times, and we laugh our tuckuses off Every. Single. Time. Great though it is, however, that’s not to say there’s no room for improvement. And we have one change in mind that just might’ve put Anchorman over the top from “one of the funniest” to “the funniest movie ever made.”

Don’t get us wrong: David Koechner is great. We like the way he’s put together. But Koechner wasn’t the filmmakers first choice for the role of Champ. John C. Reilly was originally cast, but had to bow out due to scheduling conflicts (the other project Reilly wound up working on was The Aviator, and it’s hard to blame the guy for jumping at the chance to work with Scorsese [again]).

We’re convinced that putting Tom Wopat in Koechner’s place as Channel 4 Action News’ mildly deranged sportscaster Champ Kind would’ve been a home run. Whammy!

anchorman

Key Changes

One of the most obvious differences between David Koechner and Tom Wopat are their looks. We’re not saying Koechner is a hideous CHUD or anything, but we’ve never seen him gracing the cover of any magazines, either. Tom Wopat, on the other hand, was and still is one of the handsomest dudes working in Hollywood. With the dashing Wopat in the role, the Champ character could’ve been written as more of a womanizer and a co-lothario with Paul Rudd’s character, “man on the street” reporter Brian Fantana. This would’ve opened up a lot of comedic opportunities for the two to play off each other, alternately wingmanning for each other and trying to sabotage each other’s chances with the ladies.

A second improvement would be the scene in which the news team break in to an impromptu, a capella rendition of the Starland Vocal Band’s “Afternoon Delight” (not to be confused with Blackbeard’s Delight). While it’s hilarious, and the four singers (Will Ferrell, Rudd, Koechner, and Steve Carrell) do manage to create some serviceable harmonies, adding an accomplished musician and singer like Tom Wopat to the mix would’ve made it sound much, much better. For my money, one of the best movie jokes ever is when a character (or characters) is (are) unexpectedly and for no discernable reason really, really good at something random, like singing in four-part vocal harmony.

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

Comedy, Holiday or Holiday Adjacent, Kids and/or Family

Tom Wopat in: Jingle All the Way

as: Howard Langston

Has there ever been a better holiday movie than Jingle All the Way? Has there ever been a better, more nuanced performance in a holiday movie than the one Arnold Schwarzenegger turns in as Howard Langston in Jingle All the Way? The answer to the first question is a resounding “No.” The answer to the second is, “There would be if Tom Wopat had played the part instead.” Let’s speculate further, shall we?!

Why Wopat?

jingle all the way

For starters, Jingle All the Way was filmed and set in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. Tom Wopat is originally from Lodi, Wisconsin, USA; Arnold Schwarzenegger is from Thal, Styria, Austria. Wopat’s natural Sconnie accent would’ve been far more geographically accurate than Arnie’s Austrian one. Additionally—and I say this as an unapologetic Schwarzenegger fan—it would’ve been much easier to understand the dialogue with Wopat as Howard Langston. Ah-nuld’s accent seemed to be particularly thick in this flick, for whatever reason.

Second, Tom Wopat makes a much more believable, regular joe mattress salesman. I always find it odd when Schwarzenegger plays characters that just have normal jobs, because, for example, why would a mattress salesman be built like a professional bodybuilder? Maybe stick with playing legendary warriors and killer cyborgs and genetically engineered superhumans, Arnold. Wopat is an average-sized fellow and would be more convincing in an everyday job occupation like mattress salesmanship.

Wopat’s comparative averageness would also make at least one other scene in the movie more believable, as well. After a confrontation with Jim Belushi’s evil, toy-counterfeiting Mall Santa character, Langston escapes a police raid by posing as an undercover cop. It seems far more likely that an average, not-the-size-of-a-phone-booth guy would be able to sneak out the door under that ruse. The other policemen would probably recognize a Mr. Universe-looking guy on the force, or, more accurately, recognize that Mr. Universe was most definitely not a fellow cop because wouldn’t they remember that huge guy? How about that pretty average dude who looks like an older Luke Duke, recognize him? I don’t know, I think that’s Stoharski; I’ve definitely seen him around before.

Photo credit: Ben Sutherland via Foter.com / CC BY

Action and/or Adventure

Tom Wopat in: Contraband

as: Chris Farraday

When it was released in 2012, Contraband didn’t exactly set the world on fire. But, it was a pretty solid, small-scale action flick, with some not overly-twisty twists and a heckuva performance by Giovanni Ribisi as the ridiculously Cajun bad guy, Briggs. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before, but it’s an enjoyable movie that I, for one, really liked. One weak spot: the lead actor, Mark Wahlberg. The solution: replace Marky Mark with Lukey Duke.

Hit the bricks, Wahlberg!

Hit the bricks, Wahlberg!

Whither the Funky Bunch?

Normally, I’m a big fan of Mark Wahlberg. I’ve seen probably 90 percent of the movies he’s been in, and he’s been in a lot of movies by now. But, in the role of former smuggler-made-good Chris Farraday, he just didn’t deliver the goods. Instead, we’d put Tom Wopat in the part and watch him lift Contraband to a higher echelon of good movie-ness. Maybe even to great movie-ness. Tom Wopat can do that shiz singlehandedly.

With Wopat as Chris Farraday, you’d of course be getting an older, wiser ex-smuggler, as Wahlberg is 20 years Wopat’s junior. To my mind, that would give the plot, wherein Farraday gets pulled back into the criminal underworld for the good ol’ “one last job,” even more weight. Wopat Farraday has been out of the game for a long time, and has settled into a comfortable, ready-to-retire-altogether life in the ‘burbs; after all these years, it’ll be even harder for him to save his and his brother-in-law’s tookuses.

In the Wopatized version of Contraband, this would be made apparent shortly after Wopat Farraday sets off on his mission. He’s not as young and fit as he used to be, and lugging around oversized industrial bags full of money and drugs isn’t as easy as it was back in the day. Beating up goons is tougher than ever. His back hurts literally the entire time. Etc.

Wopat’s additional decades wouldn’t be so significant as to render the story unbelievable, however. The flick has relatively few big, physical, action sequences, so it wouldn’t be a ridiculous Expendables kind of situation. It’s perfectly feasible that a dude in his early 60s could handle all the shiz that Farraday deals with in the movie. It’s basically the perfect actor-for-actor swap.

Seriously, do yourself a favor and check out Contraband. I highly recommend it.

Photo credit: Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Action and/or Adventure, Classics, Thriller

Tom Wopat in: Jaws

as: Chief Martin Brody

Released in the summer of 1975, Jaws is often considered the first “blockbuster” movie, and it quickly became the highest grossing movie in history (at the time—it has since been passed by many times over, first and not least of which by Star Wars).

Though the main actors in the film are now fairly well known, at the time, director Steven Spielberg wanted to avoid “name” actors, feeling that anyone too famous would detract from the “everyman” feel of the film, and that the real star of the film should be the shark.

jaws

The lead role of Chief Martin Brody was originally offered to Robert Duvall, who was only interested in playing Quint (Robert Shaw’s character). Charlton Heston expressed interest, but Spielberg felt his screen persona was too “big” for a small town police chief. Ultimately, the role went to the late, great Roy Scheider, who unquestionably did a wonderful job in the part.

That’s not to say there’s not someone who could’ve done it better. And that someone, as I think you know, is Tom Wopat.

Key Changes

Scheider was 42 when Jaws was filmed; Wopat was 23 that year. This probably makes Wopat too young to believably portray a police chief. However, we can think of two easy potential workarounds for this:

1) Amity Island’s a small community, so maybe they have to take who they can get when it comes to their constabulary. Young Wopat Brody maybe isn’t the best man for the job, but he’s the only one who’s willing to take it. This would play well into the town’s collective disbelief when Brody first suggests that there’s a shark in their waters.

2) Wopat Brody isn’t the chief of police, merely a young hotshot patrolman—presumably, Amity is too small a town to have detectives on their police force. He constantly butts head with the chief (could still be Scheider, in a much-reduced role), and when he suggests that it may be a shark that’s been terrorizing the townsfolk, the chief joins in the chorus of skeptics.

Ellen Brody, Brody’s wife, would likely have been played by a younger actress (though Lorraine Gray was only in her late 30s at the time). Having a strapping, young Tom Wopat in the movie, the filmmakers probably would have included a few shots of shirtless Wopat on the beach or whatever. Other than that, the flick could stay essentially the same. Which is for the best, because dang Jaws is a good movie, amirite?!

Photo credit: 7th Street Theatre via Foter.com / CC BY