Classics, Comedy

Tom Wopat in: Office Space

as: Peter Gibbons

Office Space is one of cinema’s greatest cult classics—I’m not the only one who thinks so. However, it will never be mistaken for a timeless classic like The Godfather or Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Office Space is about as 1998 as anything is, was, or ever will be. Part of it is the nature of the movie—it’s set in the present, so it looks like the present of the year it was filmed, 1998. But part of it is the lead actor, Ron Livingston as Peter Gibbons. He’s a great actor, but he’s also a very ‘90s guy; one of those actors that you’re certain played someone’s boyfriend on like three episodes of Friends.*

We’d like to replace Livingston with an actor who’s a little more timeless, and we think Office Space would be all the better for it. That actor, of course, is Tom Wopat.

red-swingline

Key Changes

Ron Livingston and Tom Wopat actually look rather a lot alike, but something about Wopat** makes him seem more “classic,” if you will. The biggest difference betwixt the two is their age: at the time Office Space was release, Livingston was 32, whilst Wopat was 48. Ergo, with Wopat in the role, it wouldn’t work for Peter Gibbons to be a flailing, doesn’t-know-what-to-do-with-his-life young man he is in the OG flick. Instead, Peter Wopat would be a more successful businessman, one of the upper middle managers the original film’s Peter railed against, fed up with the company and in need of a major life change.

A good portion of the movie could remain the same. Peter Wopat would be stirred to action by the same event (a hypnotherapist who keels over dead while hypnotizing Peter). It would still result in Peter deciding to more or less do whatever he wants at work. And, he’d still start pulling pranks around the office. But, instead of low-key stuff like OG Peter perpetrated, Peter Wopat would use his management resources, and the company spending account, to stage some doozies.

One night, after his coworkers have all gone home, Peter backs a few trucks up to the office, and with a small crew of burly mechanic types, gets to work unloading. They take everything out of the office, down to the carpet, and including removing the suspended ceiling. The only thing left are the walls and the lights. Wopat and crew haul in and install a whole mess of modular two story offices, filling the entire space with cubicle just like the ones they took out, but now stacked on top of each other. Everyone has twice as much space!***

I’m sure a professional copywriter could probably come up with something much better, honestly. But you get the idea. They’d be Jim’s pranks on Dwight on The Office, but turned up to 11.

Jen Aniston would still probably have been cast as Peter’s girlfriend, because Hollywood is stupid like that. The ending would stay more or less the same, because the ending is great. But with Wopat in the lead, Office Space would have been much more than a cult classic—it would’ve been the most successful motion picture of all time.

* Believe it or not, Ron Livingston never appeared on Friends
**
It’s The Dukes of Hazzard
*** Though they also have low ceilings and an upstairs or downstairs cubicle neighbor

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Action and/or Adventure, Classics, Drama

Tom Wopat in: Vanishing Point

as: Kowalski

The 1971 counterculture cult classic Vanishing Point is one of those movies that you either absolutely love or completely hate. It doesn’t really have a story, exactly; the ending is a source of debate to this day—among fans and detractors alike; and the acting across the board is dismal, at best. But it’s a pretty great film. Or is it?

To push Vanishing Point from “cult classic” to just plain “classic”, one simple change is required. We’re 99% certain you know where we’re going with this.

Be Wise—Wopatize

Reportedly, director Richard C. Sarafian wanted Gene Hackman for the role of Kowalski, but studio executives insisted on casting an unknown actor. You can’t get much more unknown than Barry Newman, who was ultimately given the part and didn’t do much with it.

Pictured: Basically the entire set of Vanishing Point

Pictured: Basically the entire set of Vanishing Point.

Newman’s acting, as mentioned above, is not the best, and his on-screen charisma is practically non-existent. Alternatively, it could be argued that Kowalski only seems like a human tree branch because he’s so calm and Zen. Whichever way it was intended, Tom Wopat’s legitimate acting chops and natural charisma would’ve given the character a much-needed boost of likeability.

Wopat would’ve been only 19 years old when Vanishing Point was filmed, so we’ll just imagine it was made six or seven years later. This may have reduced the impact of the film’s social commentary on America’s post-Woodstock era; others would argue that same social commentary is hamfisted and clichéd, even for a film made at the dawn of said era.

Make the flick a few years later—1977 sounds about right—and the filmmakers would’ve had more perspective on early ‘70s America, and could’ve made a more compelling argument in their film; or, they would’ve wised up and let it out completely.

Though ’77 was still two years before Wopat became famous for driving a hot rodded Dodge, his skill behind the wheel in The Dukes of Hazzard suggests a natural aptitude that would’ve been perfect for the role of Kowalski. Both Wopat and John Schneider did a good deal of their own stunt driving on Dukes, as did Newman in Vanishing Point.

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

Classics, Comedy

Tom Wopat in: Mrs. Doubtfire

as: Stu Dunmeyer

With the late, great Robin Williams giving one of his best and funniest performances in the title role, you’re forgiven if you don’t remember who Stu Dunmeyer is in Mrs. Doubtfire. It’s Pierce Brosnan’s character, the suitor of Williams’ character’s ex-wife (played by Sally Field).

Surely you know where this is going: Tom Wopat is your new Stu Dunmeyer. It’s a B-level part at best, but there is not a snow cone’s chance in Phoenix that the biggest male part in this flick (Daniel Hillard/Mrs. Doubtfire, duh) could be played by anyone but Williams.

mrs-doubtfire

Key Changes

In Mrs. Doubtfire, Dunmeyer is not really the “bad guy,” per se, he’s more of a charming boor who rubs Williams’ character the wrong way simply because he’s dating his ex-wife. He is kind of a jerk on several occasions, however, something that he can more or less skate by with because he’s so dang good-looking and has a splendid British accent. Viewers aren’t exactly supposed to like the character, but we’re not really supposed to dislike him, either.

Tom Wopat has no doubt got the “good looking” part covered, but he hasn’t the accent to go with it. That being the case, it seems like the character’s boorishness would be a harder sell. It might be that, with Wopat as Stu, a bit of a rewrite would be necessary. Either play up Stu being a jerk more, or have him be the same charming guy and up Hillard/Doubtfire’s irrational dislike of the guy. If done well, the latter idea seems like it would be the more comically fertile. Written right, it wouldn’t take away from Williams’ or Wopat’s characters’ likeability, it would just make their interactions funnier.

Additionally, a scene or two that showcased Wopat’s action-oriented skills (honed on The Dukes of Hazzard) would be a good comedic addition. Sure, Brosnan was James Bond, but he didn’t make his first 007 film until the year after Mrs. Doubtfire, so he was not yet established as a big-screen action guy (Remington Steele doesn’t count, because it’s a TV show, and a pretty bad one, at that). Read on for more thoughts on this particular angle.

Representative Scene

Mrs. Doubtfire contains a short but very funny scene where the Hillard family, along with Mrs. Doubtfire and Stu, are hanging out at a swimming pool. Fed up with Stu’s smarmy charm, Mrs. Doubtfire hucks a lime at Stu from the opposite side of the pool, hitting him in the back of the head, leading to one of my personal favorite lines in the film: “It was a run-by fruiting!”

In our Wopatized version, Stu spots the incoming citrus out of the corner of his eye and executes a spin kick that knocks the lime out of the air and splatters fruit pulp everywhere. “Oh my,” Mrs. Doubtfire shouts across the pool, “dodged a bullet there, laddie. It was a run-by fruiting!”

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Drama, Musicals

Tom Wopat in: Whiplash

as: Terence Fletcher

If you love movies or music or both, you must see Whiplash. Even if you’ve already seen it, go watch it again. It’s a real corker! Without a doubt, the best part of the film is J.K. Simmons’ masterful performance as Terence Fletcher, the maniacal, unhinged jazz ensemble leader. Simmons should’ve gotten two Oscars for the role, he’s so good.

drums

That said, however: Tom Wopat could’ve and would’ve been better as Fletcher. Simmons killed it, for sure, but Wopat would’ve killed it, brought it back to life, and killed it again.

Key Changes

The one thing about Whiplash that struck me as odd is that Fletcher, the hard-driving, perfectionist music teacher, is not shown performing any music himself until the end of the film. And, even then, it’s only for a few fleeting seconds. From what I can tell, Simmons was genuinely playing in his performance scene, but it’s nothing terrible impressive. (Which, I suppose, is the point—“those who can’t do, teach” as they say. Though Fletcher takes it a little far with the “making up for my own shortcomings” thing. Anyways…)

With Wopat, an accomplished musician in his own right, in the role, we would add more scenes of Fletcher playing, here and there. The protagonist, Andrew Neiman (played by Miles Teller), would come across Fletcher playing solo acoustic jazz guitar (as Wopat is a talented guitarist)—really, really well—in an empty studio at the music conservatory where most of the story takes place. Amazed by his teacher’s skill, Neiman would be inspired to practice harder to try and match his skill (though Andrew is a drummer). This would, of course, be on top of the other “motivational” methods Fletcher employs to get the best out of his students.

Personally, I think this would make Fletcher an even more intimidating figure. It’s one thing to have a lunatic band teacher yell at you to do better; to have a lunatic band teacher that you know is a genius player himself yelling at you would be even worse. Like, “Dang, this dude really does know his stuff. I better play my @$$ off if I’m going to impress him even a little bit.” It would be akin to having Lebron James as your basketball coach: “How am I ever going to be good enough to meet those high standards?”

In all honesty, though, it’s hard to imagine anyone giving a better performance than J.K. Simmons did in Whiplash. It’s one of the finest cinematic performances of the 21st century, if not of all time. Still, can’t go wrong with Wopat, amirite?

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