as: James Bond 007
Fifty-plus years and 24 movies (and counting) into the series, the James Bond films are still going strong. Six different actors have played the lead roles over the years, the “bad guys” constantly change to reflect the sociopolitical landscape of the real world, and the overall quality of the films has varied greatly (put Moonraker up against Skyfall, for example), but one thing has remained a constant: James Bond is the man.
A half-dozen actors have portrayed James Bond over the years, and speculation abounds every time the role is to be recast. Of the six Bonds so far, two have been very, very good (Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig), but only one has been truly irreplaceable—Sean Connery, the original and still the best. With this in mind, we set out to recast one of the more forgettable Bonds with Tom Wopat. Timothy Dalton’s run seemed like the best fit.
First and foremost, Tom Wopat would’ve been the first American James Bond. It’s impossible to say if the filmmakers would’ve asked Wopat to feign a British accent for the role, or if his natural American voice would’ve been used. Other actors in the role have had non-British accents (Connery’s was Scottish, George Lazenby’s Australian), so perhaps the accent is not a requirement. However, if it had been, we’ve no doubt that Wopat would’ve totally nailed it.
Second, Timothy Dalton’s two-film stint as James Bond marked something of a return to form for the character. Dalton (and the producers, directors, and writers) put some of the grimness and morality struggles from Ian Fleming’s source novels back into the character, who, as Roger Moore’s time in the role went on, became more and more cartoonish and superhero-eque. Gone were the “007 in space” plots, in favor of a more realistic approach.
Wopat’s certainly got the acting chops for a more complex Bond, but the natural comic charisma he showed on The Dukes of Hazzard—not exactly a comedy show, but certainly one with a sense of humor—would have no doubt shown through in places. With a little more levity to the proceedings, one of the big criticisms of Dalton’s Bond days (too dour) would’ve been avoided. This, in turn, likely would’ve made these two middling entries in the franchise into the classic installments they very nearly were. It probably wouldn’t have hurt at the box office, either.
As mentioned above, Dalton only hung around for two movies before the Bond hat was passed to Brosnan. Had the above scenario come to pass, we predict that Tom Wopat would not only have become the first American James Bond, but also the last James Bond ever. Not because he would’ve sunk the franchise, but because he would be so well-suited to and loved in the role that no one would ever want to replace him. He’d still be going strong, 10 films in, with each one breaking box office records set by the previous installment.
“But wouldn’t he have aged out of the part by now?” you may foolishly ask. Not at all—there’s no reason fictional characters can’t age along with the actors portraying them, and 007 is no exception. By now, at the still relatively young age of 65, Wopat would be playing Bond as an older-and-wiser elder statesman who can still kick @$$ and save the day with the best of them. (Liam Neeson is still convincingly knocking dudes’ heads in at 64.)
Sure, every new Bond adventure at this point would have to begin with scenes of the “James Bond is the only one who can handle this mission” and “please come out of retirement (again), James” nature. But it would be more than worth sitting through that tired routine every two or three years to see Tom Wopat, one of the most iconic actors of this or any generation, in one of the most iconic film roles of all time.