Action and/or Adventure, Original Wopatizations

Mechanic: Titanic – An Original Wopatization

From Alien vs. Predator to Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, people sure love them some movie mashups these days. You know what else moviegoers can’t get enough of? Tom Wopat. With those two facts in mind, and stupid rhyming title that combines one of the highest-grossing movies of all time and a relatively obscure Jason Statham flick, we present our latest original Wopatization: Mechanic: Titanic.

Inspirato

The Mechanic was a 2011 action movie in which bald, mushmouthed British guy Jason Statham plays a hitman who specializes in making his hits look like accidents. That’s literally all you need know about the movie for our purposes here. Titanic was a g.d. cultural phenomenon that played in theaters for over a year. If you don’t know the movie Titanic, or at least know of it, go watch it and come back later. It’s not that great overall, but the second half is pretty solid. Although, come to think of it, for this bit to make sense, you really only need to know the story of the actual Titanic, as in the “unsinkable” ship. Still, go watch Titanic and we’ll see you in like three-and-a-half hours.

A Brief Summary of the Plot Synopsis

In Mechanic: Titanic, Tom Wopat takes on the assassin role. Obviously, because the Titanic sailed and sank in 1912, this is a prequel to Statham’s Mechanic (which itself is a remake of a 1972 movie of the same name starring Charles Bronson).

Wopat’s murder mark is Cal Hockley, the cocky young heir to an international steel empire played by Billy Zane in lil’ Jimmy Cameron’s 1997 Titanic flick. Wopat stows away on the ship before it launches, sneaking aboard just behind Leo DiCaprio’s Jack Dawson. (Mechanic: Titanic, like Back to the Future Part II and others before it, would superimpose the actors into the background of footage from the previous film.)

Hockley, it seems, is a very high-priced target. His father, MacGilvaray Hockley, heads the world’s second-largest steel company. The real-life man behind the world’s largest (at the time) steel company, Andrew Carnegie, is, in the film, the one who hires Wopat to off Hockley. Hockley Steel is growing fast and nipping at Carnegie’s heels…and overheads. Carnegie hopes that the “accidental” death of his son will lead MacGilvaray Hockley into a grief spiral that will lead his company to collapse.

The budget for this one's a little lower than that of Cameron's.

The budget for this one’s a little lower than what Cameron had to work with.

Carnegie pays Wopat’s character to assassinate young Hockley by any means necessary. The price is $5 million, an unheard of sum for hitmen now, let alone over a century ago. Wopat states that, in the (relatively) enclosed space of the Titanic, there are likely to be additional casualties—that is, Wopat might have to kill a few more people because it would be very likely that someone else would see him going about his work. He can’t have any witnesses, so anyone who espies him in the act will have to be killed, as well.

Carnegie replies that, for each additional bystander Wopat is forced to do in, he’ll add another $50,000 to his fee. Though he is hesitant about almost certainly having to kill innocent people, the offer is far too good to resist, and he agrees.

The night before he embarks on his mission, Wopat eats dinner with his even-more-shady friend, Greasy Pete. (You’d think the name would be a dead giveaway that the guy’s a ne’er-do-well, but whaddaya gonna do?) Greasy Pete convinces Wopat that, with over 2,000 people onboard the Titanic, he could really clean up. If Wopat sank the boat and killed everyone on board, along with Hockley, Pete says, he’d end up almost as rich as Carnegie himself.

Wopat boards the Titanic with the intention of sinking the ship via mechanical failure and making his escape via lifeboat. So he doesn’t find himself floating on the ocean for who knows how long before rescue arrives, he decides to wait until the cruise has almost reached its destination. On the night of April 14, he sneaks into the engine compartment and secretly shuts down one of the ship’s three gargantuan engines. He opens a maintenance hatch, quickly removes the turbine pump wear rings, and puts everything else back in order. This, Wopat’s character reasons, will cause the engine to overheat, gradually reaching a dangerous temperature, and, because this is a movie, exploding in a violent fireball.

He moseys casually out of the engine room, passing the foreman’s desk as he goes. On the desk is a framed photograph of the foreman and his family, with eight young kids smiling back at Wopat from behind the glass. Realizing that he’ll be destroying thousands of lives and, even worse, families in his pursuit of sweet, sweet money, he has a change of heart and goes about putting the engine back together.

However, he never gets the chance, because iceberg! The film then ends pretty much the same way Titanic does, but with Tom Wopat and no Kate Winslet.

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

Tom Wopat in: The Matrix Trilogy

as: Morpheus

The Matrix trilogy is kind of a mixed bag. The first flick holds up pretty well, even 15-plus years later, despite how dated the then-cutting edge technology now seems. The sequels are extremely hit-or-miss, however—the action sequences are still impressive (for the most part), but the would-be “philosophy” that runs through the storylines of both The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions seems even weirder and more heavy-handed now than it did at the time.

Another part of the Matrix series that falls into the hit-or-miss category is Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus. As the Merlin to the Arthur that was Keanu Reeves’ Neo, Fishburne delivers the right levels of gravitas in the films’ more serious moments, but his Morpheus seems to have no other setting. Even when things are going well, and he and his crew are celebrating victories over their sentient robot overlords, the erstwhile Cowboy Curtis sports the same dour, unsmiling countenance he wears in the heaviest of the movies’ scenes.

Part of this can surely be chalked up to the writing—the Wachowskis ain’t exactly Shakespeare. But with just a few different choices, Fishburne could’ve given Morpheus more of a “human” side with, you know, emotions and stuff. Reportedly, Gary Oldman and Samuel L. Jackson were also considered for the role. You know where we’re going with this…

"You take the blue pill, and Laurence Fishburne is Morpheus. Take the red pill, and it's Tom Wopat.

“You take the blue pill, and Laurence Fishburne is Morpheus. Take the red pill, and it’s Tom Wopat.

Key Changes

Tom Wopat would’ve been just the guy to play Morpheus. He’s got the dramatic chops The Matrix’s heavy scenes require, and the sense of humor he’s displayed in The Dukes of Hazzard, Cybill, and other roles would’ve made the character more rounded and more likable.

That being said, Wopat just wouldn’t look as cool in the role as Fishburne did. Fishburne lent an unmistakable style to the role, with his shaved head and mirrored pince-nez sunglasses. Wopat’s Morpheus would almost certainly have had hair (who would ask him to shave that glorious mane?), but it would’ve had to be something unique to make him more visually distinct from the similarly dark-haired Reeves. And it’s hard to imagine that anyone other than Fishburne could’ve pulled off the aforementioned shades, so Wopat’s Morpheus would’ve had to sport a different look—perhaps mirrored Ray-Ban aviators?

As the two actors are roughly the same height and build, the fight scenes could’ve stayed mostly the same. Wopat is ten years older than Fishburne, but in the world of The Matrix films, this wouldn’t matter—as Morpheus explicitly says in the first flick, “Do you believe that my being stronger or faster has anything to do with my muscles, in this place?” In the Matrix of The Matrix, age is irrelevant; all it takes to be a world-class kung fu master is the knowledge that nothing around you is really real—that there is no spoon.

*Whoa*

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

Tom Wopat in: Quantum Leap

as: Dr. Sam Beckett

Quantum Leap

Quantum Leap was one of the most interesting network shows of the early 1990s. In it, Dr. Sam Beckett travels willy-nilly through time, taking the place of ordinary people at crucial times in their lives and hoping to “put right what once went wrong.” On his missions, if you can call them that, Sam appears to everyone else as the person whose place he’s taken; to viewers at home, he looked like Scott Bakula. Over five seasons and 90-something episodes, Sam saved people’s lives, fought mobsters, flew through the Bermuda Triangle, explored Ancient Egyptian tombs, and was, briefly, a chimp.

Bakula did quite well in the role, scoring four Emmy nominations and a Golden Globe win. However, we feel there’s an actor who would’ve done even better and scored five Emmy wins, five Golden Globe wins, and, somehow, five Academy Awards for his work, with a Tony and a Grammy thrown in for EGOT purposes. That actor, of course, is Thomas Steven Wopat.

Why Not Wopat?

Quantum Leap debuted at the tail end of the 1988-1989 television season, a good four years after the end of The Dukes of Hazzard. Wopat would’ve been in prime position for a solid return to the boob tube—enough time had passed that he wouldn’t’ve automatically been “Luke Duke” to every viewer who saw him, but it also wasn’t so long ago that he’d’ve been forgotten.

Initially, the show struggled a bit in the ratings. At the time, Scott Bakula was a quintessential “that guy” on television and in movies. With a more established star like Tom Wopat in the lead role, Quantum Leap would almost certainly been a bigger hit from the get-go.

Like the show itself was fond of pointing out, one small change in the past can have a big impact on the future: if Wopat brought better ratings for the first season, the subsequent second season would’ve been given a bigger budget, which would’ve led to overall better-quality episodes, which would almost certainly translated to larger viewership and higher ratings, which starts the whole “bigger budget” cycle all over again.

Instead of running “just” five seasons, a higher-rated Quantum Leap could’ve continued to air new episodes for many more years. Someone put Donald P. Bellisario in the show’s time machine and have him put right the casting choice that once went… not wrong, exactly, because Bakula was pretty great… hmm… how about, “put right the casting choice that could’ve been even better”? That works.

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Action and/or Adventure

Tom Wopat in: The Living Daylights & License to Kill

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.

007

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.

Key Changes

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.

Lasting Impact

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.

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

Tom Wopat in: Pirates of the Caribbean

as: Captain Hector Barbossa

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was the surprise blockbuster of 2003. Before it was released, I’m pretty sure everyone in the general movie-going public expected a film based on a second-tier Disneyland ride to be a total turd. Shockingly, in addition to raking in several metric butt-tons of cash, it was actually good. The sequels are a matter of diminishing returns, as sequels often are, but there’s no denying that The Curse of the Black Pearl is a dang good flick.

When talking about the Pirates movies, it’s impossible to ignore Johnny Depp’s work as Captain Jack Sparrow. It became Depp’s career-defining role, and rightfully earned the actor an Oscar nomination. Actor and character have become inextricably linked, and there is straight up no way anyone could replace Depp in the role.

That doesn’t mean, however, that some of the other major characters from the franchise couldn’t benefit from being recast. Specifically, we’re talking about Jack Sparrow’s nemesis-turned-comrade Hector Barbossa. Sorry, Geoffrey Rush, but Barbossa is ripe for Wopatization.

...and really bad eggs

…and really bad eggs

Key Changes

For one thing, Tom Wopat is American (obvs), while Geoffrey Rush is some kind of weird foreigner (JK: foreigners are generally pretty great; Rush is Australian). Barbossa’s accent in the Pirates films was one of those “sort of from anywhere, sort of from nowhere” brogues that you hear a lot from movie characters of ambiguous origin. Wopat’s take on the accent would’ve likely been different, perhaps more of a “Colonial American who’s spent years on pirate ship” kind of thing. Pirates in those days really did come from everywhere (as they do now, I suppose), so there’s no reason why Barbossa couldn’t’ve been from the Colonies.

For another, Wopat is the far better looking of the two actors, so it’s doubtful if the filmmakers would’ve buried his visage under the heaps of makeup and crusty facial hair they gave Rush. In fact, it’s more likely that they would’ve played up Wopat Barbossa’s good looks and made him something of a rival in that department to the dashing swashbuckler that is Jack Sparrow. Nothing quite like a lady torn by her growing attraction to two ruggedly handsome, combative pirates, eh?

Third, as the film was a good bit tongue-in-cheek with its humor (though, reportedly, many direct references to the theme park ride were removed from the script prior to shooting), there would have to be some sort of Dukes of Hazzard reference in there somewhere. Since painting a pirate ship Competition Orange and putting a big “01” on the side would be too ridiculous even for a movie where pirates turn into walking skeletons in the moonlight, it would have to be something a bit more subtle.

Perhaps Wopat Barbossa could slide across a section of deck railing to get behind his ship’s wheel, much like Luke slid across the hood of the General Lee in Dukes. Maybe one of the swabbies aboard the Black Pearl would be named Coltrane, as in Roscoe P. I don’t know, I’m no screenwriter. Just a ridiculously over-committed fan of Tom Wopat. If that’s a crime, lock me up.

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Action and/or Adventure, Classics, Drama

Tom Wopat in: Fight Club

as: “Jack” (the Narrator)

Fight Club is one of those brilliant, truly unique movies that you cannot adequately describe to those who haven’t seen it. Ultimately, you end up telling the person, “You just have to see it, man!” Even if you’ve seen it a dozen times, you’ll still likely find something new in each viewing

In the film, the everyman main character is never actually given a name—in the script he was listed as “Jack,” so we’ll use that moniker for our purposes here. Jack was portrayed by Edward Norton, and, opposite Brad Pitt’s Tyler Durden, was one of the founders of the titular group that gave similarly disillusioned men the chance to connect and experience something “real” in their lives by beating the living $#!t out of each other.

While Norton’s performance is predictably excellent, I think that maybe, just maybe, Tom Wopat could’ve done it better.

Key Changes

JSYK: This section will include spoilers. But the movie’s almost 20 years old, so it’s not like you haven’t had the chance to see it. In fact, if you’ve never seen Fight Club, go watch it right now, then come back. Seriously. We’ll wait…

 

 

 

Much like sausage, you don't want to know how the soap is made.

Much like sausage, you don’t want to know how the soap is made.

 

 

 

…and you’re back! Whaddaya think? Good stuff, right?!

The first key change is one of age. Norton was roughly 30 when Fight Club was filmed, which is right in line with the character as depicted in the Chuck Palahniuk novel on which the film is based. He’s a young, uninspired office drone doing thankless work for a company so big they essentially don’t know he exists. Tom Wopat was 48 at the time, so the character could’ve been changed to one that is higher up the ladder in the company, but who still feels that his life is going nowhere.

This would actually have made the character’s decision to leave his old life behind even more powerful. As is, Jack ditches a crappy apartment, crappy job, and crappy life to become someone new; as a higher-ranking, better paid member of the company’s management team, he would be walking away from a big house, fancy car, and comfortable lifestyle.

The age difference between Wopat and Norton would also affect Jack’s relationship with Tyler Durden. Pitt was about 35 when the film came out, so while the dynamic between the two characters could’ve remained largely the same, Wopat would still have been significantly older than his counterpart. When it is ultimately revealed that Jack and Tyler are two disassociated personalities inside the same guy’s head, I think that this would actually have a solid logic to it. Tyler is essentially the better looking, smarter, more adventurous person Jack wishes he were, so it would make sense that he would want to be younger, as well.

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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.

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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.

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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?!

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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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