Classics, Drama

Tom Wopat in: The Godfather

as: Michael Corleone

Though it’s hard to imagine anyone but Al Pacino in the role for which he won his first Academy Award nomination, the screen legend was not the film’s producers’ first choice for the part of Michael Corleone. Tom Wopat is not even remotely Italian, but neither are Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, or Ryan O’Neal, all of whom were in the running for the part at one time or another. In fact, the role originally went to James Caan, who ultimately would play Michael’s older brother Sonny in The Godfather.

Basically, what I’m saying here is, Tom Wopat could’ve (and would’ve) been fantastic as Michael Corleone.

"I'll  make him an offer... you know the rest."

“I’ll make him an offer… you know the rest.”

Notes

As The Godfather is essentially a perfect movie, I wouldn’t deign to suggest any major changes in the Michael role. There are, however, a few issues that would’ve needed to be addressed.

Pacino was 31 years old at the time The Godfather was shot; Wopat would’ve been only 20. However, I don’t see this as being a huge problem. In the movie, Michael Corleone is 25, so 20 wouldn’t have been too far off.

And, if the filmmakers worried that Wopat appeared to young, they could have used makeup to make him appear slightly older. They did a bang up job on Marlon Brando in his Oscar winning role as Vito Corleone—Brando was 41 at the time, but was made to look as though he was in his late 50s/early 60s.

Another potential problem is a matter of body type. In the book on which the movie is based, it is stated that Sonny Corleone is a tall, muscly fellow, while younger brother Michael is shorter and slighter. This wasn’t an issue in the actual film, as Caan, at five-foot-nine, really is a few inches taller than Pacino; Caan was also considerably broader than his wiry-framed co-star.

Wopat, however, stands an even six feet and has a more athletic build than Pacino. But, as countless films have shown, height differences can be easily compensated for with very, very basic filmmaking tricks. And, beside a young James Caan, young Tom Wopat would still have been much thinner—simple costuming choices could’ve further disguised this.

Finally, you may be thinking, “Al Pacino is one of the greatest actors of his generation. Could Tom Wopat really have held his own in a film like The Godfather?”

Well, you gosh darn Doubting Thomas, The Godfather was just Pacino’s third film role, and the first in which he had a major part. He was a relative unknown, as Wopat was at the time. Few people outside of Francis Ford Coppola suspected that Pacino was capable of delivering the exceptional performance that he did. Who’s to say that Tom Wopat couldn’t have knocked it out of the park, as well? The man’s got chops aplenty.

Photo credit: alvarezperea via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Drama

Tom Wopat in: No Country for Old Men

as: Anton Chigurh

Winner of the Best Picture award at the 80th Academy Awards in 2008 (as well as three other Oscars), No Country for Old Men is, from what our research* suggests, a love-it-or-hate-it affair. And, it seems to be almost perfectly split along gender lines: men tend to love No Country; women, not so much.

It is an absolutely brilliant film, but when half the population just plain doesn’t like it, it’s clear it needs some sort of fix. The solution: Tom Wopat. Of course.

Why Wopat?

Excellent performances abound in No Country for Old Men, but the male actors providing said performances are, across the board, some unfortunate-looking gentlemen. Josh Brolin’s strong supporting turn might’ve made a difference here if he weren’t sporting a dirtbag mustache. Not to reduce it to anything too simplistic, but one way to make the film at least a bit more appealing to the ladies would be to add a good looking guy like Tom Wopat to the mix. So, sorry Javier Bardem, but you’re out and Wopat is in, your Best Supporting Actor Oscar be darned!

NCFOM

We know from his time on The Dukes of Hazzard that Wopat looks great in Western wear—cowboy boots, faded jeans, weathered button-down shirts, etc.—so the costuming’s already on point. Chigurh’s weirdly lopsided pageboy haircut might be a problem, however: Wopat’s glorious, flowing mane should not, and likely could not, be molded into such a hideous style, so the villain’s hairdo would need to be rethunk.

Bardem was 37 when No Country was made; Wopat was 54. An older Chigurh is a scarier and more menacing one, in our opinion. In reviews and other writing on the film, the hitman was frequently described as an “unstoppable killing machine”—if he’s older, that means he’s been doing his job for longer, and if someone in that profession has been doing it for a long time, that means he must be pretty dang good at it. If he’s older, he’s deadlier.

At least part of that extended run of murderous excellence (maybe not the best word…?) could be chalked up to our first point. If a creepy-looking dude like the Anton Chigurh that actually appears in No Country for Old Men approached you, you’d naturally be a bit more on your guard. Make it a good looking guy like Wopat, though, and you’d likely be far more welcoming, even if he is carrying one of those weird riveting tools around.

Wopat Chigurh’s victims would go out with holes in their heads, but smiles on their faces.

* a.k.a. asking people we know who’ve seen the movie

Photo credit: Franco Mathson via Foter.com / CC BY-NC