Classics, Drama, Sports

Tom Wopat in: Rocky

as: Rocky Balboa

*audible gasps all around*
“Are you outta your mind?”
*someone throws an empty beer bottle*
“Blaspheme!”

Alright, alright, I know this one is pretty crazy. Who could be more Rocky that Sly Stallone? He wrote the derned screenplay, for crying out loud, and this movie is basically the only reason he has a career to this day. Stallone as Rocky in Rocky is about as iconic an acting role as you’ll ever see.

But, seriously, think about it. Despite receiving a 1977 Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for the role, and another earlier this year for his victory lap as an aging Rocky in Creed, Stallone is far from a great actor. Originally, the producers wanted someone else to play the part anyway, an established star like Burt Reynolds or Robert Redford or James Caan. And while all those chaps are fine actors, I think we can all agree that Rocky would’ve sucked with any of them as the star.

rocky

But you know who would’ve been great as Rocky Balboa? Tom Wopat.

Key Changes

For starters, Wopat is five years younger than Stallone. In the context of the movie, this would’ve made a huge difference, in my opinion. Stallone was thirty when the film was released, and it therefore stands to reason that so was his character. If you know anything about sports, you know that most athletes’ talents and/or skills start to decline right around that age. This seems like it would be especially true for an amateur boxer—professional pugilists may be able to stay in prime shape well past the big 3-0, but those guys have the trainers, doctors, nutritionists, and money required to stay that way. But a poor dead-end schmoe like Rocky, who works as a loan shark to pay his bills, wouldn’t’ve had those assets in his corner. After who knows how many bouts and bludgeonings, it’s doubtful that a 30-year-old nobody would’ve been in good enough shape, or had the skills, to hold his own against World Heavyweight Champion Apollo Creed. A tough, 25-year-old cat, though, one who’s taken far fewer lumps from both opposing boxers and life in general? Seems like he would’ve stood a much better chance.

Second, Sylvester Stallone stands 5-foot-9, Tom Wopat is an even 6-feet, and Carl Weathers (Creed) is 6-foot-1. Being taller, and having a more comparable reach, would’ve made the climactic bout much more realistic. A four-inch arm-length deficit can be huge in the boxing ring.

Finally, though we’ve mentioned before that Wopat could probably pass for Italian, it’s possible the filmmakers would’ve simply avoided the issue by changing Rocky’s heritage and last name. Wopat, being of Czech descent, potentially could have played Rocky Belinsky, Rocky Kochevar, or Rocky Dubin. Though none of them have quite the ring that “Rocky Balboa” does, that last one’s pretty dang good, if you ask me.

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

Comedy, Sports

Tom Wopat in: Major League

as: Jake Taylor

Major League is probably the best baseball movie ever. (Feel free to debate that one in the comments, gang.) Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn (Charlie Sheen), Willie Mays Hayes (Wesley Snipes), Pedro Cerrano (Dennis Haysbert), and the rest of the ragtag Cleveland Indians of the film are the most beloved cinematic baseball team this side of the Rockford Peaches. One player, however, should’ve been subbed out for a free agent signing.

Take a seat on the bench, Tom Berenger. We’re sending in Tom Wopat as veteran catcher and team leader Jake Taylor.

cleveland

Why Wopat?

Truthfully, there wouldn’t be many changes needed to the script or any other aspects of the film with Wopat in the Jake Taylor role. Wopat is two years younger than Berenger, but at 38 (at the time Major League was filmed) he still would’ve been old for a professional athlete. At 6’1”, Wopat is two inches taller than Berenger, and slightly taller than the average catcher (they tend to be shorter because all the squatting they do game in and game out can take a toll on the knees), but that’s not of much significance in a movie version of baseball.

Of the two Toms, Berenger was arguably the bigger star in 1989, having won a Golden Globe and been nominated for an Oscar for his performance in Platoon just three years prior. However, Wopat was just four years removed from massive television success in The Dukes of Hazzard, which ended its run in 1985.

Nevertheless, as the film’s premise was based on the Cleveland Indians team being made up of unknown players and former stars, casting Wopat would’ve actually made more sense. There were multiple actors in the cast who went on to greater success shortly thereafter, just as their characters did (Snipes being the most notable example). Ergo, casting an actor who may have been seen as a few years past his prime* to play a ballplayer in the same situation would’ve been quite fitting.

Ultimately, we just want to watch Tom Wopat run around in a baseball uniform. To answer our question in the header above: Why the heck not Wopat?

* IRL, Tom Wopat is, and never will be, past his prime. “In his prime” is the only level he has or ever will operate on.

Photo credit: Peter Ciro Photography via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Comedy, Sports

Tom Wopat in: Kingpin

as: Roy Munson

It’s safe to say that Kingpin, from Nineteen-Hundred and Ninety-Six, is the greatest comedy bowling movie of all time. For this writer’s money, it’s better and funnier than the Farrelly Brothers other, more successful hits There’s Something About Mary and Dumb & Dumber. In fact, I can think of only one way to make the film better: add Tom Wopat.

Because no one could possibly surpass Bill Murray’s performance as Ernie “Big Ern” McCracken, and no one would buy a dashing actor like Wopat as the goofy, wide-eyed Ishmael Boorg, played by Randy Quaid, that leaves Woody Harrelson, the original Roy Munson, as the odd man out.

bowling

Why Not Wopat?

When we first see Roy Munson in Kingpin, he’s winning the 1979 Iowa state amateur bowling championship, and is a strapping young lad at the top of his game. He’s handsome, charismatic, and, of course, a stupendous bowler. Woody Harrelson was enyoungened for these first scenes, sporting a not at all convincing (probably intentionally so) wig and some sharp ‘70s threads.

Right off the bat, casting Tom Wopat as Roy Munson saves money in hair and makeup costs. Unlike Harrelson, Wopat still has a glorious mane of flowing hair, which, as seen in The Dukes of Hazzard, looks like ten million dollars with a ‘70s style job. Dukes showed, too, just how swell Wopat looks in the era’s fashion. He probably has clothes in his closet that are better and nicer than the costume Harrelson sports in this part of the flick. And they’re some really, really good costumes.

Later, after losing his bowling hand in a ball-return chute “accident” orchestrated by Big Ern (they really should put self-closing safety gates on those things), Munson is a bloated, balding shell of his former self. Wopat would’ve had to shave his head, which would have looked weird, but also more realistic than Harrelson’s earlier wig. Harrelson, being bald in real life, looks much more convincing here. I suspect, however, that the cost of shaving Tom Wopat’s head multiple times would’ve been less than that of the wig.

If you’re one of those disgusting ageists, you may argue against Wopat Munson on the grounds that Tom Wopat is a decade older than Woody Harrelson. While that is an accurate statement, I have a counterargument: so is Randy Quaid. In the film, Munson is “mentor” to Quaid’s Ishmael, and is, ostensibly, considerably older. However, Quaid is actually older than Harrelson by nine years, and Wopat by nearly a full year.

Quaid is, in fact, just ten days younger than Bill Murray, who plays his mentor’s mentor in the film and who would be, one would assume, potentially as much as decades older.

Nothing against Harrelson, but Wopat is a far, far more attractive fellow. For better or worse, this would make Munson more likeable, which would, in turn, make the character more sympathetic. Munson’s awful luck and deteriorated physical appearance are part of his sad sack charm—which he needs plenty of, as he’s a huge jerk for much of the film.

Photo credit: josephdevon via Scandinavian / CC BY-NC-SA

Classics, Kids and/or Family, Sports

Tom Wopat in: The Mighty Ducks

as Hans the Hockey Guru

It may seem as though Tom Wopat is better suited, age- and acting style-wise, for the Gordon Bombay role in The Mighty Ducks. But Emilio Estevez owned that role so hard that it’s nigh impossible to imagine anyone else playing the part. I actually tried to write a “Wopat as Gordon Bombay” post, but I couldn’t get past the first sentence. Emilio Estevez is Gordon Bombay.

That said, Tom Wopat would make a valuable addition to the roster of stars in this family-friendly hockey classic. Joss Ackland is undeniably great as Hans, Gordon’s almost Yoda-like mentor on matters of hockey and the heart. But, Wopat could’ve turned the role into something truly unforgettable.

Key Changes

First off, instead of being a wise, older, family friend of Gordon’s, Hans Wopat would be a wise former peewee hockey teammate who went on to play in the NHL. Naturally, he played for the Minnesota North Stars, and after his career was over, he started building his sporting goods empire in the Minneapolis suburb of Eden Prairie (home of the District 5 peewee team that Gordon coaches).

GOOOOO Ducks!

GOOOOO Ducks!

Second, Hans Wopat would be a man of the times—he didn’t get to be the #1 hockey gear supplier in the State of Hockey by sticking to the old ways. In addition to offering skate sharpening at his shop, Hans Wopat would put himself head and shoulders above the competition by offering custom skate blade replacements. Using input from Gordon and team captain Charlie Conway and a wire EDM system, he would create a new style of blades that would help the Ducks skate faster and with greater agility and control. Hans’s “super skates” would be the Ducks’ secret weapon heading into the championship tournament.

Third, Hans Wopat would get in on the good time hockey shenanigans, taking a part-time role as an assistant coach. This would give Gordon somebody his own age to consult with during games, instead of just stupid whiny Charlie Conway. It would also allow the writers to add more adult—but still family-friendly—humor to the script.

Representative Scene

During a mid-season match against the Hawks, the Ducks’ hated rivals, Hawks coach Jack Reilly orders two of this team’s thugs to take out new Duck (and former Hawk) Adam Banks with a cheap shot. After the damage is done, Hans Wopat bolts from the Ducks’ bench and takes out Reilly with a spinning, Bo Duke-esque karate kick. Hans is then escorted from the hockey arena in handcuffs and is never seen nor heard from again. (As is the case in the real sequel—where the heck did Hans go?)

Photo credit: goaliej54 via Remodel / CC BY-SA