This was a tough one to figure out. We imagined that Tom Wopat would be a wonderful addition to the cast of 2000’s High Fidelity, but struggled with which role would be best for his talents. Initially, we had him taking over for John Cusack as Rob Gordon, the film’s protagonist, but ultimately decided that he’d be better in a smaller, but no less memorable role: Barry, originally portrayed by Jack Black.
In High Fidelity, Barry is a snarky music snob working at the Championship Vinyl record store owned and operated by Cusack’s character. Black turns in a brilliant, breakout performance, but we feel that Tom Wopat could’ve had the same effect. His Barry would be older, and ostensibly wiser, but no less of a jackass to any customer he feels in unworthy of spending time at the shop.
Wopat is about 15 years older than Cusack (18 years older than Black), so his Barry would be more attuned to the classics and oldies than Rob. He’d still be a know-it-all about every style, genre, and era of music, but would pepper his Top Five lists (a recurring preoccupation for Championship’s employees) with older references, both as legitimate choices and for comedic effect.
Barry Wopat’s age would be the butt of some good-natured ribbing from his co-workers, as well. In the original version of the film, Barry is shown to have a fondness for vintage clothes. With the older Wopat in the role, the clothes could remain the same, but they wouldn’t be “vintage” so much as “still wearing them from the first time around.” Upon receiving a compliment from a customer on his sweet “retro” threads, he would be deflated by an “Everything old is new again, right, Barry?” from Rob. Another customer, searching for an obscure “original recording” by Lead Belly (or some other long-dead artist), would be sent in Barry’s direction: “He’s just the guy to help you out. Barry and Lead Belly went to high school together.”
One aspect of the character that wouldn’t need to be changed is his spectacular singing voice. At the end of the film, Barry performs Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” with Barry Jive and the Uptown Five, his newly-renamed band (formerly Sonic Death Monkey). Rob, and everyone else at the show, expect Barry to be terrible. Instead, he blows doors down, with Jack Black providing his own vocals in the film. Tom Wopat is no stranger to singing and musical performance, and would be more than able to tackle the classic Motown track.