as: Billy the Kid (a.k.a. “Bob Dylan”)
The 2007 sort of-biopic I’m Not There opens with a caption reading, “Inspired by the music and many lives of Bob Dylan.” To that end, six different actors portray Dylan in different guises that represent the different stages of the musician’s long and storied career. Each of the assorted thespians delivers a fine performance, and the overall result is an intriguing if uneven film that ultimately seems like the closest anyone outside Dylan’s circle will ever get to “knowing” the notoriously elusive singer-songwriter.
Among the half-dozen actors playing “Bob Dylan” are Oscar winners Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, and Cate Blanchett. (Yes, a woman plays Bob Dylan, and she turns in perhaps the best portrayal of the bunch.) Another is Richard Gere. If any member of the main cast of this flick is replaceable, it’s him.
We’ve already suggested that Tom Wopat take Dylan’s place in another film involving Billy the Kid. It seems pretty logical that Wopat play the “Billy the Kid” version of Dylan here.
Why Not Wopat?
Tom Wopat is two years younger than Richard Gere, so not much would change in that respect: this “Billy the Kid” would still be an older, wiser, wizened version of Dylan, still the aged outlaw. And we already know that Wopat looks dang good in Western-style attire, so not even the costumes would’ve needed changing.
As he’s searching for his dog Henry, and meets up with a friend named Homer, it’s clear that Billy the Kid is meant to represent Basement Tapes-era Dylan. (“Don’t Ya Tell Henry” and “Open the Door, Homer” being two tracks off that landmark album.) Ergo, it’s only fitting that another Basement Tapes song, “Goin’ to Acapulco” is performed during this part of the film. The song’s jangling acoustic guitars and ragged vocals make it a perfect fit for the Old West-esque setting, as well.
However, there is one glaring problem: it’s not Billy the Kid singing the song. There’s probably a good reason Jim James of My Morning Jacket sings “Goin’ to Acapulco” instead of Gere, but it would likely have been a more powerful and memorable moment in the film if the Dylan character sang it himself. As such, Tom Wopat would be ideal.
Wopat has released something like ten albums in his career, in styles ranging from rock ‘n’ roll to country-western to classic pop standards. Dylan himself has famously made a number of stylistic shifts throughout his recording career. The two make a good match by that metric. Plus, Wopat can play guitar, something that it seems like any cinematic portrayal of Bob Dylan should do. Gere doesn’t so much as touch an instrument of any kind in his segment of I’m Not There. (Poser.)
Also: while they don’t exactly look alike, there’s a much closer resemblance between Wopat and Dylan than there is between Dylan and Gere.
Photo credit: irishindeed via Instagram