Classics, Comedy, Musicals

Tom Wopat in: This is Spinal Tap

as: David St. Hubbins

This is Spinal Tap is the greatest movie ever made about rock and roll. The titular band is one huge, perfectly executed pastiche of ‘70s and ‘80s rock star excess, hubris, and stupidity, and the mockumentary format is so well done that, upon the film’s release in 1984, many viewers left theaters believing that Spinal Tap was a real band.

Spinal Tap

As that band, actors Christopher Guest (as lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel), Harry Shearer (as bassist Derek Smalls), and Michael McKean (as singer/guitarist David St. Hubbins) work cinematic magic, playing dumb like only true geniuses can. However, nigh perfect though the main cast is, there’s no reason it couldn’t be improved. And if you know anything about this stupid blog of ours, you know what’s coming next…

Why Wopat?

Like McKean, Tom Wopat is a talented musician in addition to his acting skills. Both play guitar more than well enough for the purposes of the film, so there would be no decline in musical quality. (Despite having some of the [intentionally] stupidest lyrics in rock music history, all the songs played in Spinal Tap are performed exceptionally well, which makes the whole affair that much more convincing.)

The main advantage of having Wopat in the role of David St. Hubbins is an aesthetic one—not to say that McKean is some kind of hideous CHUD or anything, but few would deny that Wopat is the far better looking actor. And, playing as Spinal Tap does into every rock and roll stereotype, having the lead singer be the good looking one in the band—and him dang well knowing it—would open up numerous other avenues for parody.

There’s a scene in Almost Famous (the second greatest movie ever made about rock and roll) where Stillwater lead singer Jeff Beebe (played by Jason Lee) angrily tells guitarist Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup), “Your [good] looks have become a problem!”

A similar sentiment would fit perfectly in the dysfunctional musical brotherhood of Spinal Tap. We envision a running joke throughout the film that has Tufnel repeatedly referencing St. Hubbins’ good looks as a way to solve any problem. It would start out innocently enough, with Wopat St. Hubbins successfully using his handsomeness and charm to get the band preferential treatment from a female concert promoter. By the end of the film, after numerous iterations of the ploy provide diminishing returns, and it eventually stops working altogether, Tufnel would state something to the effect of, “Why don’t you just handsome your way through this one, mate?”

This would have led to the inclusion of a song on the fake band’s real follow up album, Break Like the Wind, titled “Handsome My Way Through.” In our heads, we hear the track being a faux-inspirational, take-the-bull-by-the-horns-and-persevere rock ballad which ultimately places all the credit for the singer/narrator’s success on his good looks.

Photo credit: 7th Street Theatre via Source / CC BY

Classics, Comedy

Tom Wopat in: Office Space

as: Peter Gibbons

Office Space is one of cinema’s greatest cult classics—I’m not the only one who thinks so. However, it will never be mistaken for a timeless classic like The Godfather or Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Office Space is about as 1998 as anything is, was, or ever will be. Part of it is the nature of the movie—it’s set in the present, so it looks like the present of the year it was filmed, 1998. But part of it is the lead actor, Ron Livingston as Peter Gibbons. He’s a great actor, but he’s also a very ‘90s guy; one of those actors that you’re certain played someone’s boyfriend on like three episodes of Friends.*

We’d like to replace Livingston with an actor who’s a little more timeless, and we think Office Space would be all the better for it. That actor, of course, is Tom Wopat.

red-swingline

Key Changes

Ron Livingston and Tom Wopat actually look rather a lot alike, but something about Wopat** makes him seem more “classic,” if you will. The biggest difference betwixt the two is their age: at the time Office Space was release, Livingston was 32, whilst Wopat was 48. Ergo, with Wopat in the role, it wouldn’t work for Peter Gibbons to be a flailing, doesn’t-know-what-to-do-with-his-life young man he is in the OG flick. Instead, Peter Wopat would be a more successful businessman, one of the upper middle managers the original film’s Peter railed against, fed up with the company and in need of a major life change.

A good portion of the movie could remain the same. Peter Wopat would be stirred to action by the same event (a hypnotherapist who keels over dead while hypnotizing Peter). It would still result in Peter deciding to more or less do whatever he wants at work. And, he’d still start pulling pranks around the office. But, instead of low-key stuff like OG Peter perpetrated, Peter Wopat would use his management resources, and the company spending account, to stage some doozies.

One night, after his coworkers have all gone home, Peter backs a few trucks up to the office, and with a small crew of burly mechanic types, gets to work unloading. They take everything out of the office, down to the carpet, and including removing the suspended ceiling. The only thing left are the walls and the lights. Wopat and crew haul in and install a whole mess of modular two story offices, filling the entire space with cubicle just like the ones they took out, but now stacked on top of each other. Everyone has twice as much space!***

I’m sure a professional copywriter could probably come up with something much better, honestly. But you get the idea. They’d be Jim’s pranks on Dwight on The Office, but turned up to 11.

Jen Aniston would still probably have been cast as Peter’s girlfriend, because Hollywood is stupid like that. The ending would stay more or less the same, because the ending is great. But with Wopat in the lead, Office Space would have been much more than a cult classic—it would’ve been the most successful motion picture of all time.

* Believe it or not, Ron Livingston never appeared on Friends
**
It’s The Dukes of Hazzard
*** Though they also have low ceilings and an upstairs or downstairs cubicle neighbor

Photo credit: JD Hancock via Foter.com / CC BY

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.

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

Classics, Comedy

Tom Wopat in: Mrs. Doubtfire

as: Stu Dunmeyer

With the late, great Robin Williams giving one of his best and funniest performances in the title role, you’re forgiven if you don’t remember who Stu Dunmeyer is in Mrs. Doubtfire. It’s Pierce Brosnan’s character, the suitor of Williams’ character’s ex-wife (played by Sally Field).

Surely you know where this is going: Tom Wopat is your new Stu Dunmeyer. It’s a B-level part at best, but there is not a snow cone’s chance in Phoenix that the biggest male part in this flick (Daniel Hillard/Mrs. Doubtfire, duh) could be played by anyone but Williams.

mrs-doubtfire

Key Changes

In Mrs. Doubtfire, Dunmeyer is not really the “bad guy,” per se, he’s more of a charming boor who rubs Williams’ character the wrong way simply because he’s dating his ex-wife. He is kind of a jerk on several occasions, however, something that he can more or less skate by with because he’s so dang good-looking and has a splendid British accent. Viewers aren’t exactly supposed to like the character, but we’re not really supposed to dislike him, either.

Tom Wopat has no doubt got the “good looking” part covered, but he hasn’t the accent to go with it. That being the case, it seems like the character’s boorishness would be a harder sell. It might be that, with Wopat as Stu, a bit of a rewrite would be necessary. Either play up Stu being a jerk more, or have him be the same charming guy and up Hillard/Doubtfire’s irrational dislike of the guy. If done well, the latter idea seems like it would be the more comically fertile. Written right, it wouldn’t take away from Williams’ or Wopat’s characters’ likeability, it would just make their interactions funnier.

Additionally, a scene or two that showcased Wopat’s action-oriented skills (honed on The Dukes of Hazzard) would be a good comedic addition. Sure, Brosnan was James Bond, but he didn’t make his first 007 film until the year after Mrs. Doubtfire, so he was not yet established as a big-screen action guy (Remington Steele doesn’t count, because it’s a TV show, and a pretty bad one, at that). Read on for more thoughts on this particular angle.

Representative Scene

Mrs. Doubtfire contains a short but very funny scene where the Hillard family, along with Mrs. Doubtfire and Stu, are hanging out at a swimming pool. Fed up with Stu’s smarmy charm, Mrs. Doubtfire hucks a lime at Stu from the opposite side of the pool, hitting him in the back of the head, leading to one of my personal favorite lines in the film: “It was a run-by fruiting!”

In our Wopatized version, Stu spots the incoming citrus out of the corner of his eye and executes a spin kick that knocks the lime out of the air and splatters fruit pulp everywhere. “Oh my,” Mrs. Doubtfire shouts across the pool, “dodged a bullet there, laddie. It was a run-by fruiting!”

Photo credit: juanita.laguna via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Drama, Musicals

Tom Wopat in: Whiplash

as: Terence Fletcher

If you love movies or music or both, you must see Whiplash. Even if you’ve already seen it, go watch it again. It’s a real corker! Without a doubt, the best part of the film is J.K. Simmons’ masterful performance as Terence Fletcher, the maniacal, unhinged jazz ensemble leader. Simmons should’ve gotten two Oscars for the role, he’s so good.

drums

That said, however: Tom Wopat could’ve and would’ve been better as Fletcher. Simmons killed it, for sure, but Wopat would’ve killed it, brought it back to life, and killed it again.

Key Changes

The one thing about Whiplash that struck me as odd is that Fletcher, the hard-driving, perfectionist music teacher, is not shown performing any music himself until the end of the film. And, even then, it’s only for a few fleeting seconds. From what I can tell, Simmons was genuinely playing in his performance scene, but it’s nothing terrible impressive. (Which, I suppose, is the point—“those who can’t do, teach” as they say. Though Fletcher takes it a little far with the “making up for my own shortcomings” thing. Anyways…)

With Wopat, an accomplished musician in his own right, in the role, we would add more scenes of Fletcher playing, here and there. The protagonist, Andrew Neiman (played by Miles Teller), would come across Fletcher playing solo acoustic jazz guitar (as Wopat is a talented guitarist)—really, really well—in an empty studio at the music conservatory where most of the story takes place. Amazed by his teacher’s skill, Neiman would be inspired to practice harder to try and match his skill (though Andrew is a drummer). This would, of course, be on top of the other “motivational” methods Fletcher employs to get the best out of his students.

Personally, I think this would make Fletcher an even more intimidating figure. It’s one thing to have a lunatic band teacher yell at you to do better; to have a lunatic band teacher that you know is a genius player himself yelling at you would be even worse. Like, “Dang, this dude really does know his stuff. I better play my @$$ off if I’m going to impress him even a little bit.” It would be akin to having Lebron James as your basketball coach: “How am I ever going to be good enough to meet those high standards?”

In all honesty, though, it’s hard to imagine anyone giving a better performance than J.K. Simmons did in Whiplash. It’s one of the finest cinematic performances of the 21st century, if not of all time. Still, can’t go wrong with Wopat, amirite?

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

Classics, Comedy

Tom Wopat in: Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

as: Champ Kind

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy is one of the funniest films ever made by man or ape. We’ve seen it probably a hundred times, and we laugh our tuckuses off Every. Single. Time. Great though it is, however, that’s not to say there’s no room for improvement. And we have one change in mind that just might’ve put Anchorman over the top from “one of the funniest” to “the funniest movie ever made.”

Don’t get us wrong: David Koechner is great. We like the way he’s put together. But Koechner wasn’t the filmmakers first choice for the role of Champ. John C. Reilly was originally cast, but had to bow out due to scheduling conflicts (the other project Reilly wound up working on was The Aviator, and it’s hard to blame the guy for jumping at the chance to work with Scorsese [again]).

We’re convinced that putting Tom Wopat in Koechner’s place as Channel 4 Action News’ mildly deranged sportscaster Champ Kind would’ve been a home run. Whammy!

anchorman

Key Changes

One of the most obvious differences between David Koechner and Tom Wopat are their looks. We’re not saying Koechner is a hideous CHUD or anything, but we’ve never seen him gracing the cover of any magazines, either. Tom Wopat, on the other hand, was and still is one of the handsomest dudes working in Hollywood. With the dashing Wopat in the role, the Champ character could’ve been written as more of a womanizer and a co-lothario with Paul Rudd’s character, “man on the street” reporter Brian Fantana. This would’ve opened up a lot of comedic opportunities for the two to play off each other, alternately wingmanning for each other and trying to sabotage each other’s chances with the ladies.

A second improvement would be the scene in which the news team break in to an impromptu, a capella rendition of the Starland Vocal Band’s “Afternoon Delight” (not to be confused with Blackbeard’s Delight). While it’s hilarious, and the four singers (Will Ferrell, Rudd, Koechner, and Steve Carrell) do manage to create some serviceable harmonies, adding an accomplished musician and singer like Tom Wopat to the mix would’ve made it sound much, much better. For my money, one of the best movie jokes ever is when a character (or characters) is (are) unexpectedly and for no discernable reason really, really good at something random, like singing in four-part vocal harmony.

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

Comedy, Holiday or Holiday Adjacent, Kids and/or Family

Tom Wopat in: Jingle All the Way

as: Howard Langston

Has there ever been a better holiday movie than Jingle All the Way? Has there ever been a better, more nuanced performance in a holiday movie than the one Arnold Schwarzenegger turns in as Howard Langston in Jingle All the Way? The answer to the first question is a resounding “No.” The answer to the second is, “There would be if Tom Wopat had played the part instead.” Let’s speculate further, shall we?!

Why Wopat?

jingle all the way

For starters, Jingle All the Way was filmed and set in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. Tom Wopat is originally from Lodi, Wisconsin, USA; Arnold Schwarzenegger is from Thal, Styria, Austria. Wopat’s natural Sconnie accent would’ve been far more geographically accurate than Arnie’s Austrian one. Additionally—and I say this as an unapologetic Schwarzenegger fan—it would’ve been much easier to understand the dialogue with Wopat as Howard Langston. Ah-nuld’s accent seemed to be particularly thick in this flick, for whatever reason.

Second, Tom Wopat makes a much more believable, regular joe mattress salesman. I always find it odd when Schwarzenegger plays characters that just have normal jobs, because, for example, why would a mattress salesman be built like a professional bodybuilder? Maybe stick with playing legendary warriors and killer cyborgs and genetically engineered superhumans, Arnold. Wopat is an average-sized fellow and would be more convincing in an everyday job occupation like mattress salesmanship.

Wopat’s comparative averageness would also make at least one other scene in the movie more believable, as well. After a confrontation with Jim Belushi’s evil, toy-counterfeiting Mall Santa character, Langston escapes a police raid by posing as an undercover cop. It seems far more likely that an average, not-the-size-of-a-phone-booth guy would be able to sneak out the door under that ruse. The other policemen would probably recognize a Mr. Universe-looking guy on the force, or, more accurately, recognize that Mr. Universe was most definitely not a fellow cop because wouldn’t they remember that huge guy? How about that pretty average dude who looks like an older Luke Duke, recognize him? I don’t know, I think that’s Stoharski; I’ve definitely seen him around before.

Photo credit: Ben Sutherland via Foter.com / CC BY

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.

Photo credit: Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

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?!

Photo credit: 7th Street Theatre via Foter.com / CC BY

Classics, Comedy

Tom Wopat in: Joe Dirt

as: Clem Doore/Anthony Benedetti

Joe Dirt, once upon a time known as The Adventures of Joe Dirt, is a criminally underrated movie, and the only film David Spade ever starred in without Chris Farley that is even remotely watchable. A sequel was recently released on Crackle, whatever that is, but it just can’t hold a candle to the original. Plenty of folks knock on the original, too, but those people are unintelligent and unattractive, and should not be taken seriously.

Long story short: we love Joe Dirt. Our only suggestion for improvement: add Tom Wopat.

"Rule Number One: I'm Number One."

“Rule Number One: I’m Number One.”

Why Wopat?

Obvs we wouldn’t replace David Spade in the title role, as we’re pretty sure Spade actually is Joe Dirt in real life. The only other male character significant enough for a talent like Wopat’s is Clem Doore (former mobster Anthony Benedetti, now in Witness Protection), played by Christopher Walken.

Walken’s great, don’t get me wrong, but his performance kind of throws his interactions with Joe Dirt out of whack. Because David Spade is playing such an out-and-out “character” (i.e., no effort to make him seem like an actual person), the general weirdness of Walken’s performance (on par with most of his performances over the last 10-15 years) gives their scenes together the feel of two characters from wildly different comedy sketches thrown together.

With Wopat, you’d get more genuine acting. In place of Walken’s peculiar, signature line readings, with their odd pauses and questionable pronunciations, Wopat would give a more grounded, realistic performance as Clem. You could keep the scenes and all the dialogue the same, and with Wopat’s more actorly performance, Clem would turn into a more believable side character.

Tom Wopat’s about a decade younger than Christopher Walken, but that wouldn’t make much of a difference here. Some mention is made of Benedetti being a mob boss in the 1970s—simply update it to the ‘80s and nothing else really has to change. The Mafia was still going strong in the ‘80s, too.

And finally, as Joe Dirt himself is so obsessed with muscle cars, putting Wopat in the movie would afford the opportunity to work in the General Lee in a “cameo”. There’s a scene in the latter half of the film where Joe is leafing through an old issue of AutoTrader and finds an intriguing listing—we’d simply change the description of the car he’s reading about to match the General. “Check this out: ’69 Charger, competition orange… this guy wants fourteen grand! What?! This guy’s crazy.”

Photo credit: peretzpup via Foter.com / CC BY-SA