Tom Wopat had a headache for weeks after fighting the father of one of the best boxers on the planet for an episode of The Dukes of Hazzard. The Luke Duke actor said Sonny Shields didn’t pull his punches during filming, leaving him with some serious damage.
Wopat and his Dukes of Hazzard brother John Schneider discussed the episode for the Season 3 DVD commentary track. The episode is titled “And In This Corner, Luke Duke,” but Wopat calls it “the one where I got the crap knocked out of me by Sonny Shields.”
Shields was the father of Randy Shields, one of the top welterweight boxers in the world at the time. Sonny trained his son in the sweet science and had a lifetime in the ring. So, he probably wasn’t happy with how the episode played out.
In the show, Luke has to fight Catfish Lee, (Shields) a famous fighter in Hazzard County, to save the Duke family farm. But the odds are stacked against the Dukes because Catfish cheats. Sonny is apparently a method actor because Wopat said he liked to sneak in cheap shots.
“I’d be in there doing the thing, and (the director would) yell cut, and (Shield’s would) give me one more shot after I’d relax,” Wopat said, mimicking taking the hit. “Oh, I had a headache for two weeks, man.”
Those late blows might have been payback for having to lose the match. But it could have been worse, John Schneider said. Shields could have “beat the s**t out of all of us with one hand tied behind his back.”
Tom Wopat’s Famous Hood Slide Wasn’t Supposed to Happen
The Dukes of Hazzard is packed with iconic images. The General Lee, the Daisey Dukes, and the hood slide. It’s objectively the coolest way to get from one side of a car to another. But Tom Wopat said it was an accident. The plan was for him to jump over the hood of the 1969 Dodge Charger but made a mistake. He mistimed the jump and injured himself.
“It was actually an accident,” he told Pop Goes the Culture in 2019. “My idea was we’re running down a hill, … and my idea was to step on the near fender because, you know, we were on the hill above it. So, I was just gonna put my foot on the fender and jump over (the car’s hood). Which I did in rehearsal just fine. But the grass is a little wet, and I got my cowboy boots on, and my heel hits the near fender and slides out from under me.
“So I hit that and BAM, and I slid across the hood. And as a matter of fact, there was about this much of the antenna sticking out. The antenna was broken off, and I got about a 4-inch gouge in my arm when I was doing it. But, you know, it became kind of a signature thing. It looked great on-screen.”