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 and ever shall be 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.

Quack. Quack. Quack. Quack! Quack! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! GOOOOOO DUCKS!!!

Quack. Quack. Quack. Quack! Quack! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! GOOOOOO DUCKS!!!

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).

Second, 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.

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, Luke Duke-esque karate kick. Hans is then escorted from the hockey arena in handcuffs and is never seen nor heard from again.

Photo credit: goaliej54 / Foter / CC BY-SA

Tom Wopat in: The Back to the Future Trilogy

as: Biff Tannen

Wopat as the villain? Back to the Future’s Biff Tannen is one of the all-time great movie bad guys—you couldn’t say he’s a villain, exactly, just a massive jerk who has a way with the word “butthead.” And great though Thomas F. Wilson was in the role, we think Tom Wopat would’ve given it a little something extra by not only making Biff a jerk, but a good-looking jerk. (Which is the very worst kind.)

Wopat would, of course, portray the young, middle-aged, and elderly versions of Biff through the magic of movie makeup. He would also play Griff Tannen in Back to the Future Part II and Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen in Back to the Future Part III.

Representative Scene: Café Kerfuffle & Skateboard Chase

Time-traveler Marty (Michael J. Fox) and George McFly (Crispin Glover) are at the counter at Lou’s Café, going over a plan for George to win the heart of Lorraine Baines (Lea Thompson). In walks Biff (Tom Wopat) and his gang of teenage ne’er-do-wells.

“Hey McFly,” Biff Wopat yells to George, “I thought I told you never to come in here. Well, it’s gonna cost you. How much money you got on you?”

Biff and his spectacular hair advance menacingly toward George, but Marty sticks his leg out and trips him. Biff is quickly back on his feet and now stands towering over the much, much shorter Marty.

“All right, punk,” says Tom Wopat as Biff, “now I’m gonna—”

“Whoa, Biff,” Marty says, pointing out the window over Biff’s shoulder. “What’s that?”

Biff is momentarily distracted, and Marty suckerpunches him in the face. Using the catlike reflexes he displayed in his action scenes in The Dukes of Hazzard, Wopat counters with a jab of his own, then sends Marty flying through the window with a spinning karate kick.

No match for the General Lee.

Pictured: No match for the General Lee.

Marty quickly gets back to his feet, shaking shards of broken glass off his jacket. He spots a kid riding a homemade scooter down the street. Marty stops the kid, commandeers the scooter, and breaks it apart, creating a rudimentary skateboard. “I’ll get it back to you, all right?” he says as he skates out of frame.

Biff Wopat and crew emerge from the diner to chase Marty down on foot. With the help of his skateboard and a passing truck, Marty quickly outdistances them. Biff et al get in Biff’s car, a 1946 Ford Super De Luxe convertible, inexplicably painted bright orange and with “01” stenciled on the side.

Biff and company now give chase through the streets of Hill Valley, though Marty continues to elude them. When it appears the bad guys finally have Marty dead to rights, he escapes and sends the Ford barreling into a parked manure truck.

Instead of swerving and crashing broadside into the truck (as in the original film), Biff Wopat guns the engine. The truck’s bed is tilted upward to facilitate the unloading of manure (used as fertilizer), and Wopat uses it to ramp off of, sending his car flying through the air where it lands safely on the other side. He and his goons survive to torment Marty and George another day (of course).

Photo credit: JD Hancock / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Tom Wopat in: MacGyver

as: Angus MacGyver (Who else?)

The timing of this one would’ve been perfect, as MacGyver began airing in the fall of 1985, after The Dukes of Hazzard had wrapped up its run in the spring of that year. Sure, Richard Dean Anderson would’ve been out of a job, but with Tom Wopat in the Angus MacGyver role, who would’ve missed him?

No one, that’s who. Wopat FTW!

Representative Scene: Opening Gambit

Obviously, for anyone to be a true MacGyver, they’ve got to do some MacGyvering. Anderson did a more than admirable job of this, as he basically invented it, but we think Tom Wopat could’ve been even better. The two actors share a similar physicality, and at the time had equally spectacular ‘80s hair. Luke Duke knew a thing or two about tinkering, having customized the General Lee to the hilt, so Wopat would likely have felt right at home rocking the Swiss Army Knife.

MacGyver’s “Opening Gambits” are the show’s cold opens where MacGyver MacGyvers his way out of a jam prior to the opening credits. Because they’re largely context-free, with MacGyver already elbow-deep in a mission, the Opening Gambits are a great place to start imagining Wopat in the role.

Finding himself locked in a cluttered storage room by an unnamed villain, MacWopat must free himself using only what is readily available around him (as the character so often must).

The only tool you'll ever need.

The only tool you’ll ever need.

Though he can’t just pick the dang lock, Tom MacGyver manages to unbolt a lengthy section of the room’s tubular ventilation shaft using just his bare hands. With a wide nylon packing strap he finds on one of the room’s many shelves, he secures the vent tube to a stack of wooden pallets.

MacWopat then stuffs a full beer keg, one of many stored in the corner of the room, into one end of the tube. The other end is pointed at the room’s sole door. He somehow unscrews the pressure gauge from the boiler (because of course that would be in the room, too) and jury rigs it onto the keg’s bunghole.

Using his sweet karate moves, our hero then smashes some of the wooden planks from the shelves into kindling, which he places into a handy metal bucket. He pours out a few bottles of whiskey onto the wood to help it light. However, Wopat then realizes he is sans fire starter. Fortunately, an overflowing ashcan yields a pack of matches.

Placing his bucket of kindling under the exposed end of the keg, MacWopat sets the wood and booze aflame. He watches as the pressure gauge slowly makes its way into the red. When he determines the time is right, Wopat gives the pressure gauge a swift kick. It snaps off, and the resulting jet of superheated beer sends the keg rocketing into the door, smashing it to splinters.

MacWopat escapes into the night. Roll opening credits.

Photo credit: Charles Williams / Foter / CC BY

Tom Wopat in: Magnum, P.I.

As: Higgins–just kidding! As Thomas Magnum, duh.

The original run of Magnum, P.I. of course overlapped with that of The Dukes of Hazzard. But in an alternate universe, Tom Wopat was available for both series. As the titular character in Magnum, P.I., he would’ve given the character the same laid-back, easygoing sensibility that Tom Selleck did, but with more made-for-Hawaii good looks.

Wopat as Magnum would also have eliminated the scheduling conflict that caused Selleck to miss out on the role of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. What a different world American cinema would’ve been had Tom Selleck become as massive a movie star as Harrison Ford did following that film’s success.

Key Changes

For one, it’s doubtful that Wopat would’ve worn a ‘stache like Selleck’s. That seems to have been brought to the character solely by Selleck—Magnum wasn’t necessarily written as having a mustache.

Man, Tom Selleck has really let himself go.

Man, Tom Selleck has really let himself go.

Second, Magnum’s Detroit Tigers baseball cap would likely have been replaced with a Milwaukee Brewers one. Selleck, having been raised in Detroit, also added that touch himself. (If memory serves, the pilot script had the character in a New York Yankees hat.) Wopat, born in Lodi, Wisconsin, and a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is more than likely a Brewers fan.

Also, while Tom Selleck’s Thomas Magnum wore Aloha shirts almost exclusively, Tom Wopat’s Thomas Magnum would probably have appeared shirtless much more often. The weather in Hawaii is certainly conducive to this, as are Wopat’s dashing good looks. The show got good to great ratings as it was; with every episode featuring scenes with a shirtless Tom Wopat, ratings would’ve been through the roof!

Additionally, while Selleck certainly had his share of rough-and-tumble exploits as Magnum, Wopat’s stunt work in Dukes suggests the even more action-oriented Magnum, P.I. that could’ve been. I know I saw a few karate moves in Luke Duke’s fightin’ repertoire—imagine Thomas Magnum spin kicking a guy right into the ocean!

Other than those few tweaks, the show could’ve been largely the same. Except ten times better, because Tom Wopat.

Photo credit: heldermira / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Water-Man: An Original Wopatization

Superhero/comic book movies are all the rage these days, even if their source materials are becoming increasingly obscure—there’s going to be an Ant Man movie, for crying out loud. Since these flicks are more popular than ever, regardless of the familiarity of their characters, we thought we’d concoct our own superhero tale for the one and only Tom Wopat.

Though he’s not the “typical” actor you see playing a superhero, we think Tom Wopat is an ideal choice. First of all, he’s got enough name recognition that moviegoers would think, “Tom Wopat as a superhero? That seems odd,” which would build intrigue (much like Heath Ledger’s casting as the Joker in The Dark Knight). Intrigue sells tickets.

Second, why do superheroes always have to be young dudes? Putting an older actor such as Mr. Wopat in the starring role would: A) make it feel slightly more grounded in reality (what are the odds that the only people who ever get superpowers are those under 30?); and B) bring in the older audience that most superhero flicks are missing out on. Young folks come for an action-packed superhero tale, older folks come for the relatable man of a certain age doing the heroing. It’d be like printing money!

He is Water. He is Man. He is… Water-Man!

Brock Benjamin (played by Tom Wopat) is an ordinary guy in NYC. He makes a living installing industrial equipment at locations all over the city. One day, he’s installing big commercial water softeners at an experimental research facility when an explosion (caused by the film’s villain, the Blue Buzzard) knocks him into one of the softeners’ deep reservoir tank.

Before he can swim to the surface and climb out of the tank, an experiment at the facility, designed to simulate lightning, goes haywire and unleashes a massive blast of gamma radiation. The building is leveled, but the tank Wopat’s character is in is miraculously spared destruction.

Benjamin/Wopat stumbles out of the rubble. Fire blazes all around him. Having been momentarily blinded by the explosions, and knocked a little loopy by bonking his head on the side of the tank, he staggers into a flaming pile of wreckage. Rather than being burned, Wopat finds that he has extinguished the flames just by touching them.

He singlehandedly puts out the entire, huge fire at the research facility, dousing the last burning embers just as FDNY arrives, sirens blaring. “How the heck did you do that?” ask the grizzled fire chief.

“I… I don’t know,” Benjamin/Wopat says. He turns to walk away, morphing into a walking puddle that pours through a sewer grate and disappears.

Splish splash and away!

“Splish splash and away!”

Later, back at his shabby flat in the Bronx, Wopat tests his newfound abilities. The gamma radiation has fused the molecules of his body with those of the water in the tank. He is now capable of turning into water at will, of shooting almost endless volumes of water from his hands, of walking across the surface of water, and of manipulating other bodies of water telekinetically. (This last one also applies to other fluids that are mostly water, including Miller Lite—product placement ahoy!—which leads to a humorous scene at a pub where he shows his old buddy, John [played by John Schneider, naturally], his new powers.)

From there, the flick follows the usual superhero movie formula: a burgeoning love interest who will later be imperiled by her connection to Water-Man, an over-the-top villain (the aforementioned Blue Buzzard) with some sort of world-conquering scheme, a huge CGI battle that causes several hundred million dollars’ worth of damage, etc. We’re still ironing out the details, obviously.

Photo credit: thefost / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Tom Wopat in: Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid

as: Alias

Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid is an underappreciated gem of the Western genre. As Alias, Tom Wopat would be taking one of Bob Dylan’s best movie roles (not that’s he’s had many, or that any of the others were remotely good). Dylan also provided the soundtrack for the film, which, apart from the classic “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” is best left to Dylanologists.

Representative Scene: the whole movie

With Tom Wopat in the role, we’d beef up Alias’ part from what is essentially a one-scene-and-done character into a sort of “wandering troubadour” narrator. Wopat knows his way around a song and a guitar, so we’d have him pop up throughout the film, supplying narration through singer-songwriter-y, half-folk, half-outlaw country ballads.

Seven of Dylan’s soundtrack album’s ten tracks don’t even have words. We’d like to hear Wopat’s take on the tale and the task of soundtracking the film. His albums have often toed the line between rock and country, so he’d be a perfect fit here.

Give him an old, beat-up looking Gibson acoustic guitar and have him appear in the background as scenes unfold, leaning against a hitching post on a dusty street, for example, or sitting by a campfire. Then, as the characters move on (and out of frame), Wopat stands up and, looking directly into the camera, starts to walk and sing, slowly following James Coburn’s Pat Garrett (for example) out of the shot.

Who is that mysterious six-string slinger?

Who is that mysterious six-string slinger?

Wopat’s songs would continue playing as shots changed and the scenes moved on, sort of making the shots in between scenes of action and dialogue into musical montages, if you will. Alias wouldn’t necessarily appear in these continuation shots, but he would show up again later, in the background of scenes, coming to the fore when another musical interlude was needed.

The production of Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid was a notoriously difficult one. We can’t help but think that the presence of a true pro like Mr. Wopat would’ve made things go at least a little more smoothly. Plus, who wouldn’t want to hear a Wopatized version of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”?

Photo credit: eopath / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Tom Wopat in: Star Wars

as: Han Solo, of course

If The Dukes of Hazzard hadn’t started airing two years after the original Star Wars movie was released, I’d be surprised as heck that things didn’t shake out this way to begin with. If you think about it, Han Solo and Luke Duke are clearly cut from the same cloth: roguish, a little bit cocky, dark haired, good looking, and both are excellent drivers/pilots with totally kicka$$ rides. (I guarantee the General Lee could make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.) And Tom Wopat and Harrison Ford both had flat-out spectacular hair in the late ‘70s, too.

Representative Scene: Escape from the Death Star

After busting Princess Leia out of the Detention Level, and avoiding being squashed like a bug in the garbage compactor, the fearless Han Wopat leads Leia, Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca, R2-D2, and C-3PO back to hangar bay and the awaiting Millennium Falcon.

On the way, they encounter a patrol of Imperial Storm Troopers. Wopat and Chewbacca open fire and give chase.

*Here, we’d replace Han Solo’s pistol-style blaster with one that’s more similar to Chewie’s crossbow rifle, because, y’know, the Dukes love their bows and arrows. Maybe a hybrid pistol/crossbow blaster, or just a straight-up compound bow that fires lasers.*

Wait a minute... is that a cantaloupe?

Wait a minute… is that a cantaloupe?

After retreating from a phalanx of Storm Troopers waiting to ambush them, Han Wopat and Chewbacca soon rendezvous with Luke, Leia, and the Droids. They dash toward the Falcon, with Wopat and Luke blasting enemies left and right.

As Darth Vader approaches, the group wisely decides to make a run for it. Wopat runs, jumps, and slides across the hood of the Falcon, then dives nimbly through the open window and into the driver’s seat. Chewie soon joins him as co-pilot, followed closely by the others, all of whom used the more traditional (and far less fun) loading ramp as their entrance.

Wopat brings the Millennium Falcon roaring to life and stomps on the gas. Leaving a cloud of smoke and patches of burned rubber in his wake, he steers the ship up a conveniently-placed but wholly unnecessary ramp. The Rebels flee into space as the orchestral score plays a variation of the intro to Dixie.

Photo credit: oskay / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)