Action and/or Adventure, Original Wopatizations, Science Fiction and/or Fantasy

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 Inhumans 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!

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 a commercial water softener at an experimental research facility when an explosion (caused by the film’s villain, the Blue Buzzard) knocks him into the softener’s 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 was 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 the fire department 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.

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, 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: Panegyrics of Granovetter via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Comedy, Television

Tom Wopat in: That ‘70s Show

as: Red Forman

Make no mistake, Kurtwood Smith could do more with the word “dumbass” than most actors could do with an entire page of dialogue and a samurai sword. As Red Forman in That ‘70s Show, he was nigh perfect as the old school, tough love-dispensing father to the show’s main protagonist, Eric (played by Topher Grace).

But, what if that same no-nonsense character was given a bit more charm and a whole mess more good looks? Had Tom Wopat portrayed Red, it’s possible that the elder Forman would have gradually become more of a focus on the show, squeezing Eric out to supporting-player status (much like Homer squoze out Bart over the course of the first several seasons of The Simpsons).

Key Changes

No offense to Kurtwood Smith, but Tom Wopat is a much better-looking dude. That in itself paves the way for running jokes throughout the course of the series. Specifically, we envision lots of references by Eric’s girlfriend, Donna, and friend who is also a girl, Jackie, to Red’s attractiveness. Mostly, it would be a way for the gals to needle Eric, who himself was sort of a goonie-looking guy. There would almost certainly have been a storyline somewhere in the show’s eight seasons where Jackie actually developed a harmless, minor, if misguided, crush on Red.

In this same vein, the other guys in Eric’s group of friends, Hyde, Kelso, and Fez, would have turned to Red Wopat more often for advice on the ladies. “Red, you’re a good-looking guy,” Hyde/Kelso/Fez would undoubtedly have begun at some point (or multiple times—that’s how running gags work, after all), before asking Red what he should do in whatever the situation was.

Next, it should be noted that Wopat is about nine years younger than Smith. This isn’t really a problem as far as “being old enough to be Eric’s parent” goes, as Wopat and Debra Jo Rupp, who played Eric’s mother, Kitty, are the same age. However, it maybe would age Red out of having served in both WWII and the Korean War—with the younger actor in the role, Red probably would’ve been written as only a Korean War vet. This wouldn’t change the character much, as few if any of Red’s storylines hinged on his military service, but it may have necessitated a slight re-write of Kitty’s and his “meet-cute” story, one of the best (and most perfectly cast) flashbacks the show ever did.

Pictured: Eric Forman today.

Pictured: Eric Forman today.

Finally, while the Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon that Red bequeaths to Eric in the series pilot is a perfectly fine automobile… well, come one. This is Luke Duke we’re talking about here. It would’ve been an absolutely fantastic gag had Red Wopat instead gifted his son with a competition orange Dodge Charger. It would’ve been anachronistic, as well, seeing as how The Dukes of Hazzard didn’t premiere until 1979, but hey, if don’t overthink it, it’s a pretty rad setup. Eric and friends would’ve gotten up to far more hijinks with a hot rod to drive around in.

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

Animation, Comedy, Science Fiction and/or Fantasy, Television

Tom Wopat in: Futurama

as: Himself (Head in A Jar)

The brilliant, yet woefully underappreciated, animated sci-fi sitcom Futurama had more than its share of celebrity guest stars during its run. Despite being set 1,000 years in the future, the show brought in such modern-day figures as Al Gore, Beck, and (almost) the entire cast of the original Star Trek series—and all of them played themselves.

Well, technically they played their still-living, detached heads in jars, which was one of the series’ most used (and least explained) futuristic technological advancements. Even historical figures who, in reality, died many years before the show began—and, therefore, prior to the in-series invention of technology that keeps heads alive in jars—popped up from time to time.

So, why not Wopat?

Futuramafitti

Episode: Good Ole Bots

Futurama’s protagonist, Philip J. Fry (usually called just “Fry”), was an ‘80s kid who was accidentally cryogenically frozen on New Year’s Eve 1999 and unfrozen on New Year’s Day 3000. Fry’s penchant for the pop culture of his youth came into play in a number of episodes, encompassing everything from his days in a breakdancing crew to his love of Katrina and the Wave’s “Walking On Sunshine.”

In “Good Ole Bots”, Fry and the Planet Express gang would attend a fundraising gala at the Smithsonian. An auction is held to clear out some of the museum’s older exhibit pieces (a thousand years in the future, they have more stuff than they know what to do with) to make way for new items of historical significance.

Fry is delighted to learn that the original General Lee is one of the items to be auctioned off. Few, if any, people in the year 3000 share Fry’s enthusiasm for The Dukes of Hazzard, so he wins it with a bid of $8 (every penny he currently has to his name).

After the event, Fry’s co-worker/love interest Leela suggests that they load the General Lee into the cargo bay of the Planet Express ship and simply fly it back to New New York. Fry has other plans, however—as it was and is one of the greatest automobiles in television history, he wants to drive it back home from Washington D.C. Bender, the lovable, beer-swilling, cigar-smoking robot, decides to join him on his road trip.

Shortly after they set out, Fry and Bender hear unusual noises coming from the trunk of the car. They pull over, open the trunk, and discover living-head-in-a-jar versions of Tom Wopat and John Schneider inside. They explain that they (in their jars) have been in the Smithsonian just as long as the General Lee, as part of the same exhibit. Eventually, they were placed in the trunk to save space and forgotten about.

Now riding in the front seat between Fry (driving) and Bender (shotgun), the erstwhile Duke boys regale their new friends with tales of their TV adventures. This inspires a typically-mischievous Bender plot: he convinces Fry that the two of them should run a load of moonshine north as they go. Unsurprisingly, Bender “knows a guy” in the moonshining business.

Numerous hijinks ensue, with the quartet dodging local law enforcement (a robot sheriff that closely resembles Rosco P. Coltrane, along with his deputies), rival bootleggers, and an amorous ladybot with eyes for Bender en route to Planet Express headquarters.

Ultimately, Fry, Bender, Wopat, and Schneider find themselves in a high speed chase with the sheriffbot in hot pursuit. By a happy coincidence, a road construction project on the streets of New New York has created an ersatz ramp. Fry guns the engine, the General Lee goes airborne, and, just as the four of them are about to crash into the Planet Express building, the scene freeze-frames.

“Looks like them Duke boys have got themselves out of the frying pan,” The Balladeer states, “and into the fire.”

End credits.

Photo credit: Mayu ;P via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Action and/or Adventure, Science Fiction and/or Fantasy

Tom Wopat in: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

as: Strider/Aragorn

Viggo Mortensen, the actor who ultimately portrayed Aragorn in the blockbuster Lord of the Rings trilogy, did a mighty fine job. He was so into the character, according to interviews in the films’ DVD special features, that he would carry his sword with him at all times (even after shooting wrapped for the day), he learned the entire Elvish language J.R.R. Tolkien created (as opposed to just learning his few Elvish lines phonetically), and, after production, he bought the horse that he rode in the second and third films. And, he was just the right amount of “unknown actor” that he’s been hard-pressed to shake the “Hey, you’re Aragorn” thing in later roles; it’s equally hard to imagine anyone else playing the part.

However, Mortensen was not the filmmakers’ first choice—an equally (mostly) unknown actor named Stuart Townsend initially won the part. After four days of filming, director Peter Jackson recast Mortensen in the role, feeling that Townsend was too young the character who would become King of Middle Earth.

Tom Wopat is eight years older than Viggo Mortensen (in the films—and the books, of course—the character is 87). And he would have been a perfect choice to play Aragorn.

This could've been a Tom Wopat action figure, dammit!

This could’ve been a Tom Wopat action figure, dammit!

Key Changes

At the time the films were released, Tom Wopat would’ve been one of the more widely-known members of the cast—not necessarily by name, but most people would’ve recognized Luke Duke amongst the Fellowship before probably 90 percent of the other actors. This would likely have changed the dynamic of the film somewhat—Aragorn is one of the trilogy’s most important characters as is, but with a more famous face, he probably would have received an even larger allotment of screen time.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Tom Wopat with a beard, but I doubt it would’ve been a problem for him to grow the appropriate amount of facial hair for the role. There’s always makeup, too, if actually growing a beard was out of the question. And—if we want to get down to the real nerdy nuts-and-bolts of the character—Aragorn wasn’t actually supposed to have a beard, anyway. In Tolkien’s Unfinished Tales, it specifically states that he doesn’t, due to his half-Elven heritage (for whatever reason, Tolkien elves don’t grow facial hair).

Other than that, not much would need to be different. In hair color, height, and build, Wopat and Mortensen are pretty much Even Stevens. Both have recorded and released a number of music albums, and for my money, Wopat has the better voice, which would have made the few scenes in which Aragorn sings more enjoyable.

Action and/or Adventure, Comedy, Television

Tom Wopat in: Magnum, P.I.

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 turn down 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.

Man, Selleck has really let himself go.

Man, Selleck has really let himself go.

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.

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 Wopat.

Photo credit: heldermira via Foter.com / CC BY