Tom Wopat in: The Fast & The Furious Series

as: Tom O’Conner

“There’s no ‘Tom O’Conner’ in the Fast & Furious flicks!” says you, the blog reader/massive Vin Diesel fan. “Do you mean Brian O’Conner?” No, no I do not. For our purposes, we’ve added a new character to the series, played, of course, by Tom Wopat. How does he fit in? Read on, friend!

Fast & Furious: Generations

Trading on Tom Wopat’s reputation as an action-adventure guy who knows his way around a high-powered, custom automobile, but acknowledging that he’s a little too old to be part of the films’ regular crew, we’d have his character be the father of the above-mentioned Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker).

The fifth film in the series, 5 Fast 5 Furious, establishes that Brian never really knew his father. We say fie on all that, and would’ve had Tom O’Conner be part of the series from the start. It was Tom who taught Brian to be such a good driver, allowing him to compete with the other skilled street racers in the first film. It’s not like the LAPD has a stunt driving school, you know.

Tom also clearly passed his piercing blue eyes and striking good looks to his son, so you’re welcome, ladies and select gentlemen. (Coincidentally, Tom Wopat is pretty much the perfect age to be Paul Walker’s father, so that works out smashingly.)

Meh.  I'd take the General any day of the week.

Meh. I’d take the General any day of the week.

In our reimagining of the F&F movies, we’d have Wopat’s character show up in the first film for his one big scene, and pop up here and there in the rest of the series. He’d most likely be in just one or two short scenes here and there, and maybe in some instances just being a voice at the other end of Walker’s phone. We see the Tom O’Conner character being the comic relief in most cases, with a few sage words of wisdom peppered in.

Representative Scene

In The Fast & the Furious (the first movie), after “proving” himself in a street race, Brian O’Conner and Dom Toretto (Diesel) flee the police who came to bust all the punks at said race. Brian takes Dom to his parents’ home, where the two hope to lay low for a while. As they pull into the driveway, Toretto spots a pristine, competition-orange 1969 Dodge Charger in the garage.

“Who’s ride is that?” he asks. “My old man’s,” Brian replies.

Inside, they find Tom O’Conner asleep in a Barcalounger with a Dodgers game on the TV before him. Brian wakes him up and, after introductions, Tom offers beers all around, which Brian and Dom gladly accept. Shortly, Brian excuses himself to use the restroom.

Tom’s no fool, and instinctively knows that Toretto is something of a ne’er-do-well. He gives his son’s bald, musclebound associate the third degree, trying to figure out just what his game is. Before long, Dom has had enough of the elder O’Conner’s questioning.

“Why don’t you just let it go, old man?” Toretto says. “I don’t answer to you or anybody else.”

“Okay, tough guy,” Tom replies. “Don’t wanna hurt your feeling.”

“I’m gonna have to hurt a lot more than your feelings if you don’t shut your mouth,” Dom growls. (Note: “growls” is how Vin Diesel always talks.)

Lightning quick, Tom slaps Toretto hard across the face while simultaneously sweeping his legs out from under him. Brian returns from the loo just in time to see Dom hit the floor, with Tom standing over him, smirking.

Tom extends a hand to help Toretto to his feet, which he accepts. As he stands up again, Dom laughs and says, “You know what, Brian? Your old man is all right.” From then on, respect all around.

Photo credit: Lee Bennett / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Tom Wopat in: Raiders of the Lost Ark

as: Indiana Jones, obv

If you’re a regular visitor here, you may recall that we already wrote a piece about replacing Harrison Ford with Tom Wopat in Ford’s other iconic role. Rest assured, we have nothing against Harrison Ford, and we agree with most everyone that he is, in fact, a fine actor. (Or, at least he used to be all the time and now he is when he feels like it, which is, apparently, rarely these days.)

Anyway, the unifying factor here is not a dislike for Ford, but rather a preference for Tom Wopat at any and all times.

Shhh... Indy's sleepin'

Shhh… Indy’s sleepin’

Key Changes

Truthfully, not a whole heck of a lot would’ve needed to change. The two actors are essentially the same height and build, and they have the same hair and eye color—they’re practically interchangeable to begin with. The only significant difference is that Wopat is nine years younger. So, basically, Indy got started on his big, significant adventures (not counting these B-squad escapades) right out of grad school.

But! Do not presume for one instant, dear reader, that because no changes would’ve been necessary in the recasting of Tom Wopat as Indiana Jones that the film would not have been a better one. Because it would have been, and you darned well know it.

Representative Scene: Opening Sequence

As it is one of the greatest in motion picture history, you surely know the setup to this one. So, we’ll skip ahead to the changes. After escaping the Peruvian temple with golden idol, narrowly avoiding being crushed by the giant, rolling boulder, Indiana Wopat is confronted by Belloq, a rival archeologist and all around d-bag, who has brought with him a troop of native warriors so that he may steal the idol from Indy.

Rather than hand over the hard-fought artifact, Indiana Wopat springs into action. A swift, Luke Duke-ian spin kick knocks the blowdart guns of four of the natives askew, and their misfired darts strike four of their fellow warriors, knocking them unconscious with the darts’ poison. Indy coconuts two of the remaining natives’ heads together, Three Stooges-style, and takes out a third with a well-placed right hook.

The fourth and final warrior and Wopat engage in fisticuffs, and after a real slobberknocker, our hero emerges victorious. Belloq, coward that he is, has long since fled into the jungle. Indy starts walking calmly toward Jacques’ docked seaplane. Soon, Belloq and a larger contingent of native warriors emerges from the trees and gives chase.

From there, the scene concludes as normal, with Indiana Wopat barely making it back to the plane, the snake in the seat, etc.

Photo credit: Bichuas (E. Carton) / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

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.

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 Not 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.)

"Why not just make 10 the loudest?"

“Why not just make 10 the loudest?”

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 freak 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: kainet / Foter / CC BY-SA

Tom Wopat in: Flight of the Conchords

as: World Music Jam MC

Flight of the Conchords was one of HBO’s funniest shows, and though it lasted just two seasons (at the insistence of its stars/creators, not due to poor ratings), it left a lasting impression on many viewers thanks to its brilliantly funny songs and dry yet surreal sense of humor. And, it paved way for Bret McKenzie, one half of the titular duo, to win an Academy Award for his songwriting in The Muppets.

The Conchords in flight.

The Conchords in flight.

In the tenth episode of the show’s first season, “New Fans,” the Conchords perform at a “World Music Jam.” The host and MC of said jam is Daryl Hall of Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Hall & Oates. It’s a small and fairly insignificant role, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t benefit from Wopatization.

Key Changes

It’s never pointed out in “New Fans” that it is, in fact, Hall as the MC. He’s essentially playing himself, but no one ever says, “Hey, it’s Daryl Hall from Hall & Oates,” and, in fact, this viewer had to check the end credits to be sure it was him. Part of the brilliance of the cameo is that it’s just so random.

Having Tom Wopat in the role would arguably be even more random, and therefore funnier. After all, Daryl Hall is primarily known for his musical career, so it makes some sense that he’d be hosting a mini-music festival, low-rent though it may be. Wopat is known mostly as an actor, of course, so his appearance would seem totally out of left field. “Wait, why is Luke Duke there?”

After his brief appearance at the World Music Jam, in which he quickly ushers Flight of the Conchords offstage after just a few notes of their first song, Hall’s MC is never seen again. However, with Wopat’s far more considerable acting chops, we think that the role could’ve expanded. Later in the episode, the band’s new fans (hence the episode title) try to convince Bret and Jermaine to partake in some typically rock and roll bedroom shenanigans, which the guys refuse. In our Wopatized version of the ‘sode, the Conchords would find out that Tom Wopat took the ladies up on the offer their stead. Some sort of humorous cutaway gag would be involved there, but we’re not comedy writers, so you’ll have to use your imagination on that one.

Photo credit: shelmac / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

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!

It always goes down smooth.

It always goes down smooth.

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.” 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) are unexpectedly and for no discernable reason really, really good at something random, like singing in four-part vocal harmony.

Photo credit: LauraGilchrist4 / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA