Tom Wopat in: Empire Records

as: Joe Reaves

Way back in Nineteen-Hundred and Ninety-Five, a little flick called Empire Records was released to almost zero fanfare and minimal box office receipts. The coming-of-age comedy, set in and around an independent record store in Delaware, went over like a lead balloon in theaters. It wasn’t long, however, before it found success on home video and grew into a minor cult classic.

Open 'til midnight.

Open ’til midnight.

In reading the recently-compiled oral history of the film, it becomes apparent that Empire Records was severely mishandled by the studio behind it, which severely hampered the film’s chances for success . If there was somehow a mulligan on the making of Empire Records, we have one suggestion that would have all but guaranteed blockbuster status: put Tom Wopat in it.

Why Not Wopat?

In Empire Records, Joe Reaves is the titular record store’s manager, and a reluctant but loveable father figure for the younger members of the staff, who are mostly in their late teens or early twenties. Joe’s a gruff but genuinely cooler older dude, sporting a motorcycle jacket and an earring that, somehow, does not look ridiculous on a guy in his early forties.

Joe is portrayed by Anthony LaPaglia, and while LaPaglia does a great job, Wopat would have been even better. Little to nothing about the film would actually have to be changed with Wopat in the role, so this will be a fairly easy Wopatization to write up, although likely boring to read. (Sorry.) The two actors are roughly the same age, and actually look quite a bit alike. Not even the cinematography would have to be altered.

Key Scene

The big Joe Wopat scene we present here is the only one from Empire Records that conceivably would need changing. Midway through the film, Joe, fed up with the day’s unfortunate shenanigans, stalks through the store and back to his office. There, to blow off some steam, he sits down at a drum kit and pounds the skins along with AC/DC’s “If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)”.

Tom Wopat is a musician, but his axe of choice is the ol’ six string. Ergo, Joe’s stress relieving jam session would see him shredding on the guitar, matching Angus Young note for note. Maybe throw in a little bit of duck walk.

Photo credit: Phil Roussin PBR Photos / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Tom Wopat in: No Country for Old Men

as: Anton Chigurh

Winner of the Best Picture award at the 80th Academy Awards in 2008 (as well as three other Oscars), No Country for Old Men is, from what our research* suggests, a love-it-or-hate-it affair. And, it seems to be almost perfectly split along gender lines: men tend to love No Country; women, not so much.

It is an absolutely brilliant film, but when half the population just plain doesn’t like it, it’s clear it needs some sort of fix. The solution: Tom Wopat. Of course.

Why Wopat?

Excellent performances abound in No Country for Old Men, but the male actors providing said performances are, across the board, some unfortunate-looking gentlemen. Josh Brolin’s strong supporting turn might’ve made a difference here if he weren’t sporting a dirtbag mustache. Not to reduce it to anything too simplistic, but one way to make the film at least a bit more appealing to the ladies would be to add a good looking guy like Tom Wopat to the mix. So, sorry Javier Bardem, but you’re out and Wopat is in, your Best Supporting Actor Oscar be darned!

no country

We know from his time on The Dukes of Hazzard that Wopat looks great in Western wear—cowboy boots, faded jeans, weathered button-down shirts, etc.—so the costuming’s already on point. Chigurh’s weirdly lopsided pageboy haircut might be a problem, however: Wopat’s glorious, flowing mane should not, and likely could not, be molded into such a hideous style, so the villain’s hairdo would need to be rethunk.

Bardem was 37 when No Country was made; Wopat was 54. An older Chigurh is a scarier and more menacing one, in our opinion. In reviews and other writing on the film, the hitman was frequently described as an “unstoppable killing machine”—if he’s older, that means he’s been doing his job for longer, and if someone in that profession has been doing it for a long time, that means he must be pretty dang good at it. If he’s older, he’s deadlier.

At least part of that extended run of murderous excellence (maybe not the best word…?) could be chalked up to our first point. If a creepy-looking dude like the Anton Chigurh that actually appears in No Country for Old Men approached you, you’d naturally be a bit more on your guard. Make it a good looking guy like Wopat, though, and you’d likely be far more welcoming, despite the weird rivet tool thing in his hand.

Wopat Chigurh’s victims would go out with holes in their heads, but smiles on their faces.

* a.k.a. asking people we know who’ve seen the movie

Photo credit: Franco Mathson / Foter / CC BY-NC

Tom Wopat in: Taken

as: Bryan Mills

Taken is perhaps best known as the movie that changed peoples’ reactions from “Oh yeah, Liam Neeson” to “Hell yeah, Liam Neeson!” It spawned two sequels and reinvented Neeson’s career, turning him into Hollywood’s go-to, @$$-kicking man of a certain age. It was a well-deserved career renaissance, but there’s another 63-year-old leading man who deserves some late-career accolades of his own.

Time to change “Oh yeah, Tom Wopat” to “Hell yeah, Tom Wopat!”

Are you sure that's NOT Tom Wopat in this picture?

Are you sure that’s NOT Tom Wopat?

Wopatization…Engage!

Though not exactly known as an action star at the time Taken was made, Liam Neeson did have some experience in the genre, having been in the excellent Gangs of New York (albeit very briefly), the spectacular Batman Begins, and the existent Star Wars Episode I, among others. He also played a mean Jean Valjean.

Similarly, Tom Wopat has some action genre experience, notably The Dukes of Hazzard and Smallville, but is not really what anyone would call an action star. He mopped the floor with goons of all stripes on Dukes, though, so he would be plenty believable whooping up on a bunch of Albanian kidnappers. Just like Neeson, Wopat has more than ample chops to make a convincing older bad@$$.

One potential drawback to replacing Neeson is losing his distinctive voice. His “very particular set of skills” speech is perhaps the most memorable and well-known part of the film, and not just for the words: Neeson’s voice and delivery made that monologue an instant classic.

Wopat has got some rather golden pipes of his own, however. He’s a veteran of numerous Broadway musicals, and has carved out a fairly successful music career for himself, as well, releasing 10 albums across various genres since 1981, so it’s not like he’s Gilbert Gottfried or something. Wopat would’ve crushed that monologue so hard. And his version of it might well have been better—Liam Neeson always sounds a little weird when he speaks with an “American” accent instead of his natural Irish lilt.

Photo credit: Stephane <3 / Foter / CC BY

Tom Wopat in: Kingpin

as: Roy Munson

It’s safe to say that Kingpin, from Nineteen-Hundred and Ninety-Six, is the greatest comedy bowling movie of all time. For this writer’s money, it’s better and funnier than the Farrelly Brothers other, more successful hits There’s Something About Mary and Dumb & Dumber. In fact, I can think of only one way to make the film better: add Tom Wopat.

Bowlin'

Because no one could possibly surpass Bill Murray’s performance as Ernie “Big Ern” McCracken, and no one would buy a dashing actor like Wopat as the goofy, wide-eyed Ishmael Boorg, played by Randy Quaid, that leaves Woody Harrelson, the original Roy Munson, as the odd man out.

Why Not Wopat?

When we first see Roy Munson in Kingpin, he’s winning the 1979 Iowa state amateur bowling championship, and is a strapping young lad at the top of his game. He’s handsome, charismatic, and, of course, a stupendous bowler. Woody Harrelson was enyoungened for these first scenes, sporting a not at all convincing (probably intentionally so) wig and some sharp ‘70s threads.

Right off the bat, casting Tom Wopat as Roy Munson saves money in hair and makeup costs. Unlike Harrelson, Wopat still has a glorious mane of flowing hair, which, as seen in The Dukes of Hazzard, looks like ten million dollars with a ‘70s style job. Dukes showed, too, just how swell Wopat looks in the era’s fashion. He probably has clothes in his closet that are better and nicer than the costume Harrelson sports in this part of the flick. And they’re some really, really good costumes.

Later, Munson is a bloated, balding shell of his former self. Wopat would’ve had to shave his head, which would have looked weird, but also more realistic than Harrelson’s earlier wig. Harrelson, being bald in real life, look much more convincing here. I suspect, however, that the cost of shaving Tom Wopat’s head multiple times would’ve been less than that of the wig.

If you’re one of those disgusting ageists, you may argue against Wopat Munson on the grounds that Tom Wopat is a decade older than Woody Harrelson. While that is an accurate statement, I have a counterargument: so is Randy Quaid. In the film, Munson is “mentor” to Quaid’s Ishmael, and is, ostensibly, considerably older. However, Quaid is actually older than Harrelson by nine years, and Wopat by nearly a full year.

Quaid is, in fact, just ten days younger than Bill Murray, who plays his mentor’s mentor in the film and who would be, one would assume, potentially as much as decades older.

Nothing against Harrelson, but Wopat is a far, far more attractive fellow. For better or worse, this would make Munson more likeable, which would, in turn, make the character more sympathetic. Munson’s awful luck and deteriorated physical appearance are part of his sad sack charm—which he needs plenty of, as he’s a huge jerk for much of the film.

Photo credit: Lee Rostad

Tom Wopat in: Super Troopers

as: Captain John O’Hagen

Though the flick was not a huge success at the box office, Super Troopers went on to slowly but steadily become a breakout hit on DVD, ultimately securing its place in the cult classic hall of fame. Thanks to a recent, highly successful Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, the writers and actors of the Broken Lizard gang are about to start filming a sequel far too long in the making.

Speaking of Broken Lizard: those five guys are all absolutely, 100 percent irreplaceable in this movie. Though Brian Cox gives a great performance as Capt. O’Hagen, we have to shoehorn Tom Wopat in here somewhere, and there aren’t any other major characters, so Cox will have to go. Sorry.

4 of 5 Broken Lizards (in blue/red)

4 of 5 Broken Lizards (in blue/red)

Key Changes

I know we mention the ages of and/or age difference between the actor in question and Wopat a lot in these write-ups, but stay with me on this one. Though he seems much older, and did even when Super Troopers was first released 14 years ago, Brian Cox is only five years older than Tom Wopat. Wopat would’ve been 48-49 when the movie was made, so the O’Hagen character could’ve been rewritten to play a bit younger.

Instead of the gruff, father figure-type that the character was originally, we envision Wopat’s Capt. O’Hagen as more of an older brother to the state troopers under his command. Not necessarily a “cool” older brother; maybe more like a “thinks he’s cool” older brother.

Instead of bemoaning the troopers’ shenanigans, Wopat O’Hagen would join in every chance he got, though he would more often than not offer unintentionally-terrible contributions.

Representative Scene

In a movie full memorable scenes, one of the more memorable is the “maple syrup chugging scene.” The troopers are at a diner enjoying breakfast when, for whatever reason, a challenge breaks out to see who can down an entire bottle of syrup—an entire bottle!—the fastest. Originally, the Captain was not present at the syrup chugging contest. In our version, Wopat O’Hagen initiates it.

“Come on, boys,” O’Hagen says, distributing full syrup bottles to his charges. “Winner gets Friday off.”

After a quick “ready set go,” the six Vermont State Troopers upend their bottles and start chugging the sticky, viscous goo. O’Hagen pulls ahead to an early lead. He raises a fist in pre-triumph, then immediately starts to choke on the syrup. He struggles through a few more pulls, but ultimately loses it and has to drop his bottle. Sputtering and coughing violently, he sprays the other troopers with regurgitated syrup.

Only two of his comrades are able to continue, the others being too grossed out to carry on. “What the hell, Cap?” Farva (Kevin Heffernan) bellows, wiping syrup out of his eyes. “I had that one.”

“Yeah right, Farva,” O’Hagen replies with a laugh, flicking syrup off his fingertips in Farva’s direction. “Ramathorn always wins. Come on, man!”

As in the original version, and as Wopat O’Hagen predicted, Ramathorn (Jay Chandrasekhar) does win.

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