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

Tom Wopat in: Star Wars

as: Han Solo, of course.

If The Duke 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.

Han Solo

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 something like that.*

After retreating from a phalanx of Storm Troopers who had ambushed 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 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: John Kannenberg via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Kids and/or Family

Tom Wopat in: Charlie & the Chocolate Factory

as: Willy Wonka

Please note that this Wopatization is for the 2005, Tim Burton-directed version of the story. The original, far superior Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, with Gene Wilder in the title role, is beyond reproach.

In this case, we’d replace Johnny Depp’s bizarre, misguided take on the character with a much more measured, but still stylized, portrayal by (of course) Tom Wopat.

What's the best way to lure unsuspecting kids into your creepy van?

What’s the best way to lure unsuspecting kids into your creepy van?

Key Changes

Wopat’s Wonka (Willy Wopat?) would be less of a Michael Jackson-esque weirdo and more in line with Wilder’s interpretation from 1971. No Prince Valiant haircut, no disturbingly perfect teeth, no squeaky voice. Costuming would remain largely the same, and the overall story would be essentially the same, but we’d eliminate the strange and unnecessary “Wonka’s father was a dentist” backstory thing. We’d also add a few new wrinkles and a gag or two that draw on Wopat’s most famous prior role.

Representative Scene: Veruca Salt & The Chocolate Factory’s Pneumatic Conveyors

After Augustus Gloop falls into the river of chocolate and Violet Beauregard turns violet, Veruca Salt comes across the Chocolate Factory’s squirrels, who are tasked with removing “bad nuts” from the good ones that will eventually go into Wonka’s chocolate bars. Veruca, being the spoiled rich kid she is, decides she wants one of the trained squirrels for her very own.

The squirrels don’t take kindly to these shenanigans and take matters into their own paws. (Here’s where we deviate from the script a bit.) Rather than let the squirrels be all evil and attack-y, Willy Wopat intervenes and prevents them from sending Veruca down the “bad nut” trash chute. Unpredictable critters that they are, the whole scurry takes up the offensive against Wonka and his visitors.

Using his Dukes of Hazzard stunt and fight training, Wopat engages the enraged squirrels in hand to paw combat. With a right hook here and a spin kick there, he’s dispatching the squirrels in rapid fashion. Though Willy Wopat is the only one actively fighting the squirrels, they are clearly intent on attacking the young Ms. Salt. The woodland critters’ sheer numbers quickly become too great to withstand.

Rather than continuing to battle the squirrels, Willy Wopat instead shuffles Veruca over to a nearby giant tube with a curiously kid-sized and –shaped opening. It’s the same pneumatic conveying system that pulled Augustus from the chocolate reservoir, and as soon as Veruca’s inside, Wonka slides a previously-hidden panel closed and shwoop! Off she goes into the bowels of the Chocolate Factory, never to be seen again…

…until the end of the movie when they trot out all the kids to show that they weren’t really hurt or killed or anything, because family movie.

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

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

Tom Wopat in: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990 Version)

as: Baxter Stockman

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are, essentially, one of the most successful results of a random drunken conversation ever. Over a few adult beverages, creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird more or less challenged each other to create the weirdest, most random comic book character they could think of. The result was the Ninja Turtles, quickly amended to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to make them even weirder.

No way a sober person came up with this.

No way a sober person came up with this.

After a relatively long and somewhat successful run of black and white comics (first self-published, then picked up by Mirage Studios), the series was transmogrified into the colorful action figures and cartoon series that made the Ninja Turtles into household names. The first feature film based on the characters, released in 1990, is still arguably the best, though it played fast and loose with the comic series’ established mythology (as well as the cartoon series’ mythology, which was itself significantly modified from the comic book version).

As such, we figured another tweak or two wouldn’t hurt. What better way to tweak…well, anything, than by adding Tom Wopat?

Wopatization Is Kind of Like Mutation

Baxter Stockman was always one of our favorite secondary TMNT characters, but he unfortunately never made it into the big leagues of live-action movies. Here, we set out to both correct that egregious oversight and give Tom Wopat a place in the greatest mutant-based film franchise of all time. (Sorry, X-Men.)

In the comic books and the cartoon series, Stockman starts out as a super-intelligent scientist working for the Shredder, and eventually ends up mutating into a humanoid fly (not unlike Jeff Goldblum in The Fly). He also invented the robotic Mousers that terrorize the Ninja Turtles and their mutant rat sensei, Splinter, many, many times throughout both series. Long story short, he’s a bad guy.

However, there’s more than enough going on in the first Ninja Turtles movie without adding another mutant baddie, so we’d leave his mutation (and the Mousers) for later films. In our Wopatized version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Stockman would be one of those minor characters that you can tell will become important later on. (For other examples of this talking picture phenomenon, see basically any movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.)

Here, Stockman would be a brilliant, but unappreciated scientist whose occupational apathy gets him fired from TGRI, the company shown in the sequel, The Secret of the Ooze, to be responsible for the mutagen that made the Turtles what they are. Stockman soon enters Shredder’s employ, instantly becoming the smartest person on the Foot Clan payroll.

However, his genius is still underutilized. Instead of actual scientific research, Stockman is put to work sciencing up the metal stampings that make up Shredder’s armor in an attempt to make the razor-sharp metal plates even more deadly. Again feeling unappreciated, and realizing that his new boss is a villain, Stockman defects and joins the Ninja Turtles to thwart the Foot’s schemes.

Why Wopat?

Tom Wopat is the perfect actor for this role for a number of reasons. Number One, he’s awesome. No more explanation necessary there, amirite?

Beyond that, we feel that Wopat could very convincingly portray a super-scientist in this sort of film. At the time the film was released, he was 39 years old, which seems about right to be a scientist who’s that advance in his career, but also straight up sick of his job. Wopat would give the character the ideal balance of comic book energy, charm, and pathos. He’d also be just the right amount of famous to play a character about whom viewers are meant to think “he’s not that important now, but I bet he will be later.”

Photo credit: W10002 via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

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

Tom Wopat in: Iron Man

as: Tony Stark/Iron Man

Iron Man was the first film in what is now known as the “Marvel Cinematic Universe.” (Previous Marvel films—like Spider-Man and the Dolph Lundgren version of The Punisher—aren’t included in said universe because they weren’t produced/released by Marvel Studios.) It set the bar pretty high, and, for my money, has yet to be surpassed by any of the increasingly-interconnected comic book movies that have been made since.

Iron Man also heralded Robert Downey, Jr.’s big comeback. (Comeback #4 or so, by my count, but this one stuck.) RDJ is undoubtedly great in the role, and I for one am glad that he’s back in the Hollywood game; he seems like a pretty good dude, and just so happens to be one heck of an actor. Because he is so darned great, it seems inevitable that he would’ve made a solid comeback at some point, with or without Iron Man. There’s another actor who’s more than due for a comeback, and for whom the role of Iron Man would’ve been perfect. You’ll never guess who I’m thinking of…

iron mang

Why Not Wopat?

RDJ’s take on Tony Stark/Iron Man is an equal mix of charm, attitude, and smarts. Another character that matches that description? Tom Wopat’s Luke Duke. Imagine if, instead of souping up a ’69 Dodge Charger, Luke put his mechanical know-how to work building a high-powered, weaponized suit of armor—pretty much a perfect fit, no? Give essentially the same rambunctious rapscallion a few billion dollars, knowledge of advanced military technology, and some state-of-the-art precision machining equipment, and you’ve got Tony Stark.

Tom Wopat’s definitely got the chops to carry the role. What about the look? In the comics, Tony Stark has always looked more or less like RDJ did in his portrayal: dark hair, goatee, etc. Wopat’s got hair for days, but he might look a little funny with the hipster-magician facial hair Downey sports in Iron Man. Surely the hair and makeup department could’ve found a style that would fit Wopat’s handsome mug.

One big difference between RDJ and Tom Wopat is their age: when Iron Man was released, Downey was 43; Wopat was 56. RDJ is already a little on the “old” side to be portraying a superhero, even one that doesn’t actually rely on physical superpowers (as all of Iron Man’s abilities come from his super suit). However, I think Wopat’s additional years would’ve actually made more sense for the character. Follow me here:

In the comics, Tony Stark is the CEO of Stark Industries, one of the biggest weapons manufacturers in the world and a multi-billion dollar corporation. Though he essentially inherited the position from his father, Howard Stark, the founder of the company, how many major, multi-billion dollar CEOs are in their 40s when they reach that echelon? I’d guess not many. Iron Man’s director, Jon Favreau, has stated that he was going for a more realistic feel for the film (as realistic as one can be when chronicling the exploits of a dude in a walking tank), so an older, though still as cocky and confident, Tony Stark would be more believable.

Another plus for Wopat: he’s several inches taller than RDJ. In superhero movies, bigger is always better, especially when it comes to the hero himself. A minor quibble, but a taller Iron Man is a bigger Iron Man is a better Iron Man, no doubt.

Photo credit: Chris Blakeley via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Western

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 probably best left to Dylanologists.

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.

singing cowboy

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. 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.

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 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: tb00t via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA