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

Tom Wopat in: The Empire Strikes Back

as: Han Solo

“Hey!” you say, “Didn’t you already do this one?” “No,” I reply, “you’re thinking of Tom Wopat in: Star Wars. Not the same thing at all.”

That being said, we don’t really need to get into the specifics of why Tom Wopat would make a rad Han Solo. Just read the other one if you’re interested in all that jazz. Instead, we’re going to take a closer look at two…

Representative Scenes

Representative Scene 1

First, the sequence where the Millennium Falcon flies into an asteroid field to evade the Empire. Han pilots the Falcon into a cave on “one of the big ones” and parks it there to hide out while he and Chewbacca the Wookiee make a few repairs to the ship. Eventually, he, Chewie, Leia, and C-3PO discover that, instead of a cave, they are in fact inside the gullet of a giant space worm. As they flee, barely escaping between the mighty beast’s rapidly closing jaws, Han Wopat would let out a Luke Duke-esque “Yeehaw!” The film would then freeze-frame, and Waylon Jennings’ narrator would chime in something like, “Them Duke boys better watch out. Sometimes the early worm gets the bird.”

Those’re literally the only changes we’d make there.

Representative Scene 2

Cloud City: The City in the Clouds

Cloud City: The City in the Clouds

Later, at Cloud City on Bespin, Han Wopat and the gang are greeted by Lando Calrissian, who promptly brings them before Darth Vader. Rather than opening fire with his trusty blaster, however, Han Wopat starts up a good old fashioned Dukes of Hazzard-style bar brawl. He grabs a pool cue from… somewhere and starts swinging, taking out Storm Troopers left and right.

Vader tries Force choking Han, but he scoops up a pool ball from… somewhere, again, and chucks it at the Sith Lord. It bonks Vader right in the chest, knocking his mechanical breathing apparatus out of whack and sending him to his knees in an asthmatic fit.

From there, Han and company flee on foot, with Lando and Lobot leading the way. As they go, they pass through one of several control stations for Cloud City’s tibanna gas mining operation. Imperial forces are gaining fast, so Han Wopat fires one of Luke Duke’s signature exploding arrows into a reactor. The explosion takes out the mine’s ESP, allowing the station to fill up with highly reactive, unfiltered gas. The Storm Troopers tailing them get lost in the billowing gas clouds, and our heroes make their escape.

The good guys pile into the Millennium Falcon and take off. Moments later, the runaway tibanna gas reaches critical mass and Cloud City explodes in a massive fireball. As the flaming wreckage tumbles to the surface of Bespin, thousands of miles below, Vader’s personal Tie Fighter is seen flying to safety. (A little too convenient, perhaps, but it’d be hard to have Return of the Jedi without Vader still in the game.)

Photo credit: Tom Simpson via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Action and/or Adventure, Classics

Tom Wopat in: Raiders of the Lost Ark

as: Indiana Jones

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.)

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

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 (unlike 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 fartknocker, who has brought with him a troop of native warriors so that he may steal the idol from Indy.

"It belongs in a museum!"

“It belongs in a museum!”

Rather than hand over the hard-fought artifact, Indiana Wopat springs into action. A swift, Luke Duke-ian spin kick knocks four of the natives’ blowdart guns 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 emerge from the trees and give 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: Eva Blue via Foter.com / CC BY

Classics, Drama, Television

Tom Wopat in: The Sopranos

as: Silvio Dante

When The Sopranos first started its run, James Gandolfini and Tom Wopat had roughly the same amount of quote-unquote star power, so it’s not unthinkable to imagine Wopat being cast in the lead role of the series. But, given how flat-out spectacular Gandolfini was as Tony Soprano, it’s clear that no other actor could’ve played the part as well.

Silvio Dante is another story, however. Don’t get me wrong, Steven Van Zandt was a revelation as Tony’s consigliere—who knew Bruce Springsteen’s lead guitarist could act?—but Tom Wopat could have, nay, would have been even better.

Key Changes

While nearly all the actors in major roles (and many minor ones) in The Sopranos really are of Italian heritage, Tom Wopat is not. This generally isn’t a big deal in Hollywood, where people professionally pretend to be people they’re not, but on a show that’s about the Mafia, and that does a very good job playing up the importance of the Mafia’s “rules,” it could’ve been a deal breaker. However, there is precedent for non-Italians holding important positions in the mob in fiction: Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) in The Godfather was the Corleone family consigliere for many years, despite being 100 percent Irish.

He's a pinball stugots, there has to be a twist...

He’s a pinball stugots, there has to be a twist…

Though it wouldn’t be much of a stretch for Wopat to portray an Italian—he’s certainly got the hair for it!—it’s possible that the character would’ve been rewritten in more of a Tom Hagen mold. An “outsider,” if you will, that nevertheless is a trusted member of Tony’s crew. Perhaps he grew up in the same neighborhood as Tony and, after an initially contentious relationship that resulted in many a fisticuff, the two gained a grudging respect for one another that evolved into true friendship.

If that were the angle the writers took, the character would, of course, need to have a different, non-Italian name. Our suggestion: Jimmy “The Duke” Lucas. (See what we did there?) A good number of characters on The Sopranos are address by nicknames—Paulie Walnuts, Uncle Junior, Big P***y, Johnny Sack, even Silvio was often referred to as just “Sil”—so Wopat’s character could’ve been called both Jimmy and Duke in equal measure.

Apart from that, the character could’ve remained essentially the same. Tom Wopat could easily have brought the same balance of gravitas and humor to the Silvio (or Jimmy) role that Van Zandt did. He looks great in a suit (as Silvio was almost always dressed to the nines). We’ve seen him beat up goons on The Dukes of Hazzard, so him knocking the stuffing out of a guy with a Dust Buster would’ve been completely believable. And, while we don’t have anything to support this, Wopat probably smokes a mean cigar, too.

Photo credit: E Steuer via Foter.com / CC BY

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

Tom Wopat in: Star Trek (The Original Series)

as: Captain James T. Kirk

In reality, Tom Wopat was just fifteen years young when Star Trek debuted in 1966. But, for the purposes of this blog, we’re going to imagine he was old enough for the part of Captain Kirk, a role that was, of course, originally made famous by William Shatner (who was thirty-five when he first sat in the captain’s chair).

Too many Kirks.

Too many Kirks.

Key Changes

We’ll more or less split the age difference and imagine that Wopat was twenty-eight when he won the role of Kirk (the same age he was when The Dukes of Hazzard began in 1979). With a younger and far more strapping actor as Kirk—no offense to Shatner, but he was more than a little doughy—the writers could’ve upped the ante on the Captain’s physical altercations with alien creatures and other enemies. Gone would be the poorly choreographed, obviously pulled punches of Shatner’s action scenes, replaced with more athletic combat heroics. A Starship captain famous for his jumping spin kicks (or his spinning jump kicks) would’ve struck fear into many a Klingon heart.

Additionally, as it is widely known that Tom Wopat looks quite dashing in blue, Star Trek’s costumes would likely have been altered so that blue was the uniform color for the Command and Flight Crews, with yellow instead being for Science and Medical personnel.

Shatner, of course, played Kirk with more than a smirk of cockiness when appropriate. Chris Pine’s portrayal of the character in the recent “reboot” Star Trek films, turned this up to 11. Both actors gave the character an air of brashness, but with the smarts and skills to back it up. Tom Wopat’s take on Captain Kirk likely would’ve been a bit different—we envision Wopat-Kirk as more of a rugged, roguish, charmer; less smirk, more winning smile. Something along the lines of Indiana Jones (particularly in the opening gambit of Temple of Doom) or (whoda thunk?) Luke Duke.

Photo credit: JD Hancock via Foter.com / CC BY