Comedy, Musicals

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.

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 nothing if not a working man.

Joe is nothing if not a working man.

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 Scenes

Key Scene #1

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 noted 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.

Key Scene #2

Later, the belligerent shoplifter known only as “Warren Beatty” fulfills his promise from earlier in the film: “I’ll be back, and you’ll be sorry!” Warren shows up with a gun—loaded with blanks, unbeknownst to Empire Records’ employees—and starts wreaking havoc. In the original film, Warren is “talked down” by Lucas, the wayward employee who set the events of the film in motion, and ultimately offered a job at the store by Joe.

In the Wopatized version, things go a little differently. Lucas distracts Warren with essentially the same speech he uses in the original, while Joe Wopat sneaks up on the duo, concealing himself behind the store’s copious retail display cases. As Lucas concludes his monologue, Joe Wopat bursts from his hiding place and delivers a Luke Duke-esque flying kick that knocks the pistol from Warren’s hand and sends the young punk tumbling to the floor. Joe, Lucas, and the rest of the Empire Records crew then proceed to kick the stuffing out of Warren, only stopping when the police arrive to haul the juvenile delinquent away.

Photo credit: Howdy, I’m H. Michael Karshis via Foter.com / CC BY

Classics, Comedy

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 currently working on 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.

Broken Lizard

L-R: Paul Broken Lizard, Erik Broken Lizard, Steve Broken Lizard, Jay Broken Lizard, Kevin Broken Lizard

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 Monday 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 via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

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

Tom Wopat in: Total Recall

as: Douglas Quaid

First off, let me point out that, while there have been two movie versions of Total Recall, we’re putting Tom Wopat in the 2012 film because the original, 1990 version is just too weird and too ‘90s to mess with—it truly is perfect in its imperfection. Besides, there’s a limit to how many times can we insert Wopat into Schwarzenegger movies.

This poster is only marginally as weird as the actual movie.

This poster is only marginally as weird as the actual movie.

Instead, we’re putting our beloved Tom Wopat into the lead role in the remake/reimagining of the film, taking the place of Colin Farrell, who should under no circumstances be the leading man in a would-be blockbuster movie of any type. This version is also more of a straightforward sci-fi action flick, and less of a campy, bizarro, sci-fi mindbender. That, too, makes it better suited to Wopatization.

Key Changes

The biggest change in a Wopat-for-Farrell swap is the age difference: Wopat is 25 years older than Farrell. However, this could actually work just fine, with minimal other alterations. Instead of being a production floor working stiff at the precision metal stamping company that makes parts for the police robots seen in the movie, the Quaid character could be the manager of the plant, having climbed the ladder from factory worker to head honcho.

This change could make the rest of the film a bit more potent, in fact. As Quaid eventually discovers, he is actually a secret agent* who has been given new memories by former employers. Instead of just a few months of living this lie of a life, he would’ve been at it for decades. When he finally uncovers the truth, he would be even more torn between the “new” life he’s been living and his true identity.

One other potential concern regarding having a considerably older actor in the role: the ladies. Normal, real life people are usually married to someone roughly their same age (though there are certainly exceptions). But, in Hollywood movies, older dudes end up “married” to much younger women all the time. Would the parts of Quaid’s “wife” and secret-agent ladyfriend still have been played by Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel, respectively? Quite possibly, because, Hollywood is stupid that way.

As for the action sequences, not a lot would need to change. Still spry and athletic in his mid 60s, Wopat could easily hold his own in fight scenes and chases across the late-21st century landscape.

* Or is he?! Dun dun DUNNNN!

Photo credit: theNerdPatrol via Foter.com / CC BY

Classics, Comedy, Musicals

Tom Wopat in: Wayne’s World (the Movie)

In the first installment of the Wayne’s World trilogy, Benjamin Kane is the closest thing to a villain that Wayne (Mike Myers) and Garth (Dana Carvey) encounter. He attempts to cash in on the success of the “Wayne’s World” show-within-the-movie and turn it into a forum for cheap sponsorship for his advertising clients. In the end, “Bunjamin” gets his comeuppance, Wayne gets the girl, and “Wayne’s World” is restored to its original, low budget but well-loved format.

Originally, the would-be TV producer and all around jerk is played with a nigh perfect balance of sleaze and charm by Rob Lowe. But we propose that with Tom Wopat as Kane, an even better, truly perfect balance would have been struck, and Wayne’s World would’ve been all the better for it.

mirth mobile

“To the Mirth Mobile!”

Key Changes

One thing to note is that Tom Wopat is about a dozen years older than Rob Lowe. However, when the film was released in 1992, Wopat was only 41, so it’s not really an issue. It’s never really specified how old Kane is supposed to be, and Hollywood plays young all the time (every movie or TV series set in high school features at least one actor in his or her 30s playing a teenager, it seems).

Over the course of Wayne’s World, it is made rather obvious that Benjamin Kane owes a good portion of his success to his good looks. And, there’s no doubt that Lowe is a handsome fellow. But put him and Tom Wopat side by side, and they look like they could be brothers—Wopat being the better looking one. If anything, with Wopat in the role, there would’ve been even more room for “skating by on his looks” gags.

With Wopat’s real-life guitar playing experience, the writers could’ve added a scene where Benjamin and Wayne square off in a friendly “guitar duel.” Wayne, the would-be metalhead and guitar hero, would bust out a monster solo, contorting his face into all manner of goofy “solo faces” and finishing with the “out of breath” physical comedy bit that Myers does so well. Kane/Wopat would then pick up Wayne’s guitar and, casually and easily, knock out a killer guitar line that puts Wayne’s playing to shame, all with Wopat’s face and hands in frame the whole time. Kane doesn’t break a sweat, and Wayne is completely befuddled.

And finally, with Wopat’s Dukes of Hazzard past and Wayne’s World’s fondness for spoofing pop culture, one of the movie’s “fake endings” could’ve included a chase scene in which Wayne and Garth, in their AMC Pacer (the “Mirth Mobile”), escape Kane and his suspiciously familiar orange 1969 Dodge Charger. Turning the Dukes’ convention on its ear, the Mirth Mobile would’ve been the car to make the climactic, slow-motion jump to safety, while the General Lee careens off the road and into the river.

Photo credit: GmanViz via RemodelHackers / CC BY-NC-ND