Action and/or Adventure, Classics, Drama

Tom Wopat in: Fight Club

as: “Jack” (the Narrator)

Fight Club is one of those brilliant, truly unique movies that you cannot adequately describe to those who haven’t seen it. Ultimately, you end up telling the person, “You just have to see it, man!” Even if you’ve seen it a dozen times, you’ll still likely find something new in each viewing

In the film, the everyman main character is never actually given a name—in the script he was listed as “Jack,” so we’ll use that moniker for our purposes here. Jack was portrayed by Edward Norton, and, opposite Brad Pitt’s Tyler Durden, was one of the founders of the titular group that gave similarly disillusioned men the chance to connect and experience something “real” in their lives by beating the living $#!t out of each other.

While Norton’s performance is predictably excellent, I think that maybe, just maybe, Tom Wopat could’ve done it better.

Key Changes

JSYK: This section will include spoilers. But the movie’s almost 20 years old, so it’s not like you haven’t had the chance to see it. In fact, if you’ve never seen Fight Club, go watch it right now, then come back. Seriously. We’ll wait…

 

 

 

Much like sausage, you don't want to know how the soap is made.

Much like sausage, you don’t want to know how the soap is made.

 

 

 

…and you’re back! Whaddaya think? Good stuff, right?!

The first key change is one of age. Norton was roughly 30 when Fight Club was filmed, which is right in line with the character as depicted in the Chuck Palahniuk novel on which the film is based. He’s a young, uninspired office drone doing thankless work for a company so big they essentially don’t know he exists. Tom Wopat was 48 at the time, so the character could’ve been changed to one that is higher up the ladder in the company, but who still feels that his life is going nowhere.

This would actually have made the character’s decision to leave his old life behind even more powerful. As is, Jack ditches a crappy apartment, crappy job, and crappy life to become someone new; as a higher-ranking, better paid member of the company’s management team, he would be walking away from a big house, fancy car, and comfortable lifestyle.

The age difference between Wopat and Norton would also affect Jack’s relationship with Tyler Durden. Pitt was about 35 when the film came out, so while the dynamic between the two characters could’ve remained largely the same, Wopat would still have been significantly older than his counterpart. When it is ultimately revealed that Jack and Tyler are two disassociated personalities inside the same guy’s head, I think that this would actually have a solid logic to it. Tyler is essentially the better looking, smarter, more adventurous person Jack wishes he were, so it would make sense that he would want to be younger, as well.

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Action and/or Adventure, Classics, Drama

Tom Wopat in: Vanishing Point

as: Kowalski

The 1971 counterculture cult classic Vanishing Point is one of those movies that you either absolutely love or completely hate. It doesn’t really have a story, exactly; the ending is a source of debate to this day—among fans and detractors alike; and the acting across the board is dismal, at best. But it’s a pretty great film. Or is it?

To push Vanishing Point from “cult classic” to just plain “classic”, one simple change is required. We’re 99% certain you know where we’re going with this.

Be Wise—Wopatize

Reportedly, director Richard C. Sarafian wanted Gene Hackman for the role of Kowalski, but studio executives insisted on casting an unknown actor. You can’t get much more unknown than Barry Newman, who was ultimately given the part and didn’t do much with it.

Pictured: Basically the entire set of Vanishing Point

Pictured: Basically the entire set of Vanishing Point.

Newman’s acting, as mentioned above, is not the best, and his on-screen charisma is practically non-existent. Alternatively, it could be argued that Kowalski only seems like a human tree branch because he’s so calm and Zen. Whichever way it was intended, Tom Wopat’s legitimate acting chops and natural charisma would’ve given the character a much-needed boost of likeability.

Wopat would’ve been only 19 years old when Vanishing Point was filmed, so we’ll just imagine it was made six or seven years later. This may have reduced the impact of the film’s social commentary on America’s post-Woodstock era; others would argue that same social commentary is hamfisted and clichéd, even for a film made at the dawn of said era.

Make the flick a few years later—1977 sounds about right—and the filmmakers would’ve had more perspective on early ‘70s America, and could’ve made a more compelling argument in their film; or, they would’ve wised up and let it out completely.

Though ’77 was still two years before Wopat became famous for driving a hot rodded Dodge, his skill behind the wheel in The Dukes of Hazzard suggests a natural aptitude that would’ve been perfect for the role of Kowalski. Both Wopat and John Schneider did a good deal of their own stunt driving on Dukes, as did Newman in Vanishing Point.

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Action and/or Adventure

Tom Wopat in: Contraband

as: Chris Farraday

When it was released in 2012, Contraband didn’t exactly set the world on fire. But, it was a pretty solid, small-scale action flick, with some not overly-twisty twists and a heckuva performance by Giovanni Ribisi as the ridiculously Cajun bad guy, Briggs. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before, but it’s an enjoyable movie that I, for one, really liked. One weak spot: the lead actor, Mark Wahlberg. The solution: replace Marky Mark with Lukey Duke.

Hit the bricks, Wahlberg!

Hit the bricks, Wahlberg!

Whither the Funky Bunch?

Normally, I’m a big fan of Mark Wahlberg. I’ve seen probably 90 percent of the movies he’s been in, and he’s been in a lot of movies by now. But, in the role of former smuggler-made-good Chris Farraday, he just didn’t deliver the goods. Instead, we’d put Tom Wopat in the part and watch him lift Contraband to a higher echelon of good movie-ness. Maybe even to great movie-ness. Tom Wopat can do that shiz singlehandedly.

With Wopat as Chris Farraday, you’d of course be getting an older, wiser ex-smuggler, as Wahlberg is 20 years Wopat’s junior. To my mind, that would give the plot, wherein Farraday gets pulled back into the criminal underworld for the good ol’ “one last job,” even more weight. Wopat Farraday has been out of the game for a long time, and has settled into a comfortable, ready-to-retire-altogether life in the ‘burbs; after all these years, it’ll be even harder for him to save his and his brother-in-law’s tookuses.

In the Wopatized version of Contraband, this would be made apparent shortly after Wopat Farraday sets off on his mission. He’s not as young and fit as he used to be, and lugging around oversized industrial bags full of money and drugs isn’t as easy as it was back in the day. Beating up goons is tougher than ever. His back hurts literally the entire time. Etc.

Wopat’s additional decades wouldn’t be so significant as to render the story unbelievable, however. The flick has relatively few big, physical, action sequences, so it wouldn’t be a ridiculous Expendables kind of situation. It’s perfectly feasible that a dude in his early 60s could handle all the shiz that Farraday deals with in the movie. It’s basically the perfect actor-for-actor swap.

Seriously, do yourself a favor and check out Contraband. I highly recommend it.

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Action and/or Adventure, Classics, Thriller

Tom Wopat in: Jaws

as: Chief Martin Brody

Released in the summer of 1975, Jaws is often considered the first “blockbuster” movie, and it quickly became the highest grossing movie in history (at the time—it has since been passed by many times over, first and not least of which by Star Wars).

Though the main actors in the film are now fairly well known, at the time, director Steven Spielberg wanted to avoid “name” actors, feeling that anyone too famous would detract from the “everyman” feel of the film, and that the real star of the film should be the shark.

jaws

The lead role of Chief Martin Brody was originally offered to Robert Duvall, who was only interested in playing Quint (Robert Shaw’s character). Charlton Heston expressed interest, but Spielberg felt his screen persona was too “big” for a small town police chief. Ultimately, the role went to the late, great Roy Scheider, who unquestionably did a wonderful job in the part.

That’s not to say there’s not someone who could’ve done it better. And that someone, as I think you know, is Tom Wopat.

Key Changes

Scheider was 42 when Jaws was filmed; Wopat was 23 that year. This probably makes Wopat too young to believably portray a police chief. However, we can think of two easy potential workarounds for this:

1) Amity Island’s a small community, so maybe they have to take who they can get when it comes to their constabulary. Young Wopat Brody maybe isn’t the best man for the job, but he’s the only one who’s willing to take it. This would play well into the town’s collective disbelief when Brody first suggests that there’s a shark in their waters.

2) Wopat Brody isn’t the chief of police, merely a young hotshot patrolman—presumably, Amity is too small a town to have detectives on their police force. He constantly butts head with the chief (could still be Scheider, in a much-reduced role), and when he suggests that it may be a shark that’s been terrorizing the townsfolk, the chief joins in the chorus of skeptics.

Ellen Brody, Brody’s wife, would likely have been played by a younger actress (though Lorraine Gray was only in her late 30s at the time). Having a strapping, young Tom Wopat in the movie, the filmmakers probably would have included a few shots of shirtless Wopat on the beach or whatever. Other than that, the flick could stay essentially the same. Which is for the best, because dang Jaws is a good movie, amirite?!

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Action and/or Adventure, Classics

Tom Wopat in: Die Hard

as: John McClane

Since its release nearly 28 years ago, Die Hard has become one of the landmarks of the action-adventure genre. It has become the standard by which all other “lone hero against impossible odds” movies are judged—to this day, action flicks are often pitched as “Die Hard on a ______”. (For example: Speed is “Die Hard on a bus”.)

Though the four sequels (so far) have been of decreasing quality–#2, Die Harder, was pretty dang good, actually—the original Die Hard is nothing short of a masterpiece of action filmmaking. Bruce Willis, previously known almost exclusively for his role in TV’s Moonlighting, turned the part of NYPD officer John McClane into a career-defining role.

Lego Die Hard

However, due to some complicated Hollywood contract structures, 20th Century Fox, the studio behind the flick, was legally obligated to offer the role to Frank Sinatra first. Sinatra passed, and the role was offered to Arnold Schwarzenegger, with the idea of turning the script into a sequel to Commando. Arnie passed, too, as did Sylvester Stallone, Harrison Ford, Burt Reynolds, and a number of other action stars of the era. Finally, Bruce Willis was cast and an action hero was born.

Why Not Wopat?

Released in the summer of 1988, Die Hard came shortly after the end of The Dukes of Hazzard. Tom Wopat would still have been fresh in viewers’ minds from his role on the show, but it would also likely have been far enough removed that he wouldn’t automatically be seen as Luke Duke. He was an established TV star, while Willis was just starting to garner widespread attention.

One of the chief knocks on Bruce Willis at the time of his casting was that he wasn’t a known “action star.” If anything, this made Wopat more suited to the role than Willis at the time, as Dukes had a good bit of action and stunt work in it. (Willis apparently did most of his own stunts in Die Hard, so that’s pretty cool.)

Wopat is four years older than Willis, an age difference that is essentially nil in Hollywood (at least for male stars), both have dark brown hair (Willis used to have hair, anyway), and the two are the same height. Physically, at least, the two are pretty much interchangeable.

However, if it’s actual acting skill you’re after, Wopat is clearly the guy for the job. Nothing against ol’ Bruno, but Tom Wopat has more dramatic chops in his little finger than Willis has in his entire torso, head, and face. Another part of what set Die Hard apart from other ’80s action flicks was its sense of humor, and for my money, Wopat is a better comedic actor than Willis, too. McClane’s back-and-forth with Carl Winslow down in the Nakatomi Plaza guard shack could’ve been even bigger and better.

Yipee-ki-yay, Tom Wopat!

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Action and/or Adventure

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 65-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!”

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.

FTFY.

FTFY.

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, 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.

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

Tom Wopat in: Independence Day

as: President Thomas Whitmore

Independence Day is the quintessential so-bad-it’s-good summer blockbuster. Not a lick of the “science” in the flick makes sense, but you don’t care while you’re watching it because Will Smith just KO’d an ugly, tentacled alien with a solid right. It’s one of those movies that you think about now, roughly 20 years later (and not long after its totally unnecessary sequel bombed like Ted Kaczynski’s mailbox), and wonder, “How did that turd make $800 million?” And then you rewatch and you’re like, “Oh yeah, because it’s entertaining as all get out.”

Nearly everyone in the surprisingly diverse cast is perfectly, um, cast. Cocky Fighter Pilot = Will Smith; Drunk Buffoon = Randy Quaid; Nerdy/Super Smart Guy = Jeff Goldblum. And Diamond Bill Pullman is great as President Whitmore, and crafts one of the best inspirational-speech-before-going-off-to-war/battle scenes in the history of that now-overused trope.

But you know darn good and well that Tom Wopat would’ve been better.

Why Wopat?

Part of Bill Pullman’s appeal is that he is the perfect everyman. So much so that he is often mistaken (and vice versa) for Hollywood’s second most perfect everyman, the similarly named (which surely compounds the problem) Bill Paxton. That’s world-class everymanning, that is.

FTFY.

FTFY.

However, I feel it works against Pullman in Independence Day. The film is set in “present day,” which, at the time, was 1996. Pullman’s character, Tom Whitmore, was a decorated fighter pilot in the Persian Gulf War and has since, of course, been elected president. Here’s where Pullman’s everymanness works against him: The first Gulf War lasted from late 1990 to early 1991, which means that in five years Whitmore went from soldier (likely an Officer) to Leader of the Free World.

Even the most decorated pilot in the history of aviation and/or warfare couldn’t ride that fact alone into the White House in just five years, without prior political experience. As we know, these days, any reasonable amount of prior political experience essentially guarantees that one will not be partaking in the actual fighting of any war. Politicians just start wars, they leave the fighting and dying to others—makes it easier to start more wars that way.

But: if that decorated fighter pilot (again, probably an Officer) was as ruggedly good looking and as charming as Tom Wopat? Especially a Charming Decorated Fighter Pilot Tom Wopat sporting a classic (though not very presidential) Tom Wopat Haircut? Get the heck outta here. That cat would win in a landslide. A landslide I tell ya!

THAT is why Tom Wopat should’ve been in Independence Day.

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

Tom Wopat in: Ant-Man

as: Hank Pym

The so-called Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU, is made up of (so far) 248 movies of varying quality. Iron Man was the first, and one of the best; The Incredible Hulk was the second, and quite a turd. Perhaps the most surprising entry in the franchise—surprisingly good, that is—is Ant-Man. Pretty much only die-hard comic book fans were familiar with the C-squad character before the movie came out, and the premise—super suit allows well-meaning former criminal to shrink down to microscopic size and fight crime somehow—is even more ridiculous than most MCU flicks.

Someone behind the scenes had the good sense to cast the charming, ever-likable, and ageless Paul Rudd as the title character, a.k.a. Scott Lang. His mentor in the film and the “original” Ant-Man, Hank Pym, was played by Michael Douglas. He should’ve been played by Tom Wopat.

Tom?

Tom?

Why Not Wopat?

On the surface, Wopat and Douglas are essentially analogous: both are handsome older white dudes. The only significant difference is that, despite having a fraction of the acting talent, Douglas is somehow the bigger star. This, to my mind, actually makes Wopat the better choice. It’s hard not to be distracted by the presence of Michael Douglas in a comic book superhero movie, because, in every role he’s ever played, he always Michael Douglas. Though Luke Duke is a far more iconic and memorable character than, say, Gordon Gekko, Tom Wopat can still play different roles, instead of just being the same guy in different costumes and with different dialogue coming out of his mouth.

Wopat is also just over seven years younger than Douglas. In the opening scenes of the film, as well as flashbacks and “archival footage,” we see OG Ant-Man in action, kicking Hydra arse in his prototype super suit way back in Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Nine. This would’ve made Wopat 38 at the time, while Douglas would’ve been 45. Super suit or not, more than a half dozen years would make a big difference on a dude’s superheroing abilities. Think about it from a real-world angle: there are quite a few 38-year-old professional athletes; there are no 45-year-old professional athletes.

Plus, with Wopat’s considerable stunt and fight-scene experience from his Dukes of Hazzard days, it just seems more realistic that he could handle a big bunch of baddies. Michael Douglas looks like he couldn’t even best a toddler in a fistfight these days.

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Action and/or Adventure, Original Wopatizations, Thriller

Tom Wopat in: The Gutenberg Device (An Original Wopatization)

as: Lucas Langdon

Everybody loves those stinkin’ Tom Hanks “Robert Langdon” movies, apparently—they just keep makin’ the damn things. After all, the rule in Hollywood seems to be: as longs as it doesn’t lose money, they’ll let you make another one. By his own admission, that’s the only way Kevin Smith has managed to have as long a filmmaking career as he has. So, for the inevitable Da Vinci Code, Part IV, we figured it would make sense to go the route of so many higher-numbered sequels and add a new character/cast member to inject some new life.

The new character: Robert Langdon’s better looking and even smarter brother Lucas. The actor: come on, do you seriously not see where we’re going with this?

Plot Overview

No one here is a pro screenwriter, so we’re going to keep this pretty general. We’ll let someone else fill in all the specifics and whatnot and just sit back and collect our sweet “Screen Story by” royalty checks. Anyway, it goes a little something like this:

Written by Steve Gutenberg.

Written by Steve Gutenberg.

An old, grizzled museum worker discovers something odd whilst restoring the Gutenberg Bible held by the New York Public Library. The old man is using some sort of ultraviolet light to inspect the pages and comes across cryptic markings, some kind of code. Naturally, Tom Hanks’ Robert Langdon is called in.

He and a local antiquities expert played by another random actress (picking up the mantle from Audry Tautou, Ayelet Zurer, and Felicity Jones) investigate and soon, of course, are on the run from a shadowy, unknown group. They flee NYC and seek assistance from Langdon’s older brother. (Tom Wopat, of course.)

Lucas Langdon is an expert in printing presses throughout history—including the press Gutenberg used to print the famous bibles. Using his extensive knowledge, Tom Hanks’ knowledge of symbology, and the antiquities expert’s, um, expertise, they suss out the secret and figure out who’s after them.

Unsurprisingly, an epic chase ensues, with the villains chasing our heroes across Stasbourg, France, where the good guys were inspecting Gutenberg’s original press in a publishing house/printing press museum (which we’re 100% sure is a real thing, for real). In the final kerfuffle, Lucas Langdon falls to his death in the jaws of a massive Heidelberg press, taking the Big Bad with him. (Not coincidentally, “Heidelberg” is the name of the bad guy.)

Don’t worry, though—Wopat’s character comes back to life (somehow) for Da Vinci Code V.

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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!

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