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.

Photo credit: Stephane <3 via Foter.com / CC BY

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.

Photo credit: Sam Howzit via Foter.com / CC BY

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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Action and/or Adventure, Drama, Television

Tom Wopat in: Sons of Anarchy

as: Bobby Elvis

It’s been almost two years since Sons of Anarchy wrapped up its epic seven-season run on FX. The Shakespearian biker-gang drama went out guns a-blazin’ with a final season that shook the show’s Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original (SAMCRO) to its foundation. Lots of characters, both beloved and behated, wound up taking dirt naps by the end, and, arguably, none of those final season deaths had more of an effect on SOA’s ultimate resolution than that of Robert “Bobby Elvis” Munson. I know I teared up when Bobby bit the dust.

Perhaps the only way it could’ve had a bigger impact is—you guessed it—if Tom Wopat had played the part.

Wopat of Anarchy

SOA

Bobby Elvis was originally portrayed by Mark Boone Junior, and, other than their physical differences, he and Tom Wopat are essentially analogous. Both are accomplished (if unheralded) singer-songwriters, both are Midwesterners (from Ohio and Wisconsin, respectively), and both are in their early sixties. Both clearly know their way around high-powered vehicles, as Boone and Wopat both did much of their own driving in Sons and Dukes of Hazzard (though Bobby’s motorcycle is a decidedly different beast than the General Lee).

On Sons of Anarchy, Bobby Elvis is, generally, the level-headed voice of reason among the MC’s leaders. Wopat’s laidback, soft-spoken style would perfectly fit this aspect of the character. It’s easy to picture Bobby Wopat talking some sense into (or at least attempting to) Ron Perlman’s Clay Morrow or Charlie Hunnam’s Jax Teller as they sit around the big table at the club’s meetings.

At a good five inches taller than Boone, Wopat would be more on the level, physically, with Perlman’s imposing gang leader. Though Clay and Bobby never came to blows, a taller (though much thinner) Bobby could’ve given the character more weight (ironically) in their interactions.

Early on in the series, we see how Bobby got his nickname: he’s a semi-professional Elvis impersonator. The long-haired, bearded, portly Boone didn’t look much like Elvis, but he sold it with his enthusiasm and far-better-than-expected singing. I think we can all agree that Tom Wopat would make a much more convincing faux-King of Rock & Roll, and we know he’d be more than capable of singing some Elvis tunes. After Bobby’s first appearance in his Elvis getup, we never see him performing again. With Wopat in the role (and doing a much better job of Elvising), it’s possible it would’ve been more of a recurring thing, a bit of comic relief to lighten the often-heavy overall tone of the show.

Photo credit: anieto2k via Source / CC BY-SA

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

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

Action and/or Adventure, Drama, Television

Tom Wopat in: Game of Thrones

as: Ned Stark

In the blockbuster HBO series Game of Thrones (and the Song of Ice and Fire novels by George R.R. Martin on which the show is based), Eddard “Ned” Stark, is the honorable, loyal, and just lord of Winterfell and warden of the North—a vast portion of the story’s fictional kingdom of Westeros. Originally portrayed by Sean Bean, Ned was the show’s moral center and nominally its main character throughout the first season. However (SPOILER ALERT for a 6-year-old TV episode and a nigh 20-plus-year-old book), in the series’ ninth episode, Ned is executed by the newly-appointed king of Westeros, Joffrey Baratheon.

Always the same weather report with this guy.

Always the same weather report with this guy.

Because Sean Bean’s characters always seem to die in every plum role he plays (see: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring), we thought we’d give the poor guy a break and put someone else in the role, someone whose characters have never died onscreen. We are, of course, referring to the one and only Tom Wopat.

Representative Scene: Outside the Great Sept of Baelor

Ned Wopat, wrongly accused of treason, is forced to plead his case before Queen Cersei Baratheon (nee Lannister), her son Joffrey—who became king after the death of his father Robert—and the King’s Small Council. A huge throng of citizens from King’s Landing (the capitol of Westeros) has gathered to witness the spectacle.

Ned’s daughter, Sansa, has been captured by the Kingsguard—kind of the Westerosi Secret Service, but with a lot more swords and blatant, brutal murders of the King’s enemies. And, since King Joffrey is an insufferable little turd who orders killings left and right, those murders add up quickly. Learning that Sansa’s life is danger, and having struck something of a plea bargain with Cersei and Joffrey, Ned agrees to confess to his “crimes.”

Despite his confession, King Joffrey the Turd orders his goons to execute Ned Wopat anyway. Just as the executioner prepares to swing his sword and behead Ned, a trumpeter, previously hidden in the crowd, blasts out a rousing twelve-note call to arms. A Northern war wagon, painted bright orange, drawn by four of the mightiest chargers in all of Westeros, and driven by a hooded figure, comes barreling toward the sept. King’s Landingers diving out of its way as it speeds onward.

Ned kicks his would-be executioner’s legs out from under him, jumps to his feet, and dives into the cart as it passes. The hood of the driver’s cloak is blown back by the wind, and we see that it is his brother, Brandon Stark (played by John Schneider, naturally), who was long thought to be dead.

Brandon Schneider-Stark pilots the war wagon up the bed of a conveniently-placed-and-tilted-downward flatbed cart. With an exuberant “Yee-haw!” the Stark Boys, horses, and wagon ramp off the cart and fly through the air, up and over the walls of King’s Landing. They land perfectly on the other side, the horses hit the ground running, and they head due north to freedom.

Also, Sansa escapes somehow and meets up with them later.

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