Animation, Classics, Comedy, Kids and/or Family

Tom Wopat in: Who Framed Roger Rabbit

as: Eddie Valiant

No movie blew my mind as a kid like Who Framed Roger Rabbit did. The movie’s seamless blend of live action and cell animation achieves a level of awesomeness that has still not been matched. “What about Gollum in the Lord of the Rings movies?” you ask. “Was that not a brilliant blending of the real and animated?” It undeniably was, but that’s kind of the problem—Gollum (and other the fancy high-falutin’ CGI characters that have graced the silver screen since) looks too good, too real for it to really register as animation. In Roger Rabbit, the cartoon characters are supposed to look like cartoon characters interacting with real, live humans in a real, live, Bizzaro version of old-timey Hollywood.

roger-rabbit

A big part of what makes those interactions work is that the live-action cast totally sells it. As the film’s lead (human) character, Bob Hoskins’ Eddie Valiant spends the lion’s share of his screen time with one ink and paint creation or another. And, though the late, great Hoskins turns in a predictably excellent performance, there is another actor who we think could’ve given the part a little something extra. That actor is, of course, Tom Wopat.

Key Changes

In the film, Eddie Valiant is shown to be a washed up has-been, a private detective whose high profile career working on cases around Hollywood and Toon Town (roughly the equivalent of a Little Italy, but with cartoon characters) petered out after his brother Teddy was killed by a rogue ‘toon. Once a strapping, barrel-chested hero, he’s now balding, borderline alcoholic, and more than a little doughy in the midsection. This, of course, was right in Bob Hoskins’ wheelhouse, since that’s what he looked like in real life.

With Tom Wopat in the role, however, we’d have to alter Eddie’s character a little bit. He’d still be a down on his luck sad-sack, and still something of a drunk. But, instead of letting himself go all soft, he’s dedicated himself to staying fit. This would not only fit Wopat’s physique better (especially back in 1988 when the movie was made—he was but 37 then), but would allow for scenes in a 1940s-style gym, where boxing is the main draw.

Really, we’re just looking for an excuse for old-timey gym trunks, the kind with a build-in belt and that come up well past a fella’s belly button. Those are always funny.

Also, it would allow for a scene recreating some of the finest slapstick comedy in the history of the Looney Tunes: the kangaroo boxing short starring Sylvester the cat (titled “Pop ‘im Pop”). Instead of Sylvester, it would, of course, be Eddie Wopat in the ring with a cartoon kangaroo. If the thought of a live-action actor getting slapped around by an animated kangaroo doesn’t make you at least crack a smile, then I’m afraid there’s no hope for you, sir or madam.

Photo credit: Castles, Capes & Clones via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Comedy, Holiday or Holiday Adjacent, Kids and/or Family

Tom Wopat in: Jingle All the Way

as: Howard Langston

Has there ever been a better holiday movie than Jingle All the Way? Has there ever been a better, more nuanced performance in a holiday movie than the one Arnold Schwarzenegger turns in as Howard Langston in Jingle All the Way? The answer to the first question is a resounding “No.” The answer to the second is, “There would be if Tom Wopat had played the part instead.” Let’s speculate further, shall we?!

Why Wopat?

jingle all the way

For starters, Jingle All the Way was filmed and set in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. Tom Wopat is originally from Lodi, Wisconsin, USA; Arnold Schwarzenegger is from Thal, Styria, Austria. Wopat’s natural Sconnie accent would’ve been far more geographically accurate than Arnie’s Austrian one. Additionally—and I say this as an unapologetic Schwarzenegger fan—it would’ve been much easier to understand the dialogue with Wopat as Howard Langston. Ah-nuld’s accent seemed to be particularly thick in this flick, for whatever reason.

Second, Tom Wopat makes a much more believable, regular joe mattress salesman. I always find it odd when Schwarzenegger plays characters that just have normal jobs, because, for example, why would a mattress salesman be built like a professional bodybuilder? Maybe stick with playing legendary warriors and killer cyborgs and genetically engineered superhumans, Arnold. Wopat is an average-sized fellow and would be more convincing in an everyday job occupation like mattress salesmanship.

Wopat’s comparative averageness would also make at least one other scene in the movie more believable, as well. After a confrontation with Jim Belushi’s evil, toy-counterfeiting Mall Santa character, Langston escapes a police raid by posing as an undercover cop. It seems far more likely that an average, not-the-size-of-a-phone-booth guy would be able to sneak out the door under that ruse. The other policemen would probably recognize a Mr. Universe-looking guy on the force, or, more accurately, recognize that Mr. Universe was most definitely not a fellow cop because wouldn’t they remember that huge guy? How about that pretty average dude who looks like an older Luke Duke, recognize him? I don’t know, I think that’s Stoharski; I’ve definitely seen him around before.

Photo credit: Ben Sutherland via Foter.com / CC BY

Classics, Kids and/or Family, Sports

Tom Wopat in: The Mighty Ducks

as Hans the Hockey Guru

It may seem as though Tom Wopat is better suited, age- and acting style-wise, for the Gordon Bombay role in The Mighty Ducks. But Emilio Estevez owned that role so hard that it’s nigh impossible to imagine anyone else playing the part. I actually tried to write a “Wopat as Gordon Bombay” post, but I couldn’t get past the first sentence. Emilio Estevez is Gordon Bombay.

That said, Tom Wopat would make a valuable addition to the roster of stars in this family-friendly hockey classic. Joss Ackland is undeniably great as Hans, Gordon’s almost Yoda-like mentor on matters of hockey and the heart. But, Wopat could’ve turned the role into something truly unforgettable.

Key Changes

First off, instead of being a wise, older, family friend of Gordon’s, Hans Wopat would be a wise former peewee hockey teammate who went on to play in the NHL. Naturally, he played for the Minnesota North Stars, and after his career was over, he started building his sporting goods empire in the Minneapolis suburb of Eden Prairie (home of the District 5 peewee team that Gordon coaches).

GOOOOO Ducks!

GOOOOO Ducks!

Second, Hans Wopat would be a man of the times—he didn’t get to be the #1 hockey gear supplier in the State of Hockey by sticking to the old ways. In addition to offering skate sharpening at his shop, Hans Wopat would put himself head and shoulders above the competition by offering custom skate blade replacements. Using input from Gordon and team captain Charlie Conway and a wire EDM system, he would create a new style of blades that would help the Ducks skate faster and with greater agility and control. Hans’s “super skates” would be the Ducks’ secret weapon heading into the championship tournament.

Third, Hans Wopat would get in on the good time hockey shenanigans, taking a part-time role as an assistant coach. This would give Gordon somebody his own age to consult with during games, instead of just stupid whiny Charlie Conway. It would also allow the writers to add more adult—but still family-friendly—humor to the script.

Representative Scene

During a mid-season match against the Hawks, the Ducks’ hated rivals, Hawks coach Jack Reilly orders two of this team’s thugs to take out new Duck (and former Hawk) Adam Banks with a cheap shot. After the damage is done, Hans Wopat bolts from the Ducks’ bench and takes out Reilly with a spinning, Bo Duke-esque karate kick. Hans is then escorted from the hockey arena in handcuffs and is never seen nor heard from again. (As is the case in the real sequel—where the heck did Hans go?)

Photo credit: goaliej54 via Remodel / CC BY-SA

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

Tom Wopat in: The Harry Potter Series

as: Severus Snape

For Harry Potter fanatics—and fans of good books in general—Severus Snape is one of the most compelling and complex characters in the stories’ universe. The late, great Alan Rickman’s portrayal of Snape is nothing short of magnificent across all eight Potter films, particularly at the conclusion of the series when the character’s motivations and backstory are completely fleshed out. There are few actors who could’ve delivered a better performance in the role than Rickman.

Tom Wopat is one of them.

Key Changes

First of all, Tom Wopat is decidedly un-British. I’ve never heard him speak with a faux-British accent, but I bet he could totally nail it, because he’s Tom Wopat. However, without Rickman’s unique voice, Snape’s lines would’ve lost some of their snarl. An accented-up Wopat surely would’ve given his readings his own flavor, but different sections of dialogue would’ve stuck in viewers heads as Snape’s “signature” lines.

slytherin

Wopat is roughly five years younger than Rickman—not much of a difference, but it does put him more closely in line with the age the character would’ve been, according to information presented in the books. When the first movie in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (renamed the Sorcerer’s Stone for us Neanderthal Americans), was released in 2001, Wopat was 50 years old. Snape was a classmate of Harry Potter’s parents, and Harry himself is 11 when the story begins. This would mean that Harry’s parents were around 39 when he was born—not exactly how things are described in the books, but 40-ish is a little easier to fudge than 45-ish.

In the film series, particularly the early entries, Harry and his fellow Hogwarts students comment on Snape’s unpleasant appearance. It’s hard to believe that, even with the magic of movie makeup, the filmmakers could’ve uglied up Tom Wopat enough for these lines to land. Instead, the lines would’ve had to be changed. One of the older female students—a friend of Fred and George Weasley, perhaps—could’ve made a comment along the lines of “Professor Snape is so awful, I can’t stand his classes…but he sure is dreamy” or whatever British teenagers say.

Photo credit: Karen Roe via Foter.com / CC BY

Classics, Kids and/or Family, Science Fiction and/or Fantasy

Tom Wopat in: Labyrinth

as: Jareth the Goblin King

I’m sure you’re thinking this one is kind of a stretch, but hear me out…

While their careers couldn’t be more different, both Tom Wopat and the late, great David Bowie were pretty close to the top of the celebrity food chain in 1986 when Labyrinth was released. David Bowie spent most of the year David Bowie-ing, as is his wont. The Dukes of Hazzard had just ended its run on television after seven seasons, so Wopat would’ve been perfectly positioned to make a major move into film work.

labyrinth

Key Changes

For our “Tom Wopat as Jareth the Goblin King” re-imagining of Labyrinth, there are two key issues which must be addressed.

First, the music. Labyrinth is a brilliant, visually stunning movie, but the songs in it are all pretty terrible. Don’t get me wrong, Bowie gave us some genuine masterpieces, but “Magic Dance” is not one of them. (Same goes for the other four tracks the Thin White Duke wrote and recorded for the film). Wopat, being a singer as well, could’ve put a whole different spin on it. He likely would’ve created more organic, folk-inspired songs, which for my money would fit the film better. Why would a mythical creature—like Jareth—in a vaguely Medieval setting—like the labyrinth—sing weird, dancey ‘80s pop? An acoustic guitar (or a lute or whatever) seems more natural to Labyrinth’s world than a synthesizer.

Second, costuming and makeup. Bowie didn’t actually wear any costumes in the movie—he just showed up in his street clothes and they started shooting. I don’t think Wopat would’ve looked quite the same in all that spandex and bright colored makeup; the Jareth costumes would have to be a bit more… earthy, let’s say. Animal pelts/furs and rough-cut leather would be a little more in Jareth Wopat’s wheelhouse, methinks. This direction seems like it would work better with the change in music, as well. Makeup could still be used to give the character a fantastical look, but instead of reds and purples and pinks, maybe dark greens and blues—again, just a bit more organic looking.

Photo credit: 7th Street Theatre via Foter.com / CC BY

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