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.

Photo credit: ralphhogaboom via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

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, 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

Comedy, Science Fiction and/or Fantasy

Tom Wopat in: Galaxy Quest

as: Jason Nesmith

Galaxy Quest is a hugely underappreciated film, a pitch perfect parody of the original Star Trek series, its devoted fans, and the show’s stars (or at least the public perception of them). In Galaxy Quest’s show-within-a-movie, also called “Galaxy Quest,” Jason Nesmith was the William Shatner analog—a brash, bold actor of limited range whose ego was stoked by his role as Captain and whose career never escaped the shadow of his signature role.

In Galaxy Quest, Nesmith is portrayed by Tim Allen, who delivered a splendid, and splendidly Shatner-esque performance. However, we feel that a certain other actor, who himself has been pigeonholed by his most famous work, would have done an even better job. We are, of course, referring to Thomas Steven Wopat.

Galaxy Quest

Why Wopat?

We previously speculated that Wopat would’ve been an ideal choice to play Captain Kirk on Star Trek, so why not cast him in a role that spoofs that character and show?

As mentioned, Tom Wopat will likely never be remembered for anything as much as his role as Luke Duke on The Dukes of Hazzard. This gives him the perfect amount of real-life insight to portray a character like Jason Nesmith, who is in essentially the same situation, career-wise. While Tim Allen is also very well known for one particular role (Tim Taylor on Home Improvement), he has also had a fairly successful movie career, starring in both the Santa Clause and Toy Story series, among other films.

In Galaxy Quest, Nesmith removes his shirt multiple times and with little to no provocation or actual need to do so, mirroring Shatner’s frequent shirtlessness. Though these scenes are played for laughs, it wouldn’t have hurt if the guy removing his shirt was a bit more fit and trim. Though he’s a few years older than Allen, Wopat is still in far better shape. A shirtless Wopat probably have been far better received by the film’s female viewers.

Nesmith is involved in a few fight scenes in the film, the choreography of which is intentionally clumsy and unimpressive, mirroring Kirk’s fight scenes on Star Trek. However, we feel it would’ve been even funnier to have the character be revealed to be an excellent fighter, kicking alien butt much to the surprise of his former co-stars. He would go on to explain that his fight scenes in the “Galaxy Quest” meta-show were crappy and poorly done only because of the limitations of the show’s director and budget. Someone like Wopat, who had a good deal of stage combat experience as a rough and tumble Duke boy, would’ve been perfect in such scenes.

Parenthetically

Wopat guest starred in a Season 7 episode of Home Improvement. He played a somewhat shady manufacturer’s rep trying to strike a deal with Binford for sales of a new line of Teflon machining equipment. He also hit on Jill, which—not cool bro. Not cool.

Photo credit: RJ Bailey via Foter.com / CC BY

Classics, Comedy, Musicals, Science Fiction and/or Fantasy

Tom Wopat in: Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure

as: Rufus

1988’s Bill & Ted Excellent Adventure is one hell of a weird movie: two high school metalheads are given a time-traveling phone booth to help them pass a history test—if they fail, the future of civilization will be in serious jeopardy. If that sounds like a pretty dumb premise, that’s because it is. It’s also hilarious and brilliantly executed and acted (with Keanu Reeves basically playing what is now the public’s perception of his IRL persona). It also features an ingenious—and paradox free!—time-travel workaround by the heroes that ultimately saves the day.

The San Francisco Giants know what's up.

The San Francisco Giants know what’s up.

In the film, the late, great George Carlin plays Rufus, a somewhat mysterious mentor from the future who was sent back in time to set Bill S. Preston, Esquire, and Ted “Theodore” Logan off on their excellent adventure. Reportedly, the producers were originally considering “serious” actors for the role, such as Sean Connery, until someone jokingly suggested Carlin. The legendary comedian was offered the part, accepted, and the rest is history.

But what if Carlin had turned them down? What if, instead, they chose Tom Wopat, the greatest actor of this or any time period?

Key Changes

Though Tom Wopat has worked on sitcoms—The Dukes of Hazzard was a pretty funny show sometimes, too—he can’t compete with George Carlin in the humor department. As such, the Rufus character would likely have leaned more toward the serious tone the writers originally intended. Wopat’s got dramatic chops for days. (Though, in a movie where Napoleon Bonaparte goes to a modern SoCal waterslide park, how “serious” could it have been?)

Another potential change could’ve made the film’s emphasis on the importance of music in the future more pronounced. In Excellent Adventure’s denouement, Rufus presents Bill and Ted with shiny new guitars. Before handing them over, though, he shreds a blistering solo on one of the guitars. In the film, the guitar solo-ing hands are not Carlin’s, but rather those of Stevie Salas, an accomplished studio musician and film score composer (who, not coincidentally, wrote the score for this movie). Wopat can sling a mean ax in his own right, and therefore could likely have performed the solo himself in a single shot. The added authenticity would’ve gone a long way, in our opinion, and added to the mystique of the future seen briefly in the film. Why is Rufus, ostensibly just a messenger, so good on guitar? Is everyone in the future an excellent musician? Just how does one “be excellent” to another?

Our third picked nit is strictly aesthetic. In Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, George Carlin appears essentially as he always did in the late 1980s (except for the costumes). He wears his same usual beard and keeps his long hair in a ponytail. There’s nothing wrong with this look, of course, and it certainly served Carlin well for a number of years. However, in that briefly-glimpsed future mentioned above, all the other actors are sporting futuristic, yet distinctly ‘80s, hairdos (or are they distinctly ‘80s, yet futuristic, hairdos?) along with their sparkly costumes. Tom Wopat, with his glorious flowing mane, could’ve been given one of the greatest future-’80s/’80s-future hairstyles in motion picture history. And so, great opportunity was lost…

Photo credit: E Steuer via StoolsFair / CC BY

Classics, Comedy, Science Fiction and/or Fantasy

Tom Wopat in: Ghostbusters

as: Louis Tully

It was difficult deciding which character in Ghostbusters would benefit the most from Wopatization. Bill Murray’s Peter Venkman is one of the most beloved and quotable comedy characters of all time, so we wouldn’t dare mess with that. Dan Aykroyd, the film’s Ray Stantz, can up with the idea and co-wrote the film, so he should definitely stay in the picture. The late, great Harold Ramis portrayed Egon Spengler, and as the movie’s other co-writer, he, too, must remain in the cast. Ernie Hudson is his uniformly excellent self as Winston Zeddemore, so we wouldn’t want leave him out, either.

It's no General Lee, but it'll do in a pinch.

It’s no General Lee, but it’ll do in a pinch.

The only logical choice, then, is to put Tom Wopat in the Louis Tully role. The part was originally intended for John Candy, and the character was first written as an uptight, suit-and-tie wearing business man. Candy ultimately passed on the film, and Rick Moranis stepped in, making the character more of a geeky nerd. (Or was he a nerdy geek?) Moranis does a fine job, but he’s no match for Tom Wopat.

Key Changes

With Tom Wopat as Louis Tully, the character would have to be changed yet again. Wopat’s too laid back to play an uptight suit, and too darned good looking to play a nerdy geek/geeky nerd. Instead, the Wopat Tully character would be more of a hippie Zen-master type. He’d still be an accountant, but instead being of all nebbishy and stereotypically “accountant-y”, he’d a chilled out guy who “finds peace” in calculating numbers.

Because Ghostbusters was released in 1984, when The Dukes of Hazzard was at its peak, the filmmakers would likely want to give Wopat a slightly bigger, more active role. Instead of just being a side character who kinda-sorta tags along on the Ghostbusters’ adventures, he’d use his mathematical skills to help them construct their equipment. We’re not sure how that would work, exactly, but the design stages of most complicated electromechanical equipment require a lot of math, so there you go. Someone else can work out the specifics. (We’re not professional screenwriters over here.)

Also, as Wopat is clearly a more athletic person in general than Moranis, we’d extend the chase scene during which Tully is hunted down by those big demon-dog-monster things. Instead of just a brief sprint through a park before getting run down, Wopat Tully would lead the beasts on a long, comical chase through the neighborhood. A hot dog cart would be exploded; a horse would get startled and bolt off into the night, dragging its hansom cab passengers with it; a busy restaurant kitchen would be barreled through; several windows would get shattered. All in all, it would be much funnier and more exciting.

Wopat would, of course, have reprise the role in Ghostbusters II. He clearly would not have made the cut for the recent remake, however, as he is a dude.

Photo credit: greenboxhouse via Remodel Blog / CC BY-NC-ND

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, 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

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