Comedy, Holiday or Holiday Adjacent

Tom Wopat in: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

as: Cousin Eddie

Yeah, we know that Christmas was a while ago. But actually, now that the 2015 holiday season is well behind us (that $#!t seems to drag on forever), we thought now would be a prime time to revisit what is arguably the best installment in the Vacation series.

With this flick, it was a no-brainer as to whom we’d be replacing with Tom Wopat, and thereby vastly improving the movie in the process. Randy Quaid is great as Cousin Eddie, but given the actor’s recent real-life woes, it might be best to retroactively remove him from the Vacation universe. Besides, good as Quaid was, he’s no match for Tom Wopat.

Key Changes

In the original version of Christmas Vacation, Cousin Eddie is a prototypical white trash bumpkin, thoroughly lacking in self-awareness and, from the look of it, personal hygiene. That works perfectly fine with Quaid in the role, as it fits fairly well into his acting oeuvre. However, the Wopatized version of Cousin Eddie would have to be more charming and less rough around the edges; no one would buy the dashing Tom Wopat as a slovenly hillbilly.

With that in mind, Cousin Eddie Wopat would be more of the free-spirit, hippie type. He still drives an RV, still dresses strangely, and still lives by his own weird rules, but because he wants to, man, not because he’s a bumbling dipstick who doesn’t know any better. We’d add a brief backstory explaining that Cousin Eddie is independently wealthy—almost ridiculously so—thanks to some random, convoluted invention that was popular just long enough for him to make his fortune.

We’d take his family out of the equation, and have him be a roaming, roving ladies’ man. This would set up ample comedic opportunities for him to harmlessly flirt with Ellen Griswold (Beverly D’Angelo), his cousin Clark (Chevy Chase)’s wife. Eddie Wopat would do this will no ill intent, just to get his cousin’s goat, which it would never fail to do.

Additionally, we’d add another bit of backstory establishing that Eddie and Clark have a cordial but contentious history of competition. This would make the above land that much harder (and funnier), and set up additional gags where the cousins try to one up each other in holiday festiveness.

"Ha! Amateurs." - Clark Griswold

“Ha! Amateurs.” – Clark Griswold

Representative Scene

If you’ve seen Christmas Vacation, you undoubtedly remember the sledding scene, in which Clark, Rusty, Cousin Eddie, et al adjourn to the local sledding hill for a bit of outdoor hijinks. Our version would play out much the same, with one key element added.

From the outset, Cousin Eddie Wopat would challenge Clark to a downhill race. Clark would politely decline, but each time he set off on a run, Cousin Eddie would jump on his own sled and overtake Clark on the way down. At the bottom, he’d chalk up a point for himself and challenge Clark to a rematch. Clark would again decline and climb back up the hill, only to have the process repeat itself over and again.

Finally, Clark, having lost every “race”, would’ve had enough. That’s when he’d break out the aerosol can containing one of the experimental non stick coatings his company has been working on, spray the bottom of his saucer sled, and zip off down the hill at an insane speed.

After Clark had skidded the highway and crashed to a stop, Cousin Eddie Wopat, still standing at the top of the hill with Rusty, would remark, “Okay, that’s one point for your dad, I guess.”

Photo credit: Srini Sundarrajan via Foter.com / CC BY

Comedy, Television

Tom Wopat in: The Office

as: Outside Sales Rep Gerhardt Brown

Though its later seasons saw a noticeable decline in quality, at its peak, The Office was among the best shows on television. (And could everyone stop with the “British version was better” BS-crap already?) The stellar core cast was the key to the show’s success, but some of the smaller, only-periodically-recurring characters did a lot for the show, as well. David Koechner’s boorish Todd Packer and Michael Schur’s Mose Schrute were among the most memorable of these minor characters, delivering memorable performances in the space of just a handful of appearances spread out over The Office’s nine seasons.

The show also hand a propensity for putting big guest stars in small, one-off parts. Will Ferrell, Idris Elba, Jim Carrey, and Warren Buffet all made cameo appearances on The Office. Who better to play a memorable minor character in three to seven episodes than the one and only Tom Wopat?

Plot Outline: Gary’s 3rd Appearance on the Show

Like Todd Packer, Wopat’s Gerhardt “Gary” Brown would be an outside sales rep with Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. Unlike Packer, he wouldn’t be a sexist, racist, alcoholic a-hole. Instead, he’d be a total charmer, with good looks and a winning smile that makes him extremely successful in his career. Men, women, children, animals, the elderly—everyone loves Gary Brown! He’s one of those guys that could, as they say, sell ice to a polar bear.

In his previous appearances, Gary has proven to be much “cooler” than branch manager Michael Scott (Steve Carrell), as well as much more popular with Michael’s coworkers. Unsurprisingly, Michael is not a big fan of Gary. He even attempts to discredit his excellent salesmanship skills, saying that it’s easy to sell paper because everyone needs paper.

the office

Sensing an opportunity for a never-before-attempted office prank, Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) good-naturedly challenges Gary to try to sell Michael something he doesn’t need. Gary ups the stakes by suggesting it also be something completely impractical, something that Michael could never possibly use in normal circumstances.

It doesn’t take long before Gary has convinced Michael to purchase a modular office, despite the fact that the show is called The Office and the Dunder Mifflin crew works in a perfectly good office building, in which Michael has his own office. Determined to not look a fool, and to show that’s he’s in on the joke—which he 100 percent is not—Michael plants the modular office in the building’s parking lot and sets up shop there for a week.

At the end of the episode, after Michael’s week of self-imposed exile, Jim notes that it’s the most productive week the Scranton branch has ever had.

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

Drama

Tom Wopat in: No Country for Old Men

as: Anton Chigurh

Winner of the Best Picture award at the 80th Academy Awards in 2008 (as well as three other Oscars), No Country for Old Men is, from what our research* suggests, a love-it-or-hate-it affair. And, it seems to be almost perfectly split along gender lines: men tend to love No Country; women, not so much.

It is an absolutely brilliant film, but when half the population just plain doesn’t like it, it’s clear it needs some sort of fix. The solution: Tom Wopat. Of course.

Why Wopat?

Excellent performances abound in No Country for Old Men, but the male actors providing said performances are, across the board, some unfortunate-looking gentlemen. Josh Brolin’s strong supporting turn might’ve made a difference here if he weren’t sporting a dirtbag mustache. Not to reduce it to anything too simplistic, but one way to make the film at least a bit more appealing to the ladies would be to add a good looking guy like Tom Wopat to the mix. So, sorry Javier Bardem, but you’re out and Wopat is in, your Best Supporting Actor Oscar be darned!

NCFOM

We know from his time on The Dukes of Hazzard that Wopat looks great in Western wear—cowboy boots, faded jeans, weathered button-down shirts, etc.—so the costuming’s already on point. Chigurh’s weirdly lopsided pageboy haircut might be a problem, however: Wopat’s glorious, flowing mane should not, and likely could not, be molded into such a hideous style, so the villain’s hairdo would need to be rethunk.

Bardem was 37 when No Country was made; Wopat was 54. An older Chigurh is a scarier and more menacing one, in our opinion. In reviews and other writing on the film, the hitman was frequently described as an “unstoppable killing machine”—if he’s older, that means he’s been doing his job for longer, and if someone in that profession has been doing it for a long time, that means he must be pretty dang good at it. If he’s older, he’s deadlier.

At least part of that extended run of murderous excellence (maybe not the best word…?) could be chalked up to our first point. If a creepy-looking dude like the Anton Chigurh that actually appears in No Country for Old Men approached you, you’d naturally be a bit more on your guard. Make it a good looking guy like Wopat, though, and you’d likely be far more welcoming, even if he is carrying one of those weird riveting tools around.

Wopat Chigurh’s victims would go out with holes in their heads, but smiles on their faces.

* a.k.a. asking people we know who’ve seen the movie

Photo credit: Franco Mathson via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

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

Tom Wopat in: Terminator 2

as: Miles Dyson

Let us preface this by saying that we strongly dislike the Terminator movies. We don’t object to the violence or the salty language; no, we object to the fact that the basic premise of the series is stupid.

If Skynet and their robotic minions are so smart, why did they make their cyborgs—which are initially intended to infiltrate the human resistance and wipe it out from the inside—all look alike, and more than that, make them all look like an easily recognizable person? “Hey,” a human resistance fighter says as another perfectly-muscled stranger strides up to their camp, “isn’t that the same meathead who tried to blow us up last week?” If, for whatever reason, the Terminators did all have to look the same, wouldn’t it have worked better if they looked like average dudes?

Also: if your cyborgs are meant to blend in with your enemy, and the majority of the fighting apparently takes place in (the ruins of) America, why give them thick Austrian accents?

With that in mind, we dreamed up a scenario in which Tom Wopat, stepping into Joe Morton’s role, makes one small choice that ultimately ends the series at its logical conclusion (the end of the second movie).

Squint and it looks just like Tommy Dubya.

Squint and it looks just like Tommy Dubya.

Key Changes

Rather than changes based on the actor playing the role, the Wopatized Terminator 2 would change the path the character takes. This change could easily have been made with Morton still in the role, but if we’re going to have an actor save us from three—and counting?—lousy sequels and a short-lived, easily-forgotten TV series, it might as well be Tom Wopat, right? Right.

The Wopatized film progresses exactly as the original version up until Arnold Schwarzenegger leads John Connor, Sarah Connor, and Wopat’s Miles Dyson to Cyberdyne Systems’ headquarters. There, instead of destroying the remaining components of the destroyed Terminator from the first film, he simply alters all the blueprints and data that Cyberdyne has thus far developed toward the creation of new cyborgs.

He doesn’t even need to make significant changes. By simply altering the designs so that each component is a tenth of an inch off from its original dimensions, it would completely screw everything up. Parts for the prototype Terminators would come back from the short run stampers and nothing would fit right.

Instead of blowing himself up in a gigantic fireball that takes half the building with him, Wopat/Dyson could just keep fudging the information every month or so. Just like five or six different parts (out of probably thousands) every time—not enough so it’s easily noticeable sabotage, but enough to keep the machine from being assembled correctly. Eventually, the Cyberdyne bigwigs would tire of wasting money on a project that is going nowhere, and would cancel the whole thing.

Granted, this tactic wouldn’t help defeat the evil, shapeshifting T-1000, but hey, that’s what Arnie’s there for.

Photo credit: Thomas Hawk via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

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

Water-Man: An Original Wopatization

Superhero/comic book movies are all the rage these days, even if their source materials are becoming increasingly obscure—there’s going to be an Inhumans movie, for crying out loud. Since these flicks are more popular than ever, regardless of the familiarity of their characters, we thought we’d concoct our own superhero tale for the one and only Tom Wopat.

Though he’s not the “typical” actor you see playing a superhero, we think Tom Wopat is an ideal choice. First of all, he’s got enough name recognition that moviegoers would think, “Tom Wopat as a superhero? That seems odd,” which would build intrigue (much like Heath Ledger’s casting as the Joker in The Dark Knight). Intrigue sells tickets.

Second, why do superheroes always have to be young dudes? Putting an older actor such as Mr. Wopat in the starring role would: A) make it feel slightly more grounded in reality (what are the odds that the only people who ever get superpowers are those under 30?); and B) bring in the older audience that most superhero flicks are missing out on. Young folks come for an action-packed superhero tale, older folks come for the relatable man of a certain age doing the heroing. It’d be like printing money!

He is Water. He is Man. He is… Water-Man!

Water-Man

Brock Benjamin (played by Tom Wopat) is an ordinary guy in NYC. He makes a living installing industrial equipment at locations all over the city. One day, he’s installing a commercial water softener at an experimental research facility when an explosion (caused by the film’s villain, the Blue Buzzard) knocks him into the softener’s deep reservoir tank.

Before he can swim to the surface and climb out of the tank, an experiment at the facility, designed to simulate lightning, goes haywire and unleashes a massive blast of gamma radiation. The building is leveled, but the tank Wopat’s character was in is miraculously spared destruction.

Benjamin/Wopat stumbles out of the rubble. Fire blazes all around him. Having been momentarily blinded by the explosions, and knocked a little loopy by bonking his head on the side of the tank, he staggers into a flaming pile of wreckage. Rather than being burned, Wopat finds that he has extinguished the flames just by touching them.

He singlehandedly puts out the entire, huge fire at the research facility, dousing the last burning embers just as the fire department arrives, sirens blaring. “How the heck did you do that?” ask the grizzled fire chief.

“I… I don’t know,” Benjamin/Wopat says. He turns to walk away, morphing into a walking puddle that pours through a sewer grate and disappears.

Later, back at his shabby flat in the Bronx, Wopat tests his newfound abilities. The gamma radiation has fused the molecules of his body with those of the water in the tank. He is now capable of turning into water at will, of shooting almost endless volumes of water from his hands, and of manipulating other bodies of water telekinetically. (This last one also applies to other fluids that are mostly water, including Miller Lite—product placement ahoy!—which leads to a humorous scene at a pub where he shows his old buddy, John [played by John Schneider, naturally], his new powers.)

From there, the flick follows the usual superhero movie formula: a burgeoning love interest who will later be imperiled by her connection to Water-Man, an over-the-top villain (the aforementioned Blue Buzzard) with some sort of world-conquering scheme, a huge CGI battle that causes several hundred million dollars’ worth of damage, etc. We’re still ironing out the details, obviously.

Photo credit: Panegyrics of Granovetter via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Comedy, Television

Tom Wopat in: That ‘70s Show

as: Red Forman

Make no mistake, Kurtwood Smith could do more with the word “dumbass” than most actors could do with an entire page of dialogue and a samurai sword. As Red Forman in That ‘70s Show, he was nigh perfect as the old school, tough love-dispensing father to the show’s main protagonist, Eric (played by Topher Grace).

But, what if that same no-nonsense character was given a bit more charm and a whole mess more good looks? Had Tom Wopat portrayed Red, it’s possible that the elder Forman would have gradually become more of a focus on the show, squeezing Eric out to supporting-player status (much like Homer squoze out Bart over the course of the first several seasons of The Simpsons).

Key Changes

No offense to Kurtwood Smith, but Tom Wopat is a much better-looking dude. That in itself paves the way for running jokes throughout the course of the series. Specifically, we envision lots of references by Eric’s girlfriend, Donna, and friend who is also a girl, Jackie, to Red’s attractiveness. Mostly, it would be a way for the gals to needle Eric, who himself was sort of a goonie-looking guy. There would almost certainly have been a storyline somewhere in the show’s eight seasons where Jackie actually developed a harmless, minor, if misguided, crush on Red.

In this same vein, the other guys in Eric’s group of friends, Hyde, Kelso, and Fez, would have turned to Red Wopat more often for advice on the ladies. “Red, you’re a good-looking guy,” Hyde/Kelso/Fez would undoubtedly have begun at some point (or multiple times—that’s how running gags work, after all), before asking Red what he should do in whatever the situation was.

Next, it should be noted that Wopat is about nine years younger than Smith. This isn’t really a problem as far as “being old enough to be Eric’s parent” goes, as Wopat and Debra Jo Rupp, who played Eric’s mother, Kitty, are the same age. However, it maybe would age Red out of having served in both WWII and the Korean War—with the younger actor in the role, Red probably would’ve been written as only a Korean War vet. This wouldn’t change the character much, as few if any of Red’s storylines hinged on his military service, but it may have necessitated a slight re-write of Kitty’s and his “meet-cute” story, one of the best (and most perfectly cast) flashbacks the show ever did.

Pictured: Eric Forman today.

Pictured: Eric Forman today.

Finally, while the Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon that Red bequeaths to Eric in the series pilot is a perfectly fine automobile… well, come one. This is Luke Duke we’re talking about here. It would’ve been an absolutely fantastic gag had Red Wopat instead gifted his son with a competition orange Dodge Charger. It would’ve been anachronistic, as well, seeing as how The Dukes of Hazzard didn’t premiere until 1979, but hey, if don’t overthink it, it’s a pretty rad setup. Eric and friends would’ve gotten up to far more hijinks with a hot rod to drive around in.

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

Animation, Comedy, Science Fiction and/or Fantasy, Television

Tom Wopat in: Futurama

as: Himself (Head in A Jar)

The brilliant, yet woefully underappreciated, animated sci-fi sitcom Futurama had more than its share of celebrity guest stars during its run. Despite being set 1,000 years in the future, the show brought in such modern-day figures as Al Gore, Beck, and (almost) the entire cast of the original Star Trek series—and all of them played themselves.

Well, technically they played their still-living, detached heads in jars, which was one of the series’ most used (and least explained) futuristic technological advancements. Even historical figures who, in reality, died many years before the show began—and, therefore, prior to the in-series invention of technology that keeps heads alive in jars—popped up from time to time.

So, why not Wopat?

Futuramafitti

Episode: Good Ole Bots

Futurama’s protagonist, Philip J. Fry (usually called just “Fry”), was an ‘80s kid who was accidentally cryogenically frozen on New Year’s Eve 1999 and unfrozen on New Year’s Day 3000. Fry’s penchant for the pop culture of his youth came into play in a number of episodes, encompassing everything from his days in a breakdancing crew to his love of Katrina and the Wave’s “Walking On Sunshine.”

In “Good Ole Bots”, Fry and the Planet Express gang would attend a fundraising gala at the Smithsonian. An auction is held to clear out some of the museum’s older exhibit pieces (a thousand years in the future, they have more stuff than they know what to do with) to make way for new items of historical significance.

Fry is delighted to learn that the original General Lee is one of the items to be auctioned off. Few, if any, people in the year 3000 share Fry’s enthusiasm for The Dukes of Hazzard, so he wins it with a bid of $8 (every penny he currently has to his name).

After the event, Fry’s co-worker/love interest Leela suggests that they load the General Lee into the cargo bay of the Planet Express ship and simply fly it back to New New York. Fry has other plans, however—as it was and is one of the greatest automobiles in television history, he wants to drive it back home from Washington D.C. Bender, the lovable, beer-swilling, cigar-smoking robot, decides to join him on his road trip.

Shortly after they set out, Fry and Bender hear unusual noises coming from the trunk of the car. They pull over, open the trunk, and discover living-head-in-a-jar versions of Tom Wopat and John Schneider inside. They explain that they (in their jars) have been in the Smithsonian just as long as the General Lee, as part of the same exhibit. Eventually, they were placed in the trunk to save space and forgotten about.

Now riding in the front seat between Fry (driving) and Bender (shotgun), the erstwhile Duke boys regale their new friends with tales of their TV adventures. This inspires a typically-mischievous Bender plot: he convinces Fry that the two of them should run a load of moonshine north as they go. Unsurprisingly, Bender “knows a guy” in the moonshining business.

Numerous hijinks ensue, with the quartet dodging local law enforcement (a robot sheriff that closely resembles Rosco P. Coltrane, along with his deputies), rival bootleggers, and an amorous ladybot with eyes for Bender en route to Planet Express headquarters.

Ultimately, Fry, Bender, Wopat, and Schneider find themselves in a high speed chase with the sheriffbot in hot pursuit. By a happy coincidence, a road construction project on the streets of New New York has created an ersatz ramp. Fry guns the engine, the General Lee goes airborne, and, just as the four of them are about to crash into the Planet Express building, the scene freeze-frames.

“Looks like them Duke boys have got themselves out of the frying pan,” The Balladeer states, “and into the fire.”

End credits.

Photo credit: Mayu ;P via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

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

Tom Wopat in: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

as: Strider/Aragorn

Viggo Mortensen, the actor who ultimately portrayed Aragorn in the blockbuster Lord of the Rings trilogy, did a mighty fine job. He was so into the character, according to interviews in the films’ DVD special features, that he would carry his sword with him at all times (even after shooting wrapped for the day), he learned the entire Elvish language J.R.R. Tolkien created (as opposed to just learning his few Elvish lines phonetically), and, after production, he bought the horse that he rode in the second and third films. And, he was just the right amount of “unknown actor” that he’s been hard-pressed to shake the “Hey, you’re Aragorn” thing in later roles; it’s equally hard to imagine anyone else playing the part.

However, Mortensen was not the filmmakers’ first choice—an equally (mostly) unknown actor named Stuart Townsend initially won the part. After four days of filming, director Peter Jackson recast Mortensen in the role, feeling that Townsend was too young the character who would become King of Middle Earth.

Tom Wopat is eight years older than Viggo Mortensen (in the films—and the books, of course—the character is 87). And he would have been a perfect choice to play Aragorn.

This could've been a Tom Wopat action figure, dammit!

This could’ve been a Tom Wopat action figure, dammit!

Key Changes

At the time the films were released, Tom Wopat would’ve been one of the more widely-known members of the cast—not necessarily by name, but most people would’ve recognized Luke Duke amongst the Fellowship before probably 90 percent of the other actors. This would likely have changed the dynamic of the film somewhat—Aragorn is one of the trilogy’s most important characters as is, but with a more famous face, he probably would have received an even larger allotment of screen time.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Tom Wopat with a beard, but I doubt it would’ve been a problem for him to grow the appropriate amount of facial hair for the role. There’s always makeup, too, if actually growing a beard was out of the question. And—if we want to get down to the real nerdy nuts-and-bolts of the character—Aragorn wasn’t actually supposed to have a beard, anyway. In Tolkien’s Unfinished Tales, it specifically states that he doesn’t, due to his half-Elven heritage (for whatever reason, Tolkien elves don’t grow facial hair).

Other than that, not much would need to be different. In hair color, height, and build, Wopat and Mortensen are pretty much Even Stevens. Both have recorded and released a number of music albums, and for my money, Wopat has the better voice, which would have made the few scenes in which Aragorn sings more enjoyable.

Action and/or Adventure, Comedy, Television

Tom Wopat in: Magnum, P.I.

As: Thomas Magnum (duh)

The original run of Magnum, P.I. of course overlapped with that of The Dukes of Hazzard. But in an alternate universe, Tom Wopat was available for both series. As the titular character in Magnum, P.I., he would’ve given the character the same laid-back, easygoing sensibility that Tom Selleck did, but with more made-for-Hawaii good looks.

Wopat as Magnum would also have eliminated the scheduling conflict that caused Selleck to turn down the role of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. What a different world American cinema would’ve been had Tom Selleck become as massive a movie star as Harrison Ford did following that film’s success.

Man, Selleck has really let himself go.

Man, Selleck has really let himself go.

Key Changes

For one, it’s doubtful that Wopat would’ve worn a ‘stache like Selleck’s. That seems to have been brought to the character solely by Selleck—Magnum wasn’t necessarily written as having a mustache.

Second, Magnum’s Detroit Tigers baseball cap would likely have been replaced with a Milwaukee Brewers one. Selleck, having been raised in Detroit, also added that touch himself. (If memory serves, the pilot script had the character in a New York Yankees hat.) Wopat, born in Lodi, Wisconsin, and a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is more than likely a Brewers fan.

Also, while Tom Selleck’s Thomas Magnum wore Aloha shirts almost exclusively, Tom Wopat’s Thomas Magnum would probably have appeared shirtless much more often. The weather in Hawaii is certainly conducive to this, as are Wopat’s dashing good looks. The show got good to great ratings as it was; with every episode featuring scenes with a shirtless Tom Wopat, ratings would’ve been through the roof!

Additionally, while Selleck certainly had his share of rough-and-tumble exploits as Magnum, Wopat’s stunt work in Dukes suggests the even more action-oriented Magnum, P.I. that could’ve been. I know I saw a few karate moves in Luke Duke’s fightin’ repertoire—imagine Thomas Magnum spin kicking a guy right into the ocean!

Other than those few tweaks, the show could’ve been largely the same. Except ten times better, because Wopat.

Photo credit: heldermira via Foter.com / CC BY