It's one of Waterworld's few stabs at humor, but it's sailing over the heads of most viewers. Standing on the bridge of an ancient oil tanker, the villainous Deacon (Dennis Hopper) appeals to a framed photo of Joseph Hazelwood hanging on the wheelhouse wall. ''Saint Joe,'' says Hopper, ''I'm gonna do you proud.''
The flesh-and-blood former skipper of the Exxon Valdez which ran aground in 1989, spilling millions of gallons of crude oil into Alaska's Prince William Sound isn't eager to see his movie tribute. ''I suppose I'll get around to it,'' says Hazelwood, who now lives in Huntington, N.Y., where he works as an adviser on maritime affairs for a Manhattan law firm. (He was convicted of the negligent discharge of oil and was sentenced to 1,000 hours of community service. The sentence is stayed pending the outcome of his appeal.) His employer and attorney, Thomas Russo, says Hazelwood, 48, gave the movie's producers permission to use his name and likeness ''as a joke type of thing.'' However, adds Russo, ''We were not led to believe that [Hazelwood] would be [portrayed] in a negative light. We're glad to know that he's revered. We're not so happy with what he's being revered about.''
Russo wouldn't disclose the terms of his client's Waterworld deal. A Universal Pictures source is sure that, despite the film's huge budget overruns, ''if the deal had been expensive it wouldn't have happened.''