Actor Leslie Nielsen died this week aged 84 of pneumonia-related complications. I remember him as one of my favourite actors growing up, due to his roles in films like The Naked Gun, below.
Nielsen, born in Sasketchewan in Canada to a Danish father and Welsh mother, began his career in serious dramatic roles, such as Forbidden Planet, The Opposite Sex and The Poseidon Adventure. It wasn't until Airplane! in 1980 (known as Flying High in some parts of the world) that he switched to comedy; the movie was an absurd spoof of disaster movies, but used actors better known for straight dramatic roles. Nielsen's deadpan demeanour and great timing were perfect, and one of the film's memorable lines was listed by the American Film Institute in it's Top 100 Movie Quotes:
Nielsen's career then shifted to playing deadpan slapstick roles. The Abrahams-Zucker-Zucker directing team behind Airplane! cast Nielsen as Lt Frank Drebin in Police Squad!, a TV series that sent up the classic police dramas of old. The series was short-lived (cancelled after only 6 episodes), but its characters and many of its gags were recycled 6 years later for the big screen in The Naked Gun trilogy, which proved a big hit.
While Nielsen appeared in numerous comedic roles after The Naked Gun, few of them are worthy of recommendation. All in all, over his career he had appeared in over 100 films and 1500 television programs.
Interesting Leslie Nielsen fact: his brother Erik Nielsen was the Deputy Prime Minister of Canada during the 1980s.