David Zucker Writes A Letter Remembering Leslie Nielsen

By Eric Eisenberg 2010-11-30 12:24:40discussion comments
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This past Sunday, while traveling back to Los Angeles following the Thanksgiving holiday, I was both shocked and saddened to hear that Leslie Nielsen, an icon from my childhood, had passed away. Having watched Airplane! and the Naked Gun movies thousands of times each, there were few people who could make me laugh quite as hard as good ol' Frank Drebin. But just like George Lucas wrote about the passing of Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner yesterday, one of Nielsen's closest collaborators has now issued a statement.

David Zucker, who worked with Nielsen on his most memorable comedic films along with his brother Jerry Zucker and partner Jim Abrahams, has written a letter to THRAirplane!, the letter is a touching tribute to a man who truly understood the subtly and excellence of deadpan humor. expressing his thoughts after the passing of his good friend. Chronicling his relationship with the actor since first casting him as Dr. Rumack in

You can read an excerpt of the letter below and the full thing (it's not very long) over at THR. A comedic God that no one could ever say a bad word about, Leslie Nielsen will be sorely missed as a man who, even when working with horrendous material, could still make us all laugh.
It was summer 1979, a full three weeks before the start of shooting for Airplane! and our casting director had finally had enough. Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, Peter Graves and now Leslie … who?

At least audiences had heard of the first three, but this guy -- it was true, when it came time to select an actor to play Dr. Rumack, my brother Jerry, Jim Abrahams and I remembered: "This one guy, he's been in hundreds of television shows, and I think he played the captain of the Poseidon. What's his name … ?" Our research revealed that the actor's name was Leslie Nielsen. Jim, Jerry and I were thrilled when he agreed to meet, not because he was "funny" but because of his long résumé of serious films and TV. To us, he was hysterical. The long list of straight dramatic acting roles demonstrated to us that he would be perfect. When we watched those movies, we laughed.

At our first meeting, he mentioned proudly that he had done an episode of M*A*S*H*.

We assured him we wouldn't count this brief comedy experience against him. But when he read the Airplane! script, he "got" its unconventional nature and offbeat style. We heard later that he told his agent, "Take whatever they offer; I'd pay them to do this."

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