Remembrances

Paul Gleason, Ever a 'Principal' Screen Presence

A composite image of Paul Gleason on screen and at an awards ceremony in 2005.

Paul Gleason: In 2001, he good-naturedly reprised his 'Breakfast Club' role in the spoof 'Not Another Teen Movie' (left). In 2005, he received the Silver Bucket of Excellence Award for 'The Breakfast Club' at the MTV Movie Awards. Columbia Pictures and Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Columbia Pictures and Getty Images

BURBANK, Calif. (AP) — Paul Gleason, the talented character actor who played the angry high school principal in the 1985 teen film classic The Breakfast Club, has died at 67.

Gleason succumbed Saturday to mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer linked to asbestos, said his wife, Susan Gleason.

"Whenever you were with Paul, there was never a dull moment," his wife said. "He was awesome."

A native of Miami, Gleason was an avid athlete. Before becoming an actor, he played Triple-A minor league baseball for a handful of clubs in the late 1950s.

Gleason honed his acting skills with his mentor Lee Strasberg, whom he studied with at the Actors Studio beginning in the mid-1960s, family members said.

Through his career, Gleason appeared in over 60 movies that included Die Hard, Johnny Be Good and National Lampoon's Van Wilder.

Often, as in his Breakfast Club role, he played authority figures at odds with the protaganist.

"Don't mess with the bull, young man," he famously intoned in the John Hughes hit. "You'll get the horns."

A slight variation on the role came in 1988's Die Hard, where he played the obnoxiously inept Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson opposite Bruce Willis' anti-authority cop.

Most recently, Gleason made a handful of television appearances in hit shows such as Friends and Seinfeld.

Gleason's passions went beyond acting. He had recently published a book of poetry.

"He was an athlete, an actor and a poet," said his daughter, Shannon Gleason-Grossman. "He gave me and my sister a love that is beyond description that will be with us and keep us strong for the rest of our lives."

Actor Jimmy Hawkins, a friend of Gleason's since the 1960s, said he remembered Gleason for a sharp sense of humor.

"He just always had great stories to tell," Hawkins said.

Gleason was survived by his wife, two daughters and a granddaughter. Funeral plans were pending.

Related NPR Stories

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from