'Naked Gun' Actor Leslie Nielsen Dies At 84
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
Now let's remember a man who never lost his cool when he found himself in a tough spot. In the movie "Airplane," he played the doctor who stayed calm even as he sought a replacement for the disabled flight crew.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "AIRPLANE")
MONTAGNE: (as Dr. Rumack) Can you fly this plane and land it?
MONTAGNE: (As Ted Striker) Surely you can't be serious.
MONTAGNE: (as Dr. Rumack) I am serious. And don't call me Shirley.
MONTAGNE: Better to call him Leslie Nielsen. The actor died last night of complications from pneumonia.
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
Nielsen was born 84 years ago in Canada. He became an actor despite a childhood illness that rendered him legally deaf. He used hearing aids.
MONTAGNE: He made his name with serious roles, like the 1956 science-fiction movie "Forbidden Planet."
INSKEEP: And he played the captain of an ill-fated cruise ship in the 1972 disaster flick "The Poseidon Adventure."
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE")
MONTAGNE: (as The Captain) We should have loaded extra bunkers in Gibraltar. We are top heavy and when that pump is repaired, I am taking on more ballast.
MONTAGNE: Leslie Nielsen became known to a new generation by spoofing movies like the "Poseidon Adventure," that he once made. He played a bumbling detective in "The Naked Gun." And countless Americans know, by heart, his lines from the "Airplane" films. With his white hair and a sober expression, Nielsen seriously delivered lines like these:
MONTAGNE: (as Lieutenant Frank Drebin) This woman has to be gotten to a hospital.
U: A hospital - what is it?
MONTAGNE: (as Lieutenant Frank Drebin) It's a big building with patients. But that's not important right now.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
INSKEEP: There was a key to Leslie Nielsen's success in the years before he died. No matter how absurd the dialogue, he delivered it deadpan. He almost never smiled.
MONTAGNE: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
INSKEEP: And I'm Steve Inskeep.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.