How Leslie Nielsen Became Comedy Gold By Being... Dead Serious

How Leslie Nielsen Became Comedy Gold By Being... Dead Serious
Image credit: Legion-Media

It is hard to imagine Leslie Nielsen playing a non-comedy role. But that is exactly what happened before one coincidence drastically changed his fate.

Many viewers have the impression that Leslie Nielsen only appeared in comedy movies. Although this actor not only became popular when he was over 50 years old, he also began his journey with quite serious roles.

Nielsen's career began in 1950 with small dramatic roles. The first big role of the actor is considered to be in the movie Forbidden Planet.

Released in 1956, this movie set the course for the development of a fantastic direction in cinema for a long time. George Lucas drew ideas from this film while making Star Wars.

In 1957, the romantic movie Tammy and the Bachelor was released, after which Leslie was given the title of an actor of the dramatic genre.

The sixties and seventies were a real test for the actor. He played only minor roles – policemen, spies and politicians. By 1980, Nielsen had gained extensive experience acting in dramatic films.

He understood that his chances of reaching the pinnacle of fame were dwindling. Then he received an offer he couldn't refuse. As time would show, this decision changed his life forever.

Jim Abrahams, David and Jerry Zucker were looking for actors for their new movie Airplane! They had a requirement that none of the actors should have experience in comedy projects.

It was felt that comedians would only spoil the idea of the movie. They started looking for strong dramatic actors, and Leslie Nielsen was one of them.

On the set, he delivered absurd lines without flinching, with an incredibly serious expression on his face.

Airplane! received many awards and was a huge success. Zucker and the Abrahams brothers were considered the kings of parody, and Leslie Nielsen changed the direction of his acting forever.

Then there was Police Squad! which came out two years later on the wave of success of Airplane!, and Leslie got the lead role.

If the purpose of Airplane! was to poke fun at disaster movies, then this series was to mock cop shows. Leslie was nominated for Emmy for his portrayal of Frank Drebin.

And then there were three successful installments of the already iconic The Naked Gun. Later, the actor appeared in such movies as Wrongfully Accused and two installments of Scary Movie.

The path of this actor does not fit into the usual formula for success.

Undoubtedly, the comic talent was revealed thanks to the opportunity, and the vast experience of dramatic roles only strengthened the effect of the actor's appearance on the screen.

Not everyone knows how to joke with a serious face, and Leslie Nielsen became the one who secured this status for himself.