RIP: Leslie Nielsen, Duke Of Deadpan, Dead At 84

EW: The master of parody boasted a talent for delivering the most ridiculous lines in the straightest way possible, cloaking outright absurdity in straight-faced obliviousness. Ironically enough, the foundation of that earnest gravitas was built early in his career as a dramatic actor: After serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force and studying at New York City’s famed Actors Studio, the Saskatchewan-born Nielsen popped up on early ’50s TV. He received his first big film break playing sturdy Commander J.J. Adams in the 1956 sci-fi flick Forbidden Planet. Over the next few decades, he established himself as a reliable, handsome, rich-voiced character actor who graced myriad TV dramas (Peyton Place, Dr. Kildare) and movies (The Poseidon Adventure). His career took a comical hard left turn when he was cast as Dr. Rumack in the 1980 big-screen parody film Airplane! (Let us honor his famous line, which stands as one of the best retorts in comedic cinema history: “Surely you can’t be serious!” “I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley.”) MORE

FRESH AIR: In a 1993 interview on Fresh Air, Nielsen explained how the Naked Gun team — producers-directors-and-writers Jim Abrahams and David and Jerry Zucker — initially approached him, as well as Peter Graves, Lloyd Bridges and Robert Stack, to star in their 1980 disaster-movie spoof, Airplane! “They had written something that was just wonderfully dumb and funny,” he said. “And they knew that if [we] approached their material with the same seriousness and the same gravity with which we approached our police television shows that we were doing, that it would be very funny.” MORE

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