Goodbye Again, And Don’t Call Him Shirley
I had the great pleasure of writing audio scripts for Leslie Nielsen many times, first on ‘Airplane!’, then most enjoyably on the ‘Naked Gun’ movies, where he played the deadpan hopeless detective Frank Drebin. Canadian Nielsen died at 84 some while back but news of his death trended again this week – WTF? Nielsen had started his career as a serious actor, most memorably appearing in ‘Forbidden Planet’, but became a comedy star after his appearance in the still hilarious airline disaster spoof.
By the time he reached the ‘Naked Gun’ films, which were spin-offs of the TV series ‘Police Squad!’ he had perfected Drebin’s dry, aloof, slightly-out-of-it look. When he first met in a studio, I realised he wore deaf aids and his persona might well have been born out of his particular way of interpreting lines. What united him with all of my comedy heroes was his ability to make any line funny. I had him saying some of the stupidest things I’ve ever written, and he deadpanned them back to perfection every time.
Leslie and I got on so well that he asked to work with me again. By the time we reached ‘Naked Gun 33 1/3’ the writing had become as easy as slicing pie. I wish I had the recordings now. We made them with Hugh Laurie, but like all of my past work with comics like Kenneth Williams and Morecambe & Wise I never kept copies. here’s a little something to remember him by – again!