|Leslie Nielsen hams it up with co-star Nicolette Sheridan during a 1996 appearance to plug the spoof “Spy Hard.”|
I met Leslie Nielsen in 1988 when he came to Chicago to promote his comedy feature “Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad.”
“I love comedy!” he told me. “I love being an idiot!”
If you don’t believe that, Nielsen brought his own whoopie cushion to our interview. Talking to him went something like this:
“People have come up to me on the street and said, ‘Leslie, you’re pfffrooot! a sex symbol! But you can’t take that too seriously. You can’t get wrapped up in that pfffrooot! stuff!”
I remembered the theme song to his anthology TV series, Walt Disney’s “Swamp Fox,” and I faithfully sang it to him in his room at the Park Hyatt Hotel. He seemed to be impressed I knew the lyrics.
“I approached with great hesitation doing the role of Swamp Fox for Disney,” the then 62-year-old actor said. “I thought, ‘Well, I’m an actor! I’m not going to wear that hat with a fox tail on it, parading around and doing kiddie stuff.’ Boy, I was so stupid in my attitude.
“Today there are so many people who remember ‘Swamp Fox.’ You see, as an actor, you never know what will remain, what sticks with people.”
Nielsen died Sunday night in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., from pneumonia. He was 84.
What will stick with people even more than “Swamp Fox” will be Nielsen’s late-in-life evolution from a serious actor into a comedy icon of the silver screen, starting in 1980 with his role in the disaster film spoof “Airplane!” followed by a TV series and movies starring Nielsen as Lt. Frank Drebin, the dumbest, luckiest cop to ever walk a Hollywood beat. (Read more…)