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NAKED GUN and Airplane! actor Leslie Nielsen has died at the age of 84.

The comedy star died yesterday at a hospital near his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he was being treated for pneumonia.

Canadian-born Nielsen came to Hollywood in the mid-1950s after performing in 150 live television dramas in New York.

He quickly became known as a serious actor, although behind the camera he was a prankster - an aspect of his personality never exploited until disaster spoof Airplane! was released in 1980 and became a huge hit.

His lines in the film became legendary. As the doctor aboard a plane in which the pilots, and some of the passengers, become violently ill, Nielsen says they must get to a hospital right away.

"A hospital? What is it?" a flight attendant asks, inquiring about the illness.

"It's a big building with patients, but that's not important right now," Nielsen deadpans.

When he asks a passenger if he can fly the plane, the man replies; "Surely you can't be serious."

Nielsen responds: "I am serious, and don't call me Shirley."

Critics argued he was being cast against type, but Nielsen disagreed.

"I've always been cast against type before," he said, adding comedy was what he had really always wanted to do.

After the success of Airplane!, he was cast as Detective Drebin in TV series Police Squad, which sent up cop shows. But despite good reviews, it was cancelled after only four episodes.

"It didn't belong on TV," Nielsen later commented. "It had the kind of humour you had to pay attention to."

Then the series was converted into a feature film, The Naked Gun, with George Kennedy, OJ Simpson and Priscilla Presley as Nielsen's co-stars.

Its huge success led to sequels The Naked Gun 2 1/2 and The Naked Gun 33 1/3.

He went on to make several other hit spoofs, including Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Spy Hard and Wrongfully Accused.

His most recent success came with a recurring role in Scary Movie 3 and Scary Movie 4, where he played the President of the United States.

Three-times-married Nielsen leaves two daughters, Thea and Maurah.

dailyrecord.co.uk
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