The characters he played typically provided movie lines that became unforgettable. In the movie, “Airplane!” he played the buffoonish hero doctor who finds himself on a plane overcome by food poisoning. A passenger says to him, “Surely, you can’t be serious.” His reply: “I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley.”
Fellow comedians quickly came under his influence as he was just as eager to make those around him laugh as he was to play funny roles on TV and in film. Canadian comic Brent Butt said of him, “He definitely loved to entertain; he loved to try and get laughs all the time, that was kind of what he was about.”
Actor Paul Gross, who worked with him on the TV-series “Due South” and the film, “Men with Brooms,” said that “Leslie’s huge heart and fierce intelligence defined oddball comedy and he was its undisputed master. His loss will be felt by all. More personally he was a mentor and friend. I will miss him terribly.”
Nielsen appeared in more than 100 films and hundreds of TV shows throughout his six-decade career.
If the name “Lt. Frank Drebin” is familiar, you were likely a fan.