Leslie Nielsen Naked Gun Star actor signed autograph
Nielsen's comedic breakthrough came with a supporting role in 1980's Airplane!, a parody of Zero Hour!, Airport, and other movies that dealt with air travel. Nielsen played a doctor aboard an airliner whose crew had been struck with food poisoning. Airplane! spawned his iconic catchphrase; "I just want to wish you both good luck, we're all counting on you..." that would go on to be parodied itself in many television shows and movies. In Airplane! his deadpan delivery contrasted with the continual absurdity surrounding him. In the film when asked, "Surely you can't be serious?", he responds with a curt, "I am serious. And don't call me Shirley." He later reflected in several interviews on the significance of the comedic line: "I thought it was amusing, but it never occurred to me that it was going to become a trademark. It's such a surprise...the thing comes out, people say, 'What did he say?!' Nielsen has also stated that he was "...pleased and honoured that [he] had a chance to deliver that line.The comedic exchange was at #79 on the American Film Institute's list of Top 100 movie quotes.The American Film Institute also included the film in its list of the top ten comedy films of all time.
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