Face/Off: The Plot Hole

I love the 1997 John Woo action flick Face/Off. In it FBI Agent Sean Archer (John Travolta) undergoes top secret surgery to swap faces with his son’s killer and general dickish bad guy Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage), in order to work deep undercover to infiltrate Troy’s gang and learn the location of a bomb. Long story short, things go wrong and Castor Troy ends up swapping faces with Sean Archer, leaving Archer stranded in the face of the man he hates most, while Troy enjoys life as an all star FBI Agent… along with the added bonus of porking his nemesis’ wife.

I guess, the basic plot of Face/Off is nothing more than a take on the classic and often used The Prince and the Pauper story, but given a modern and more violent John Woo twist. Anyway, the reason I’m addressing a plot hole in this flick is because Face/Off has been popping up in my newsfeed a lot over the last few days. See, a sequel is currently being developed. To be directed by Adam Wingard, the man behind the very recent Godzilla vs. Kong flick. The sequel is set to reunite John Travolta’s Sean Archer and Nicolas Cage’s Castor Troy once more, though details on the plot are very sparse right now and just how involved in the sequel the original stars will be is up for speculation. Will they be the main characters, or perhaps more of a secondary/cameo thing? Anyway, none of that is important to this article. What is important is the plot hole I need to address.

See, along with news of a Face/Off 2 comes several reports on how the sequel will address and correct a plot hole from the original. Quite a few notable sites have already been talking about this plot hole fixing. Notable sites such as Digital Spy, We Got This Covered, ScreenRant and other entertainment news sites are commenting on the ‘big plot hole’ of the original film. That got me thinking… What plot hole?

FACEOFF SURGERY

Apparently, these sites are saying that the original flick has a major plot hole in that, while Sean Archer and Castor Troy only swap faces, their bodies magically change too. If you read these plot hole articles, then you’ll see things like ‘in the first movie, the bodies of the lead actors change, despite the characters only undergoing face-swap surgery‘ being claimed. Yeah, you can definitely see a big difference between the body types of John Travolta and Nicolas Cage. And yes, one would have to question why when they have the face surgery that for some reason, the bodies also change. Even I can’t deny that’s a plot hole, or it would be if you don’t pay attention to the film.

Still, what I like doing is looking at film plot holes and trying to cover them. When I do this plot hole covering thing, I set myself a few rules. I can only use in-movie universe logic, I can’t just make shit up to suit my own agenda. I can’t use explanations in novelizations, comic books , etc and only what’s in the film(s). Deleted scenes are a bit of a wildcard, depending on why they were deleted. Example, if a scene was removed against the director’s better judgement, because the suits forced it be cut, then I can think about using it. But if a director cut a scene over something like time constrains, then that’s a bit more questionable as, if the director didn’t think the scene was worth fighting for, then why should I?

Anyway, you can check out the other plot holes I’ve covered with the likes of Die Hard and the Back to the Future trilogy to better understand my thinking. So with that out of the way, on to this major plot hole in Face/Off.

As covered, this plot hole surrounds the difference in body types between Sean Archer and Castor Troy. You can clearly see in the film that Travolta has a (I’ll declare delicately) ‘chunkier’ body type than Cage, whose body is certainly leaner. So when the two swap faces, those differing body types really would and should stand out to the other characters in the film, but after the face surgery… they have also swapped bodies. However, this isn’t a plot hole as it’s being declared by certain sites, nor does it need addressing and fixing in the sequel either. Because, the original film already covered this in its plot. As proof, I need to jump to the part where John Travolta’s Sean Archer finally agrees to the surgery and has it all explained to him. This occurs at around twenty-five minutes into the flick. The doctor in charge of the super secret face-swapping procedure talks Archer through what will happen and I take the following quote directly from the film. This is not a deleted scene, not a part of the script that didn’t make the final cut. This scene and quote is right there in the film for all to see and hear.

“Hight difference is negligible. Skin pigment, eye pigment, both almost identical. We’ll use laser sheers for the hairline, micro-plugs for body hair. We’ll do an abdominoplasty to take care of those love handles.”

There’s more to that speech of what the surgery entails, but that’s the basic gist. So to summarise. The surgery to swap the face wasn’t just to swap the face as these sites are claiming. Other aspects of the surgery are mentioned in the film, including altering the body via an abdominoplasty and more. Now, one can argue just how ‘realistic’ it is to change someone’s body type so much or so drastically. But hey, you’re watching a film about an FBI agent that swaps faces and then lives his life as his son’s killer and general terrorist-type bad guy (and visa versa), so I think you can apply some of that suspension of disbelief to the body surgery too, if you’re willing to accept the whole face-swapping thing in the first place, right?

FACEOFF CAGE

Point is, that it’s not a plot hole because the plot of the film addresses the difference in body types and does change them via the surgery. No plot hole and those sites reporting on the plot hole are wrong… as is director of the sequel, Adam Wingard, who is the one saying he’s going to address the non-existent plot hole in the sequel.

 

My Coming To America Sequel Pitch

After watching, being disappointed by and writing a review for the Coming to America sequel. I thought I’d have a go at pitching a sequel idea myself. As with my Terminator sequel pitch from a while back, this is purely for fun and an experiment by me just to so see if I can come up with a better story premise in a few minutes than highly-paid Hollywood writers who do so over several months.

First order of business, the title. The actual sequel title of Coming 2 America is really fucking stupid. As I mentioned in my review, a far better title would’ve been Coming to Zamunda. But, as my sequel idea doesn’t involve anyone coming to Zamunda, that’s not going to work. Instead, I’ve gone for the much more simple and far more sensible Coming to America II. Also, obviously we’re going to have to keep the whole thirty years later thing.

So, my idea has Akeem and Lisa already established as King and Queen of Zamunda. They’ve been in rule for many years as King Jaffe Joffer and Queen Aoleon had died several years previously. They’ve been doing a cracking job too and the people of Zamunda love and respect their King and Queen. They have a nice little family,  being taught the royal ways to readying them to be the next rulers, male or female, let’s not get all ‘woke’ here and try to force an agenda.

AKEEM AND LISA

Everything is peachy… Until Lisa gets word that her father, Cleo McDowell is gravely ill back in America. Concerned, Lisa heads back home for the first time in three decades. Going along for support is Akeem and Semmi, while Zamunda is overseen by Akeem and Lisa’s eldest child in their absence. It’s while traveling to the US when Cleo passes away before Lisa can touch down to say her goodbyes. If you think starting a film’s plot with the death of an established character is a bad idea, just watch Coming 2 America. Anyway, Lisa’s family are as angry with her as she is with herself as her time in Zamunda has made her forget about her all about her roots. Now back in America both Lisa and Akeem struggle with not only both being fish-out-of-water types, they’re also shocked at how much Queens as changed over the last thirty years. They’re even more removed from reality than they first thought.

The whole McDowell’s restaurant thing has been going under, due to legal action from McDonald’s and the McDowell family are in dire straits as they’ve spent the family fortune in defending themselves against McDonald’s. Having to sell that big house from the first film to keep their heads above water and not wanting charity, they never contacted Lisa in Zamunda and she in turn, got lost in all the pomp and ceremony of being a Queen to keep in contact with them. The whole relationship between the McDowell family and Lisa is at breaking point.

MCDOWELLS

Usual high-jinks ensue as Akeem and Lisa try to get on with living in the US while Cleo’s funeral is arranged and the whole legalities thing with McDonald’s is worked out. Now, you need a bit on an emotional impact, which comes in the form of Lisa actually realising how much she missed being home. She decides to quit being Queen of Zamunda to stay with her family. Obviously, Akeem isn’t too pleased about the idea and their relationship begins to fray. Long story short, there are several arguments between the couple, Semmi acts like a horny teenager by soaking up seedy side of Queens, New York, the fish-out-of-water angle is played up for laughs through the film. Akeem eventually comes to his senses and renounces the throne (as he suggested he would at the end of the first film) to be with Lisa and they both stay in America to live happily ever after, rebuilding the McDowell’s empire after standing up to McDonald’s and winning.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. What about Zamunda, what’s going on there? Who gives a fuck? The film is called Coming to America II, it’s sequel to the first film. And when watching the first film, did you care about what was going on in Zamunda? No, cos it’s got nothing to do with the story being told. Akeem and Lisa’s kid(s) are running the show and doing a good job too, that’s all you need to know.

MANSION

Obviously, this is a rough idea that’ll need working on… It’s also an idea that’ll never happen. Anyway, make it adult rated with the barbershop guys arguing and swearing like sailors… Like the first film. Make Lisa one of the main characters, seeing as she is one of the main characters and don’t push her to the background like the actual sequel. Amp up the fraying relationship between Akeem and Lisa, tug the heart-strings and make out they’re going to split up. For Akeem to quit as King just to be with love of his life, as he was prepared to do in the first film. Then you’ve got yourself a proper sequel.

Also note in my pitch, there’s no drugging and raping of Akeem, no charmless bastard son,  no annoying and unfunny Leslie Jones… And the majority of the film takes place in America. Oh yeah, there’s also no retconning events from the first film that provides a gargantuan plot hole meaning Akeem and Lisa never met either. But of course, I’m not a highly-paid Hollywood writer, so I’m obviously not good enough to come up with massive, unnecessary plot holes.

I Don’t Like ‘Black Cinema’

Okay, maybe I should rephrase the headline there. I don’t like the term ‘black cinema’. I really need to elaborate here, don’t I?

Recently, there’s been a massive emphasis on pushing the spotlight on black artists, whether they be directors, actors, writers, musicians and so on. Let’s be brutally honest here, this whole emphasis on black performers has stemmed from the abhorrent George Floyd death from last year. Yeah, I know shit goes back a lot further than that, but Floyd’s death really kick-started a movement. Since then, big-name companies have been pushing the whole black angle like crazy. It’s almost bandwagon jumping-like. Disney+ have an entire ‘ black stories’ collection on their streaming service. Microsoft has been running a spotlight on ‘black creators’ recently. And there are other big-name companies running similar campaigns. Black this, black that. Not pushing Asian, Hispanic or even white artists, just black.

BLACK ACTORS

Just how did I get onto this rant? Recently, I watched and reviewed Coming 2 America. After which, I looked around at other reviews just to see what the general consensus was about the film. Pretty much all of them commented on Coming 2 America being a ‘black film’ or a ‘black comedy’ or mentioned its ‘black cast’. Just go and read my review and make note of how many times I bring up anything black. I’ll save you some time, not once. Why? Because race has nothing to do with the film or its quality.

When I was a kid, Nan and Granddad would come round every Sunday for lunch. Every Sunday, Mom would have me and my brothers help to do jobs around the house, cleaning and the like, for when the grandparents would arrive. Mom would put some music on and more often than not, it would be sixties and seventies music. We’d listen to the likes of Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Jimi Hendrix and more. Yet, I was never told that ‘this is black music’, it was just music. Just going back to Coming to America for a second. I watched the original flick when I was about 14 or so. It was never a ‘black film’ or a ‘black comedy’, it was just a film. I was never taught to segregate people into groups based on the colour of their skin. Yet, that’s exactly what’s happening now.

It’s kind of ironic how, in order to teach how to be more inclusive, companies are segregating by race. It makes no sense. Let me put it this way. Let’s say you’re an unashamed, unapologetic racist, you’re flicking through Disney+ and find their ‘black stories’ section. You think you’ll change your ways just because there’s a specific section that highlights the black race… Or are you more likely to get pissed off because there’s a specific section that highlights the black race? Let me bring up another factor, black history month. Why does that even exist? Just going back to my childhood a second. I learned about people like Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and such. I was taught about important black people through history. Only, it wasn’t called black history. It was just called history. Just as I was brought up on great music from artists who just so happened to be black. I was taught about important black people in history, not black history, just history.

You can’t claim to be aiming for inclusion while pushing the spotlight on people because of the colour of their skin at the same time, that’s a massive oxymoron. Look, I’m not saying black artists shouldn’t be celebrated, of course they should. But just as it’s possible to have a Quentin Tarantino celebration due to his work and not his skin. You can have a Spike Lee celebration too. Lee isn’t a great ‘black director’ for the same reason Tarantino isn’t a great ‘white director’, they are both just movie directors. There shouldn’t be a celebration of black actors, directors, writers or whatever, there should just be a celebration of their work, skin colour shouldn’t even be a part of it. We shouldn’t be putting black people into specific groups because they’re black, we should be united because we’re all human. I’m also a bit of a gamer (as regular readers will know), do we have such a thing as ‘black video games’? 

That’s how you fight racism, by not giving people special treatment due to the fact their skin is a different colour, whatever colour that may be. I was raised on music, films and the like, with it just being music and films, not it being ‘black’ music and films. I was never taught ‘black history’ in school, I was taught history regardless of race. I wasn’t encouraged to shop at ‘black-owned’ businesses either. Because I was raised to treat people as people and not as a race. And due to all of that, I couldn’t give a fuck about the colour of a person’s skin. So why do we have this whole ‘black thing’ being pushed so hard by so many now?

The truth is, I don’t like any term that highlights any race over another (or one sex over another either). Artists should be celebrated for their work, not the colour of their skin. History should be taught inclusively and not divided by race. And no, we shouldn’t shop in black-owned businesses either, we should shop at the places that suit our needs, not based on skin colour. You teach people to not judge based on skin colour and not by what is going on now with this separation and emphasis on people who are black.

The funny thing is that I’ve brought this point up on social media and I’ve been called ‘racist’ for doing so. Me, the person who strongly believes that people should be treated equally, not praised or damned based on the colour of their skin, the person who thinks you don’t teach equality by singling out any race over another. Me, I’m apparently ‘racist’ because I think we should all be treated the same. That’s the kind of society we live in today, not being racist is now racist. And yes, I put the blame on all this emphasis on ‘black’ anything from major companies forcibly pushing an agenda. Look, all I’m trying to say is that I’m in 100% agreement with Morgan Freeman:

Morgan Freeman, one of the finest actors of our generation… not finest black actors, just a damn fine actor talking complete sense. So please, can we stop with all this ‘black’ shit that’s being ham-fistedly forced and just teach people that skin colour doesn’t matter, just how I was raised?

Coming To America… The TV Show?

The long-awaited sequel, Coming 2 America is released in just a few hours and you can bet that, as a fan of the original, I’ll be watching and giving it a review over the weekend. But here’s a thing. Did you know there was (almost) a Coming to America TV show? Okay, so it never actually made it to air, but a pilot was made and that did air. On the 4th of July 1989, the world (well America) was subjected to Coming to America.

The plot of the show worked as a kind of sequel to the film. Eddie Murphy’s amazing Prince (now King) Akeem isn’t in the show, even though the pilot was written and produced by Murphy himself. Instead, the show told the story of Akeem’s (never mentioned in the film) brother, Prince Tariq. In fact, none of the film’s cast return, except for Paul Bates who played royal aide Oha in the film.  Anyway, the plot of the pilot has Tariq sent to Queens, New York to attend college by Akeem. Why? I really don’t know to be honest, it just happens.

COMING TO AMERICA TV PILOT CHARACTERS

Anyway, several people were up for the main role of Prince Tariq including Wesley Snipes and Will Smith, as if Will Smith would ever do a sit-com about a black ‘prince’ in a fish out of water-type story. Landing the leading role was Tommy Davidson, who had a semi-successful career in TV and film. Basically, the TV show worked like the film, but with Tariq taking the place of Akeem and Oha being the Semmi sidekick role. But whereas the film is a solid comedy classic, the show is terrible. The set up is that Tariq and Oha are living in an apartment owned by the landlord Carl Mackey.

I think one of the worst things about the show is how Tommy Davidson, playing the role of Tariq, is trying his best to imitate Eddie Murphy. The style, the tone of the character and his performance is just like a low-rent Murphy. Davidson even tries his hand at Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson impressions, which if you’ve ever seen Murphy on Saturday Night Live or doing his stand-up, then you’d know that was kind of Murphy’s thing.

The jokes in the show are pretty flat throughout with some pretty lazy and haphazard Eddie Murphy references. I mean, Tariq utters the following line in the show:

“I can be a Beverly Hills Cop, you can be a Beverly Hills Cop too (II). Why, within 48 hours, we could be Trading Places.”

Yup, that’s how bad the writing is here… and that’s just one of the ‘jokes’. Now, I did point out that it was Eddie Murphy himself who wrote the pilot. The truth is that he wrote the story, but not the script. So, I guess someone else wrote that awful Murphy reference movie line? Still, Murphy can’t be completely blameless for this pilot’s terribleness, he was the executive producer after all.

COMING TO AMERICA TV PILOT MURPHY PRODUCER

Either way, that’s how low the bar is set on this pilot. The basic plot of the pilot revolves around Tariq blowing all of his money in a few days. Needing cash to live, Tariq and Oha get jobs at a diner owned by their landlord. Which of course, leads to shenanigans… very unfunny shenanigans. The whole thing is very typical and unfunny American eighties sit-com fare, right up to the heart-to-heart reasoning scene where the lead character learns a lesson. There’s absolutely nothing original here and nothing to do with the film the pilot is based on.  Seriously, aside from the Oha character, this has nothing to do with Coming to America other than the bare basic premise of an African Prince going to America and feeling a bit out of place.

So yeah, there was an attempt to make a Coming to America sit-com that never got picked up… thankfully. If you’re feeling brave enough, you can watch the pilot yourself. Bearing in mind this is a thirty-odd-year-old pilot that no one remembers and has been forgotten about. So the quality is not great… and I mean that in multiple ways.:

Seriously Funny: Remembering Leslie Nielsen On His 95th Birthday

Today, the 11th of February, 2021 would’ve been Leslie Nielsen’s 95th birthday. This is an article I’ve actually been meaning to write for a few years now, but it just kept slipping down my ever growing list of an increasing backlog. Still, as a way to say happy birthday to and remember one of the all time great funny men, I thought I’d finally finish this up and get it published. 

Early Life

Born in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada on the 11th of February, 1926. Leslie Nielsen’s father was reportedly an abusive man. Often beating both Nielsen’s mother and his two brothers, along with Nielsen himself. Wanting to escape his slap-happy childhood, when he turned seventeen, Leslie Nielsen the Royal Canadian Air Force, despite being legally deaf. Nielsen had to wear hearing aids since he was a young child.

“You know it’s very difficult to be an actor, and to have people depending on you to say the right line, at the right time, and to not be able to hear your cues! I can’t tell you how many times I would’ve had to have said What? if I didn’t have my hearing aids. So my hearing aids are a life saver, and they allow me to practice my craft.”

– Leslie Nielsen

While in the Royal Canadian Air Force, Nielsen trained as an aerial gunner during World War II. After the war ended he enrolled at the Lorne Greene Academy of Radio Arts in Toronto to study acting. It was while studying in Canada when he received a scholarship at the Neighborhood Playhouse, New York. Here, Leslie Nielsen studied theatre and music before landing his first TV appearance on an episode of the anthology show Studio One in 1950.

Early Roles

Through the early fifties, Leslie Nielsen was cast in many small parts as handsome extra and bit part player. He also narrated a few documentaries and commercials just to bring in some much needed cash. However, he wanted more and dreamt of being a big name Hollywood leading man. In 1956, Nielsen landed a small part in his first feature film The Vagabond King. The film was a flop but the producer on the film, Nicholas Nayfack, took a shine the the young and good looking Leslie Nielsen and offered him an audition for a sci-fi film that Nayfack was working on next, Forbidden Planet. Of course Nielsen got the part and the film went on to be a hit too.

LESLIE NIELSEN FORBIDEN PLANET

In fact, Forbidden Planet (a sort of Shakespeare’s The Tempest… In space!) has been cited as the forerunner to ground-breaking TV show, Star Trek and the birth of real sci-fi entertainment. So great the film was and more importantly, so much liked and impressive Nielsen was that he was given a contract to work at MGM. After several years of bit parts and struggling as an actor, Leslie Nielsen was making a name for himself. Through the mid-fifties, Nielsen made more films for MGM Ransom!, The Opposite Sex, and Hot Summer Night. None of which were big hits and Nielsen started to become a bit jaded with the films he was being offered and even doubting himself as an actor. He landed the lead role in the romantic comedy Tammy and the Bachelor from 1957 from Uniserial Pictures (where he was borrowed from his MGM contract), which did get some positive reviews and still seen today as a pretty good flick. Leslie Nielsen began to realise that perhaps it was MGM who where the problem and not him. Still, MGM had an epic of a film coming up and one that Nielsen very much wanted to be in, Ben-Hur. He auditioned for the role of Messala in the 1959 flick and didn’t get it. By now, that contract with MGM has ended, which left Nielsen free to work elsewhere… So he did. 

Leslie Nielsen found himself working for Disney on the 1959 TV miniseries, The Swamp Fox. Being put off by movies the last few years and now finding TV work so much more fun, Nielsen gave up on trying to be a big Hollywood leading man and settled on a career in TV instead. He began to appear in numerous TV shows in the sixties like, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (based on the film), The Virginian, and The Wild Wild West. Over the years, Leslie Nielsen very much became a character actor on TV and kept popping up in supporting roles, never landing a lead. He was pretty much back where he started in the early fifties, small and secondary parts, no leads, only now on TV instead of film.

LESLIE NIELSEN THE SWAMP FOX

The thing was, Leslie Nielsen could really act, he was a fantastic serious/dramatic actor, good looking in his youth too. He just wasn’t being offered the parts he could really get his teeth into and prove just how good an actor he was. Then, he landed a role that could’ve proven to be a huge door opening for him. Leslie Nielsen secured a lead role in the 1969 TV show The Bold Ones: The Protectors. He played Deputy Police Chief Sam Danforth, a tough, no-nonsense, straight talking cop with a drive to rid his city of crime. This was gritty drama, a genre that Nielsen was really bloody great at. Sadly, the show only lasted for seven episodes and the big leading break he was striving for never came. 

In the seventies, Leslie Nielsen was back playing smaller parts. Appearing in one of the greatest TV shows of all time, Columbo in 1971. Plus, he began to appear in a few movies once more too… especially the popular disaster movies of the decade like 1972’s The Poseidon Adventure and City on Fire from 1979. In fact, it was the smaller roles in those disaster movies that would finally make Nielsen the household name he eventually became…

The Breakthrough

It was the late seventies, two writer brothers, David and Jerry Zucker, along with writer Jim Abrahams (collectively known as Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker… or just ZAZ), all had a zany sense of humour. The trio had a success with the hilarious The Kentucky Fried Movie in 1977, and they wanted to follow up on it with another off the wall comedy. But, they wanted to remake the little known but very serious 1957 disaster flick, Zero Hour! and turn it into a film with their unique brand of humour. That remake was 1980’s Airplane! and playing perhaps the most memorable character in the entire film was Leslie Nielsen as Dr. Rumack.

LESLIE NIELSEN AIRPLANE

He was hired for this offbeat comedy because he was such a great serious actor, because of those roles in the disaster flicks of the seventies. ZAZ wanted, not known, but recognisable faces in their film to help sell the fact they wanted people to think that Airplane! had the look and tone of a serious disaster flick. The jokes would do the work while the actors just acted. It was this serious take on comedy that really worked and helped to make Airplane! such a huge hit. No matter how silly the situations in the film got, no matter how stupid some of the lines were, Leslie Nielsen was dead straight in his performance. Just as a quick aside, here’s a video comparing Zero Hour! to Airplane! so you can see how much the two films are similar:

It was also that deadpan approach to humour that led to Nielsen landing a lead role in a new cop show on TV, but unlike his previous starring role in a cop show with The Bold Ones: The Protectors, which was a heavy drama, this would be a comedy. Created by ZAZ again, Police Squad! saw Leslie Nielsen play Sergeant Frank Drebin (a role created just for Nielsen), detective lieutenant of the titular Police Squad! Just like Airplane! being a silly take on the serious disaster movie genre, so to was Police Squad!, but for police TV shows. However, unlike Airplane!, Police Squad! wasn’t a big hit. In fact, only six episodes were ever filmed and of those, only four originally made it to air before the show was cancelled by the ABC network in America. Though the last two episodes were eventually aired. Nielsen just couldn’t get a break and soon found himself struggling to find a lead role. As for why Police Squad! was cancelled? I’ll let Leslie Nielsen explain himself:

“We thought it was gonna be one of the biggest hits of the season, and we realised after it had been on for four [episodes]. It was pulled off [the air] in America because the ratings were not high, they got worse and worse. It’s the kind of humour that doesn’t belong on television, on the small screen because you had to watch it. [Tony] Thomopoulos, who was the head of programming at ABC said ‘it didnlt make it because you had to watch it’. What he meant was, you had to pay attention to it.”

– Leslie Nielsen

It was true too. The trouble was that back then, people didn’t really watch TV like they do now. The TV was just something that would be on in the background while you did something else. The humour in Police Squad! relied on your eyes being transfixed because there was so much going on. Visual jokes, jokes in the background, jokes on signs, jokes any and everywhere. You eyes worked overtime watching an episode of Police Squad! because each one was so tightly packed with so many jokes and jokes within jokes that you would miss most of them if you didn’t sit and actually watch. What worked on the big screen with Airplane! with a captive audience in a cinema, just didn’t translate to the small screen with Police Squad! as it played in the background while you did the ironing, despite being just as (if not) funnier overall.

So, Nielsen was back at square one again (again), with just getting smaller roles on TV and in movies. One such role I’m saving for last. Anyway, Paramount Pictures got the VHS distribution rights to Police Squad! and released all six episodes in 1985. The tapes became a smash hit and Paramount soon realised how popular the show really was, they approached ZAZ with an offer to bring the show back… somehow. Then in 1998, we got The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, a film version of the cancelled TV show. Of course, Leslie Nielsen was back as Frank Drebin and it was also his first lead role in a movie for over thirty years too. While The Naked Gun still had that ZAZ humour and Nielsen’s brilliant deadpan delivery of the jokes, it also showcased something that neither Airplane! or Police Squad! did before it. It allowed Leslie Nielsen to show off his slapstick comedy too. The Naked Gun became a massive hit, far bigger than Airplane! in fact. At sixty-two years old and after decades of struggling, Leslie Nielsen was finally a lead a worldwide hit movie. After that, studios were commissioning parody films specifically to have Nielsen starring in them and the parody movie craze of the nineties was born.

The sequels, The Naked Gun ​2 1⁄2: The Smell of Fear and Naked Gun ​33 1⁄3: The Final Insult help cement Nielsen as a genuine Hollywood funny man legend. He’d always pop up on chat shows around the globe armed with his favourite joke, a simple fart machine, which he would sound off in the middle of an interview just to make the audience and himself laugh. By the time the third Naked Gun film was released, Nielsen was sixty-eight years old. An age when people retire and take it easy, but Leslie Nielsen was enjoying himself too much to retire, appearing in more films, making millions of people around the world laugh. Some of his flicks were popular, but they never got to the level of the Naked Gun trilogy. The starring roles began to dry up, but Leslie Nielsen still appeared in the parody film genre that made him famous right up to his death in 2010, aged eighty-four.

Seriously Funny

He struggled to make a name for himself for decades. He tried serious drama, which he was amazing at, but there were just too many good looking men doing the same thing around the same time, so Leslie Nielsen never really stood out. Yet, it was that seriousness of his acting that eventually led him to be loved worldwide for his comedy. All thanks to the trio of ZAZ who saw that potential in the actor when so many others were overlooking his unique talents as an actor and comedian.

Oh, and as for that earlier smaller role of Nielsen’s that I said I was saving until last? It’ from the all time classic horror anthology flick, Creepshow. Leslie Nielsen played Richard Vickers, a rich, slick and charismatic guy who discovers his wife is having an affair.  He tracks down his wife’s illicit lover and well… Let’s just say that for me, this is the best Nielsen has ever been. He’s sick, pure evil and still a bad guy you can’t help but fall in love with. For someone so damn funny, he could be even more sadistic and I love it. My all time favourite Leslie Nielsen role.

There never will be another Leslie Nielsen.
Happy birthday.

LESLIE NIELSEN YOUNG

I’m afraid if I don’t keep moving, they’re going to catch me. I’m eighty-one years old and I want to see what’s around the corner, and I don’t see any reason in the world not to keep working. But I am starting to value my down time a great deal because I am realizing there might be other things to do that I am overlooking.

– Leslie Nielsen