Leslie Nielsen: 'I'm just having fun' STORY HIGHLIGHTS NEW: "He was the life of the party," his nephew saysNielsen died of complications from pneumonia, his family saysThe earnest dramatic actor became a comedy star after "Airplane!"He played the captain in the 1972 disaster movie, "The Poseidon Adventure" (CNN) -- Leslie Nielsen, whose longtime career as a square-jawed dramatic actor took a sudden turn into comedy with gut-busting spoofs like "Airplane!" and "The Naked Gun," has died at age 84, his family said Sunday. The Canadian-born Nielsen's career reached back into the early days of television, when he made frequent appearances on live drama series like "Goodyear Playhouse." He played the earnest starship captain in the 1956 science-fiction classic "Forbidden Planet" and made regular appearances on a wide range of TV dramas into the 1970s, including "Hawaii Five-O." He also played the captain of an overturned ocean liner in the 1972 disaster movie, "The Poseidon Adventure." Much of that changed in 1980, when he was cast as a doctor aboard an endangered jetliner in the gag-a-minute disaster-movie parody "Airplane!" Nielsen's deadpan response to the question "Surely, you can't be serious?" with "I am serious -- and don't call me Shirley" helped launch a second career.
William Howard Taft