Liam Neeson Won’t Imitate Leslie Nielsen in ‘Naked Gun’ Reboot

Surely he can’t duplicate the original star's performance
Liam Neeson Won’t Imitate Leslie Nielsen in ‘Naked Gun’ Reboot

“Audiences are innately intelligent and they’ll know when you’re past your prime in regards to throwing punches and firing guns, but I’m not there yet,” Liam Neeson told The Hollywood Reporter. Okay, he was referring to his upcoming role in In the Land of Saints and Sinners, but he might as well have been talking about his decision to play straight-faced, punch-throwing, gun-shooting cop Frank Drebin Jr. in the upcoming reboot of The Naked Gun series. 

After several years of revenge flicks in which Neeson played obsessed men with a very particular set of skills, even he is sick of the darkness. “It’s funny because right before Christmas, my sons and I were looking through the Academy screeners and trying to find something silly, some stupid movie that we could giggle at,” he said. “There was none, of course, as they were all very heavy and international. I mean, brilliant movies, but all very heavy.”

Even though he refuses to smile, Neeson is finally ready to switch things up with a comedy. “When Seth MacFarlane approached me about it — this was about two years ago, now — I thought, yeah, I guess I could do that as long as I play it dead seriously and not try and imitate Mr. Leslie Nielsen. He was wonderful.”

The original creators of the Naked Gun flicks won’t be back (and they’re not happy about it). Instead, The Lonely Island’s Akiva Schaffer (Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping) will be choreographing pratfalls from the director’s chair. “He’s from the (Saturday Night Live) world. I’m looking forward to it,” said Neeson. “It’s a good script, and there’s a few laugh-out-loud moments in it.”

The comedy is scheduled to begin filming soon, but many of Neeson’s co-stars have yet to sign on. Internet rumors have Sandra Hüller in talks to play Drebin’s love interest, and MovieWeb asked Neeson what he thought of the possibility. “I don't know who Sandra is, forgive me,” he replied.

Um. Sandra Hüller? Academy Award nominee this year for Best Actress? Appeared in two of the movies nominated for Best Picture? 

Oh, that Sandra Hüller! “Of course, the German actress,” Neeson said, recovering from a flub worthy of Frank Drebin Sr. “I honestly don’t know if she’s involved. Yeah, I don’t know.”

Will Neeson bring those kinds of floundering comedy chops to the big screen? Your guess is as good as his. He admitted to Collider that he’s “a little bit nervous about it because I’ve done a couple of skits before that were just very short TV things, but this would be, I don’t know, 95, 100 minutes of a film. They’re still casting it (see above), so hopefully my other cast members will be funny and sexy so that I could just be dead absolutely straight. There has to be lots of visual gags going on, too.”

While he won’t imitate Nielsen’s performance, he sounds inspired by it. “I remember Leslie very well,” Neeson said. “I love those films. Especially that first, Airplane! You know, ‘Don’t call me Shirley.’ Just that line alone, I think, changed Leslie’s career.”

Surely Schaffer and company can do the same for Neeson.


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