Naked Gun actor Leslie Nielsen dies in Florida hospital at age 84

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Leslie Nielsen, who went from drama to inspired bumbling as a hapless doctor in “Airplane!” and the accident-prone detective Frank Drebin in the “The Naked Gun” comedies, has died. He was 84.

His agent John S. Kelly says Nielsen died Sunday at a hospital near his home in Ft. Lauderdale where he was being treated for pneumonia.

Nephew Doug Nielsen, who lives in Richmond, B.C., says his uncle had been hospitalized for about the past 12 days and died in his sleep.

Friends and wife, Barbaree, were by the Regina-born actor’s side.

Nielsen came to Hollywood in the mid-1950s after performing in 150 live television dramas in New York. With a craggily handsome face, blond hair and 6-foot-2 height, he seemed ideal for a movie leading man.

He quickly became known as a serious actor, although behind the camera he was a prankster. That was an aspect of his personality never exploited, however, until “Airplane!” was released in 1980 and became a huge hit.

Nielsen was in more than 100 films, including the 2002 film “Men With Broom,” co-starring Paul Gross. In recent years, he appeared on the Canadian TV series “Robson Arms.”

He had stars on both Hollywood’s and Canada’s Walk of Fame.

He was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2002.