Zucker, along with his filmmaking partner brother Jerry and Jim Abrahams, gave Nielsen his first major comedy role in 1980's Airplane! and they went on to work together on numerous films including The Naked Gun series.
The director remained life-long friends with the actor, who died on Sunday (28Nov10), and has written a tribute for the Hollywood Reporter.
Zucker describes his first meeting with Nielsen when he auditioned for Airplane! and reveals he found an actor with a "natural instinct" for comedy. He also remembers Nielsen's sense of humour and love of pranks.
He writes, "Offscreen, he wasn't so much of a joke or storyteller but a chronic prankster. The stories are legion about the fart machine, which he kept hidden and sprang on any hapless stranger who approached him. He used it on set, on talk shows, anywhere he could find a victim. One time, at a press junket in Charlotte, I remember watching Leslie let loose with the device on a crowded elevator, the other occupants squirming up against the walls in an effort to distance themselves. And just like the scenes we put him in, he never broke character, never let on that he knew he was being funny."
And Zucker is convinced Nielsen was at his happiest when he was making people chuckle: "Leslie got the biggest kick out of his newfound status as an international comedy icon... He just really loved to laugh. Doing goofy things on and off the set made him happy, which was almost always his demeanour. And in turn, he made all of us happy..."
He adds, "Leslie was grateful for everything in his life (most especially his wife Barbaree), almost as though he didn't feel he deserved any of it. Maybe that's why he was so happy. And maybe that's why he was so good at making everyone else happy..."
August 24, 2003 10:53am EST
Here are the awful facts: Ashton Kutcher plays Tom Stanisfield an apprehensive executive at a large publishing firm called Midnight Owl run by a ruthless megalomaniac who fires staff members for brewing a too-bitter batch of java. One day the boss's attractive daughter Lisa (Tara Reid) asks Tom to come over and babysit her father's pet owl so she can go to a party and he agrees misunderstanding that he has made a date with her. Poor Tom realizes the mix-up once he arrives at the mansion and is given instructions on how to care for the owl O.J. (named after the football player). He decides to go through with it anyway; after all a little butt kissing never hurt anyone right? Things quickly take a turn for the worse as one unwelcome visitor after another struts through the house: a drug dealer after the boss's son Red (Andy Richter) a neighbor with a gushing head wound from an accident (Ever Carradine) a former employer wanting her job back (Molly Shannon) to name a few. Oh and O.J. gets loose. The uninvited guests subsequently spend the entire movie crashing through tables and breaking antiques as they try to get the owl back while wimpy Tom stands at the center of it all pleading for everyone to "please leave."
My Boss's Daughter wrapped in June 2001 and for obvious reasons sat on a shelf for some time collecting dust over at Miramax. Perhaps the studio thought this would be a good time to capitalize on the popularity of Kutcher who is having a great year with his two series Fox's That '70s Show and the MTV prankster series Punk'd not to mention the commercial success of his last feature Just Married. What is so genuinely funny about Kutcher is that he delivers the stupidest lines with such earnestness that he is simply funny because he tries not to be. Here Kutcher outshines the material; his timing and delivery are on but the jokes just lack impact. It's sad to see such a truly funny actor stuck in such a truly bad movie. His co-star Reid looking a little over-baked is also a victim of this bad material. Remember her back when she impressed moviegoers with her performance as Bunny in the Coen brothers' 1998 comedy The Big Lebowski? While the actress has since shined in supporting roles that have overtly capitalized on her sexuality including Cruel Intentions and American Pie My Boss's Daughter is not clever enough to do that. Her character Lisa is supposedly a sharp businesswoman by day but by night she jumps up and down on her four-post bed while listening to the radio. Not even the talented supporting cast which includes Richter and Shannon draw laughs in this calamity of a movie.
With his younger brother Jerry and high school pal Jim Abrahams director David Zucker is responsible for helming a series of hilarious movies including the comedy Ruthless People and the spoofs Top Secret! and Airplane!. In 1988 Zucker helmed his first solo project The Naked Gun - From the Files of Police Squad! and its sequel but the quality of his material since has waned. His 1998 effort Baseketball was infantile and badly executed but My Boss's Daughter is just walk-out headache-inducing bad. The jokes are so lame that moviegoers will know the outcome before they even happen. Does scribe David Dorfman who penned the box office topper Anger Management expect the audience to laugh at the series of hackneyed sight gags like a mouse running up Tom's pant leg? And Zucker's trademark urination jokes only doom this comedy further. In one scene for example an intruder asserts his vigor by pissing all over the living room. Unless you are a three-year-old wrestling with the pressures of potty training how is that funny? There is also a weird and pointless running gag about characters saying benign things that then get misconstrued as racially biased. Let's just hope Zucker has better tricks up his sleeve for his upcoming spoof Scary Movie 3.
August 17, 2001 8:30am EST
In the same vein as the 1963 comedy romp It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World and the 1981 The Cannonball Run Rat Race centers around a group of people who go dashing around the country for a big prize. In this incarnation the action starts in Las Vegas where billionaire hotel owner Donald Sinclair (John Cleese) gathers up eight people in his casino and sets them off on a race for $2 million hidden in a locker in New Mexico. He then places bets on whose going to get there first. The eight consist of two scheming brothers (Seth Green and Vince Vieluf) a disgraced NFL referee (Cuba Gooding Jr.) a mother and the daughter she gave up for adoption (Whoopi Goldberg and Lanei Chapman) a beleaguered family man and his wife (Jon Lovitz and Kathy Najimy) an uptight lawyer (Breckin Meyer) who hooks up with a cute helicopter pilot (Amy Smart) and a goofy narcoleptic Italian (Rowan Atkinson).
Like its predecessors Race combines a group of really talented comedians. Somehow this technique harms a film rather than helps it. It stems mostly from the fact that having such a large cast only gives the actors a limited amount of screen time. It's hard for any of them to truly shine. Yet in Race there are a few that just have to stand out. Cleese and Atkinson are among the best of the veterans especially Atkinson whose comedic physicality comes almost solely from his elastic face. And as far as the best of the younger set Green and Vieluf do a fair job having to wade through the horrendous antics presented to them shining for a brief moment when Vieluf (who can't speak properly because of his tongue stud) tells a sob story about their mother. However Goldberg Lovitz and Najimy are completely wasted--and Gooding Jr. just comes off as ridiculous.
In a nutshell Race is just too darn silly much like Mad Mad World was. Outrageous comedies work better in small doses such as There's Something About Mary or even Caddyshack. But when eight different story lines vie to outdo each other in outrageousness it's disastrous. Things can't get much worse than a car chasing after a hot-air balloon somehow hooking a cow to the balloon and having the cow end up hitting the windshield of a bus full of Lucille Ball look-alikes. Or how about crashing Hitler's car into a meeting of World War II veterans and having an ink mark on your upper lip that looks suspiciously like a mustache? There are a few brief moments where you chuckle out loud like when Cleese and his band of cronies start betting on which hotel maid would drop first while hanging from a curtain rod. Other than that the film simply lapses into pure drivel.