Paul Gleason

Actor, Playwright, Director
As was often the case with character actors who became closely identified with a type of role, actor Paul Gleason was far from the pompous, humor-deficient bullies he so convincingly portrayed in film and on television ... Read more »
Born: 05/04/1939 in Jersey City, New Jersey, USA


Actor (81)

A Time to Revenge 2014 (Movie)


In the Living Years 2014 (Movie)

Tony (Actor)

Miracle at Sage Creek 2014 (Movie)


The Meyersons 2014 (Movie)


Abominable 2006 (Movie)

Sheriff Halderman (Actor)

Cold Case 2005 (Tv Show)


Dawson's Creek 2003 (Tv Show)


L.A. Dragnet 2003 (Tv Show)


Fastlane 2002 (Tv Show)


National Lampoon's Van Wilder 2002 (Movie)

Professor McDoogle (Actor)

The Guardian 2002 (Tv Show)


Chicago Hope 1992 - 1994, 1997 - 2001 (Tv Show)


Dead Last 2000 - 2001 (TV Show)


Diagnosis Murder 1992 - 1994, 1997 - 2001 (Tv Show)


L.A. Law 1990 - 1994, 1997 - 2001 (Tv Show)


Murder, She Wrote 1989 - 1994, 1997 - 2001 (Tv Show)


Nash Bridges 1992 - 1994, 1997 - 2001 (Tv Show)


Not Another Teen Movie 2001 (Movie)

Richard Vernon (Actor)

The District 1993 - 1994, 1997 - 2001 (Tv Show)


The Weber Show 2000 - 2001 (TV Show)


Walker, Texas Ranger 1992 - 1994, 1997 - 2001 (Tv Show)


Boy Meets World 1997 - 2000 (Tv Show)


Friends 2000 (Tv Show)


Grace Under Fire 1997 - 2000 (Tv Show)


Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman 1993 - 1994, 1997 - 2000 (Tv Show)


Newsradio 1997 - 2000 (Tv Show)


Red Letters 2000 (Movie)

Dean Van Buren (Actor)

The Drew Carey Show 1997 - 2000 (Tv Show)


Veronica's Closet 1999 - 2000 (Tv Show)


The Brutal Truth 1999 (Movie)

Mr Forester (Actor)

Day at the Beach 1998 (Movie)

Detective Johnson (Actor)

Melrose Place 1998 (Tv Show)


Best of the Best: Without Warning 1997 (Movie)

Father G (Actor)

Dark Skies 1996 - 1997 (TV Show)


Lost on Earth 1996 - 1997 (TV Show)


Money Talks 1997 (Movie)

Officer Pickett (Actor)

The Shadow Conspiracy 1997 (Movie)

Blythe (Actor)

Digital Man 1995 (Movie)


One West Waikiki 1993 - 1994 (TV Show)


Revenge of the Nerds IV: Nerds in Love 1993 - 1994 (TV Show)


Boiling Point 1993 (Movie)

Transaction Man (Actor)

National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1 1993 (Movie)

FBI Agent (Actor)

Running Cool 1993 (Movie)


The Waiter 1993 (Movie)


Wishman 1993 (Movie)


Badge of Silence: Maniac Cop III 1992 (Movie)


Wild Cactus 1992 (Movie)

Brenner (Actor)

Rich Girl 1991 (Movie)

Marvin Wells (Actor)

Miami Blues 1990 (Movie)

Sergeant Frank Lackley (Actor)

Spooner 1989 - 1990 (TV Show)


Starting Now 1989 - 1990 (TV Show)


Winner Takes All 1989 - 1990 (TV Show)


Night Games 1989 (Movie)

Broussard (Actor)

Die Hard 1988 (Movie)

Dwayne T Robinson (Actor)

Ghost Chase 1988 (Movie)

Stan Gordon (Actor)

Johnny Be Good 1988 (Movie)

Coach Wayne Hisler (Actor)

She's Having A Baby 1988 (Movie)

Howard (Actor)

Forever, Lulu 1987 (Movie)

Robert (Actor)

Morgan Stewart's Coming Home 1987 (Movie)

Jay Sprinsteen (Actor)

Doubletake 1985 - 1986 (TV Show)


Anything For Love 1984 - 1985 (TV Show)


The Breakfast Club 1985 (Movie)

Richard Vernon (Actor)

Tender Mercies 1983 (Movie)

Reporter (Actor)

Trading Places 1983 (Movie)

Beeks (Actor)

Another Life 1980 - 1981 (TV Show)


Arthur 1981 (Movie)

Executive (Actor)

Fort Apache, the Bronx 1981 (Movie)

Detective (Actor)

The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper 1981 (Movie)

Remson (Actor)

He Knows You're Alone 1980 (Movie)

Daley (Actor)

Ike 1978 - 1979 (TV Show)


The Great Santini 1979 (Movie)

Lieutenant Sammy (Actor)

Vigilante Force 1976 (Movie)

Michael Loonius (Actor)

Doc Savage, The Man of Bronze 1975 (Movie)

Long Tom (Actor)

Little Laura and Big John 1972 (Movie)

Sheriff (Actor)

Private Duty Nurses 1972 (Movie)


Challenge of a Lifetime (TV Show)


False Arrest (TV Show)


Fourth Story (TV Show)


Majority Rule (TV Show)


No Code of Conduct (TV Show)


Supercarrier (TV Show)



As was often the case with character actors who became closely identified with a type of role, actor Paul Gleason was far from the pompous, humor-deficient bullies he so convincingly portrayed in film and on television. At one time a promising athlete, he gained his theatrical training with famed acting coach Lee Strasberg while performing on the stages of New York. After more than 15 years of working steadily with small parts on television series and in movies, Gleason made a lasting impression as slimy "fixer" Clarence Beeks in the comedy "Trading Places" (1983). Two years later, he topped that villainous performance with his turn as the iron-fisted, utterly clueless and ultimately ineffectual Principal Vernon in the John Hughes classic "The Breakfast Club" (1985). Although he appeared in dozens of varying roles over the years, it would be Gleason's pitch-perfect portrayals of unrepentant jackasses in films such as the action-thriller "Die Hard" (1988) that would earn him lasting recognition. So ingrained in the pop culture of cinema were his characterizations, that Gleason eventually spoofed his own signature role in the lowbrow parody "Not Another Teen Movie" (2001), when he played a less-than-nurturing principal, coincidently named Vernon. By the time of his premature passing in 2006, Gleason had appeared in approximately 140 productions, and while his most memorable roles may have been as unrepentant jerks, those who knew him described a man with an unwavering work ethic, boundless energy, and a gregarious nature.

Born Paul Xavier Gleason on May 4, 1939 in Jersey City, NJ, he was the son of Eleanor, a registered nurse, and George, whose many vocations included restaurateur and construction worker. Not long after his birth, the Gleason family moved south to Uleta, FL, a small township that was later absorbed into the city of North Miami Beach. An outstanding athlete from an early age, Gleason attended Florida State University on a football scholarship, followed by a short stint playing minor league baseball for the Cleveland Indians and Washington Senators farm teams. Although he had initially thought his future was in sports, Gleason made the sudden decision to pursue acting one day after seeing the film "Splendor in the Grass" (1961) with his friend, novelist and "Beat" poet, Jack Kerouac. By the mid-1960s he had settled in New York City and began to study acting under the tutelage of Lee Strasberg at the famed Actors Studio. He made his uncredited film debut in the schlocky sci-fi movie "Panic in Year Zero!" (1962), followed by an official appearance in "Winter A-Go-Go" (1965), a low-budget teen ski comedy. Gleason also began picking up small guest turns on such popular television series as "The Green Hornet" (ABC, 1966-67), "Mission Impossible" (CBS, 1966-1973), and several episodes of "Adam-12" (NBC, 1968-1975).

Gleason also became involved in the growing off-Broadway theater scene as a writer, director and actor, ultimately working with such prestigious companies as New York's Cafe La Mama and the Ensemble Studio Theatre. After several smaller productions, he made his Broadway debut supporting Maureen Stapleton in Neil Simon's "The Gingerbread Lady" (1971). Gleason went on to appear in both the L.A. and NYC revival productions of "The Front Page" (1972) with John Lithgow and Richard Thomas, and won praise for his portrayal of R.P. McMurphy in the off-Broadway revival of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1973). His first film role of note was in George Pal's big screen adaptation of the pulp fiction adventure series "Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze" (1975). In a supporting role alongside Ron Ely as the super-heroic doctor, Gleason played Long Tom, one of Savage's trusted companions, known as the "The Fabulous Five." Following the dismal box office reception to the overly-campy "Doc Savage," he rebounded with the role of David Thornton on the daytime soap "All My Children" (ABC, 1970-2011). In his three seasons as hot-tempered and opinionated Dr. Thornton, Gleason would lay the foundation for what would become the trademarks of his more memorable characters in the years to come.

Gleason soon began making strides in both television and film projects. He landed his TV miniseries debut opposite Robert Duvall and Lee Remick in the biopic "Ike" (ABC, 1979), then teamed with Duvall again that same year on the big screen for the film adaptation of novelist Pat Conroy's family melodrama "The Great Santini" (1979). A steady stream of supporting roles followed in quick succession in high-profile projects that included the gritty Paul Newman police drama "Fort Apache the Bronx" (1981), the Dudley Moore classic comedy "Arthur" (1981), and "The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper" (1981), once again pairing him with the estimable Duvall. It was, however, as the humorless, amoral industrial spy Clarence Beeks in the hit John Landis-directed comedy "Trading Places" (1983), that the actor would finally make a splash. As the comic foil to Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy and Jamie Lee Curtis, Gleason played the villainous bully Beeks to such perfection, that he would be cast in similarly reprehensible roles for much of the remainder of his career. He spent the next season appearing in small guest spots on television series such as "Hill Street Blues" (NBC, 1981-87), and "Magnum, P.I." (CBS, 1980-88), before landing the iconic film role with which he would forever be associated.

Director John Hughes' seminal teenage comedy drama "The Breakfast Club" (1985) served as a filmic anthem for the MTV-generation of mid-1980s America, and made stars of Brat Packers Emilio Estevez, Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy. As the hilariously pompous and antagonistic school principal, Richard Vernon, Gleason brilliantly personified the out-of-touch authority figures that the film's target audience held in such distain. For better or worse, Gleason's fate as a character actor in Hollywood was now sealed. The typecasting continued when he played a sleazy political campaign manager in "Morgan Stewart's Coming Home" (1987), a weak attempt at cashing in on the winning John Hughes formula that starred Brat Pack second-stringer, Jon Cryer. Nearly as memorable as his portrayal of Principal Vernon was Gleason's wincingly-on-target turn as the asinine Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson in the Bruce Willis blockbuster "Die Hard" (1988). Watching the film, it was easy to imagine the woefully inept and hilariously obtuse Robinson as the long-lost twin brother of Principal Vernon. Continuing to work steadily throughout the 1990s, he took on numerous supporting roles in films like the quirky Alec Baldwin crime drama "Miami Blues" (1990) and the pulpy Wesley Snipes thriller "Boiling Point" (1993).

Mid-decade, Gleason signed on for the first of only two stints as a regular cast member on the short-lived "One West Waikiki" (CBS, 1993-94), a Hawaiian-set crime drama co-starring Cheryl Ladd. He took another, even less successful stab at regular TV work on the critically-reviled sitcom "Lost on Earth" (USA, 1997), which lasted less than a season. Later, Gleason parodied himself when he played Principal Richard "Dick" Vernon in the raunchy spoof "Not Another Teen Movie" (2001), followed by a turn as a similarly disagreeable academic in the lackluster "National Lampoon's Van Wilder" (2002). In the final film released before his surprising death, Gleason was a welcome presence as a skeptical sheriff tracking down a blood-thirsty Bigfoot in the low-budget monster movie "Abominable" (2006). In May of that year, the 67-year-old passed away from mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer linked to asbestos, which Gleason was most likely exposed to while assisting his father on construction jobs as a teenager. He appeared posthumously in the digitally-released independent comedy "The Book of Caleb" (2008), for which the venerable character actor received his first and only producer's credit.


Kaitlin Gleason


George Gleason


Eleanor Gleason


Shannon Gleason


Candy Moore

married on March 15, 1971 divorced in 1978


Florida State University

Tallahassee , Florida
attended on a football scholarship

Yale University

New Haven , Connecticut

Actors Studio

New York , New York
studied under Lee Strasberg



Cast as a teacher in "National Lampoon's Van Wilder"


Played Captain Herzog on short-lived police drama "One West Waikiki" (CBS)


Breakthrough screen role, Beeks in "Trading Places"


Playwriting debut, "Bush"


TV-miniseries debut, "Ike"


Played Dr. David Thornton on ABC daytime drama "All My Children"


Starred as McMurphy in off-Broadway production of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"


Feature film debut, "Private Duty Nurses"


Broadway debut, "The Gingerbread Lady"


Off-Broadway debut, "Key Largo"

Played three and one half seasons of minor league baseball in Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox organizations

Bonus Trivia


Gleason's poetry has appeared in Paris Review, Yale Review, Rolling Stone, National Lampoon, Village Voice and The New York Quarterly.


He has written three plays that have been produced: "Bush", "Crowbar" and "Batting Practice".


Gleason directed the West Coast premiere of the play "A Couple of White Chicks Sitting Around Talking at Los Angeles' Westwood Playhouse, starring Elizabeth Ashley and Susan Anspach.


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