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(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!"
Remembering Leslie Nielsen 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.
The film's producers went on to cast him in their short-lived television series "Police Squad!"
He reprised that show's bumbling lead character, Lt. Frank Drebin, a decade later in three "Naked Gun" movies, in which he shared the screen with O.J. Simpson and Priscilla Presley.
Nielsen appeared in several similar but less-acclaimed spoofs following those films.
Nielsen was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2003. The medal is awarded to "Canadian citizens for outstanding achievement and service to the country or to humanity at large."
Nielsen died of complications of pneumonia in a hospital near his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, surrounded by family and friends, a family statement said.
Doug Nielsen called his uncle's death a "great loss."
"He was extremely funny," the younger Nielsen said in an interview with CNN affiliate Global Network News in Vancouver.
"At all of our family get-togethers, he was always the life of the party and a great-natured guy," Nielsen said. He was a very good friend to me."
Leslie William Nielsen, OC (February 11, 1926 – November 28, 2010) was a Canadian-American actor and comedian. Nielsen appeared in over 100 films and 1,500 television programs over the span of his career, portraying over 220 characters.
Born in Saskatchewan, Canada, Nielsen enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force and worked as a disc jockey before receiving a scholarship to Neighborhood Playhouse. Beginning with a television role in 1948, he quickly expanded to over 50 television appearances two years later. Nielsen appeared in his first films in 1956 and began collecting roles in dramas, westerns, and romance films. Nielsen's lead roles in the science fiction film Forbidden Planet (1956) and disaster movie The Poseidon Adventure (1972) for which he received positive reviews as a serious actor.
Although his acting career crossed a variety of genres in both television and films, Nielsen's deadpan delivery as a doctor in 1980's Airplane! marked a turning point in his career, one that would make him, in the words of film critic Roger Ebert, "the Olivier of spoofs." Nielsen enjoyed further success with The Naked Gun and its sequels, based on a brief television series he starred in. His portrayal of serious characters seemingly oblivious to (and complicit in) their absurd surroundings gave him a reputation as a comedian.
In the last decades of his career, Nielsen appeared in multiple spoof and parody films, many of which were met poorly by critics but performed well in box office and home media releases. Nielsen was recognized with a variety of awards throughout his career and was inducted into both the Canada and Hollywood Walk of Fame. He married four times and had two daughters from his second marriage. On November 28, 2010, Nielsen died in his sleep of complications from pneumonia.