Paramount wants Liam Neeson to bring his skills to a Naked Gun remake

Liam Neeson, Leslie Nielsen
Liam Neeson, Leslie Nielsen

Our endless reboot cycle has finally come for the comedies of Leslie Nielsen. No, they haven’t touched Airplane! just yet, but earlier today, Deadline reported that Paramount gave the go-ahead to Seth MacFarlane to produce a Naked Gun remake. Not a lot of good news in that sentence. However, the other two names in the report are on the money: Liam Neeson and Akiva Schafer.

Obviously, no one can replace Leslie Neilson. There is simply no better straight man for the whacky worlds that Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker created. He could make opening a door funny by playing it as seriously as a heart attack, and that’s due to his dramatic background. Prior to Airplane!, Nielsen was a dramatic actor appearing in Forbidden Planet and The Poseidon Adventure with a straight face. If MacFarlane wants to recreate the magic of Frank Drebin, an actor as dramatic as Neeson would be kind of perfect.

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A star of action movies where he has to save his daughter from a gang of terrorists, Neeson has reformated himself over the last 20 years as an action star with a particular set of skills. His stern jaw, piercing eyes, and massive frame make him an intimidating figure, which is what makes it all the better when he does comedy.

Neeson went viral in the late 2000s with a scene on the Ricky Gervais-Stephen Merchant-Warwick Davis comedy Life’s Too Short. Attempting to prove his adeptness at different forms of comedy, Neeson forces some improvisation on Gervais, Merchant, and Davis while refusing to go along with the reality of the scene and forcing intensity to where laughs should be. Life Too Short never lives up to how good the scene is, and it’s because Neeson’s deadpan is so consistent. He creates a heavy atmosphere but not one that weighs down the humor. Neeson doesn’t give the joke away. He commits totally to the humorless man who yearns for laughs.

Improvisational Comedy

Akiva Schafer is a much more straight-ahead pick for the director. As a member of the Lonely Island, he’s directed some of the best and silliest comedies of the last 20 years, including Hot Rod and Popstar. Earlier this year, he directed Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers, which everyone who saw it agreed was way better than it needed to be. Schaffer also wrote the screenplay for Naked Gun with Chip ’n Dale writers Dan Gregor and Doug Mand.

Deadline says Neeson is still in talks for the movie, but if that’s the direction they’re going in, dare we say, we’re cautiously optimistic.