Released in 1988, The Naked Gun is a crime comedy film created by David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker (ZAZ). The movie is based on their short-lived television series Police Squad! The film follows Detective Frank Drebin as he attempts to stop the assassination of Queen Elizabeth II. The Naked Gun is considered one of the most iconic comedy films to grace the silver screen and we have all the behind-the-scenes goodies about the movie.
There Was No Shortage Of Takes For Comedy Perfection
The Naked Gun was written by Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and David Zucker, otherwise known as ZAZ. Although they were gifted writers, they felt that true comedy could only be achieved through countless takes, which sometimes meant more than 40!
In an interview with Smash, George Kennedy recalled that although he loved working with everyone, repeating the same joke dozens of times in front of the camera could be exhausting, although it proved to work in the end.
Choosing The Name Took A Long Time
Picking the name for the film proved to be a lengthy process. Initially, the movie was going to be called Police Squad, but Paramount Pictures thought that it was too similar to Police Academy, which had been released four years earlier.
So, out of a list of 20 options, the title Naked Gun was chosen. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Jerry Zucker explained that this title was chosen because “it promised so much more than it could ever possibly deliver.”
A Line Was Essentially Copied From Dirty Harry
By the time The Naked Gun hit theaters, most audiences were familiar with the cop films Dirty Harry, starring Clint Eastwood. In The Naked Gun, there’s a scene when Drebin approaches the police commissioner, stating: “When I see five weirdos dressed in togas stabbing a guy in the middle of the park… I shoot the [expletive], that’s my policy.”
This is almost identical to the line in 1971’s Dirty Harry when Eastwood says, “when an adult male is chasing a female with intent to commit [assault], I shoot the [expletive], that’s my policy.”
Ricardo Montalbán Was Cast For His Experience As A Villain
When casting for the German villain Vincent Ludwig, ZAZ knew that they wanted the actor to be the perfect fit. So, they did their research to see who some of their favorite villains in the past had been.
Their consensus was that they wanted Mexican actor Ricardo Montalbán to play Vincent Ludwig after seeing him play Khan in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. To this day, his portrayal of Khan is considered the greatest villain in the Star Trek franchise.
One Joke Was Removed On Request Of Ricardo Montalbán
The Naked Gun’s humor is nothing short of absurd, but one of the jokes in the original script took things too far in the eyes of Ricardo Montalbán. Initially, the hospital in the film was supposed to be called “Our Lady Who Never Got The Pickle.”
Yet, Ricardo Montalbán, who was a devout Roman Catholic thought this was blasphemous and requested that it not be included in the film. Out of respect for the actor, the joke was never added.
The Actress That Played Queen Elizabeth Was A Professional Impersonator
Jeanette Charles was a professional Queen Elizabeth II impersonator whose career began after an artist painted a portrait for her husband and commented how similar she looked to the queen.
Charles would then go on to appear as Queen Elizabeth II in several TV shows and films including European Vacation and Austin Powers in Goldmember. However, she had a line that she didn’t cross, as she turned down a role in Ali G Indahouse because she thought it was too disrespectful.
Mel Brooks Made A Special Contribution
While ZAZ may have been known as a great team of comedy writers in the industry, few at the time could stand up to the success of Mel Brooks. Nevertheless, on top of being a fan of The Naked Gun, Brooks also made a contribution, that turned into one of the most memorable gags of the film.
He suggested that Frank Drebin be hit in the head with the baseball bat while undercover as a Major League umpire, and the joke turned out to be a hit, literally.
The Baseball Game Was Filmed In The Wrong Stadium
The climax of the film takes place during a Los Angeles baseball game. Yet, baseball fans may have noticed something odd about the sequence. The scene was actually shot at Los Angeles Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers are the real-life rivals of the Los Angeles Angels.
Although the stadium had once been home to the Angels, it became home to the Dodgers in 1965 and was the only stadium available for use during the time of filming.
Priscilla Presley Had No Experience In Comedy
When it came to casting the character of Jane Spencer, the primary female in the film, the writers decided to do something different. Instead of casting an actress that audiences would know and associate with comedy, they did the opposite.
They chose Priscilla Presley, who had no experience in comedy films. ZAZ assumed this would make the character more unpredictable and, therefore, more impactful than someone that had already established themselves as a comedy actress.
It Was John Houseman’s Final Film Role
In the film, John Houseman plays the irritated driving instructor, which turned out to be his last film role after an impressive career. In his earlier years, Houseman had worked on the infamous War of the World’s broadcast with Orson Welles, as well as on Citizen Kane.
He was also a respected actor, winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Paper Chase in 1974. Just one week before The Naked Gun was released, he was also in a cameo in Scrooged.
The Movie’s Theme Song Was Played At Leslie Nielsen’s Funeral
After a long and successful career, Leslie Nielsen passed away in 2010 at the age of 84. Over the years, he had more than 250 credits in television and film and established himself as one of the greatest comedy actors of his time.
For one last laugh, in an appropriate fashion, the Naked Gun theme song was played at Nielsen’s funeral with the Canadian Mountain Police carrying his coffin. Even his gravestone had humor. Neilsen’s tombstone reads: “Leslie Nielsen, Feb 11 1926 – Nov 28 2010 – ‘Let ‘er rip.'”
A Special Cameo By The Zucker’s Mother
There are an impressive amount of well-known celebrities that have cameos in The Naked Gun, ranging from Weird Al Yankovic to the numerous professional baseball players and umpires featured at the Angels game.
However, there is one cameo that most audiences most likely missed because it was rather subtle but very special to two film’s creators. The actress who plays Vincent Ludwig’s secretary, Dominique. Is played by Charlotte Zucker, the mother of writers Peter and David Zucker.
Bo Derek Was The First Choice For Jane Spencer
Prior to casting Priscilla Presley as Jane Spencer, the studio had their eyes on Bo Derek, who was their first choice. After 1979’s 10, Bo Derek was one of the biggest names in Hollywood, however, she fell on hard times during in the late 1980s.
During those years, the films that she was in focused mainly on her sexual appeal with movies such as Fantasies, Tarzan the Ape Man, and Bolero turning out to be flops.
The Studio Insisted They Featured An Oscar-Winning Actor
Although there was no shortage of talent in the film, the studio pressured the Naked Gun producers to cast an Oscar-winning actor to give the film some credibility. This ended up being George Kennedy as Captain Ed Hocken.
This worked out since Kennedy wanted to work with the Zuckers for some time and was still disappointed that he wasn’t included in their movie Airplane! The decision ended up making everyone happy, and Kennedy was perfect for the role.
A Cameo By Weird Al Yankovic
Musician/singer Weird Al Yankovic was a known superfan of the TV series Police Squad!, which the film was largely based on. When the writers heard about his love of the show, they did something nice and included him in a cameo in the film.
Of course, Weird Al was thrilled about his cameo, and would supposedly take his dates to see the movie in hopes they would recognize him. He would even wear the same Hawaiian shirt he did in the movie.
It Led To Two Sequels
Making $140 million off an $11 million budget, The Naked Gun was a smashing success, and the studios weren’t going to pass up the opportunity to make even more money.
Two sequels then followed which were The Naked Gun 2 1⁄2: The Smell of Fear in 1991 and The Naked Gun 33 1⁄3: The Final Insult in 1994. Altogether, The Naked Gun trilogy made more than $400 million at the worldwide box office with rumors of another film in the works.
It’s Been Named One Of The Greatest Comedies Of All Time
Besides its success at the box office, The Naked Gun has also been considered one of the greatest comedy films ever made. In a poll by Empire magazine in 2016, it was listed as the 7th funniest comedy film ever made and was ranked at No.14 on Channel 4’s list too.
Furthermore, The New York Times named it one of the 10000 greatest films ever made in 2003, and the movie has an impressive rating of 88% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Some Of The Television Characters Were Re-Cast For The Films
Although most of the characters remained the same and the actors that played them, some of the character’s actors from the TV show were re-cast for the films. This included O.J. Simpson, who replaced Peter Lupus as Nordberg, and George Kennedy, who replaced Alan North as Ed Hocken.
Leslie Nielsen, Ed Williams, and Tiny Ron were the only main actors who kept their same roles for both television and the films. The changes worked and the chemistry between all of the film’s actors is undeniable.
A Nod To Monty Python
The Naked Gun has references to several films throughout its run time, yet there is one in particular that tips its hat to fans of Monty Python. This is the scene when Frank Drebin goes to the toilet at the baseball game where he encounters a fat man and slaps him.
This is a direct ode to a Monty Python sketch in The Meaning of Life when an obese man eats so much that he explodes. The man in the film is even wearing the same clothes and has his hair styled identically to the man in the Monty Python sketch.
1988 Was The Year Of The Steamroller
Very appropriately, the villain in The Naked Gun is finally defeated in one of the most overkill fashions, which consists of him being run over by a bus, a steamroller, and finally the USC Trojan Marching Band.
Yet, the villain being run over by a steamroller would turn out to not be all that original. In 1988, The Naked Gun was one of three films to take out the villain in this manner along with Who Framed Roger Rabbit and A Fish Called Wanda.