Tribute: Paul 'Principal Vernon' Gleason | EW.com

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Tribute: Paul 'Principal Vernon' Gleason

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152745__club_lThis is how most of us remember Paul Gleason, who died of lung cancer over the weekend. Hollywood will remember him as a working actor, with more than 130 TV and film credits to his name.

A Lee Strasberg vet, Gleason was a character actor who specialized in prigs, pricks, and prickly authority figures. He was the stiff-necked police lieutenant who didn’t want to help Bruce Willis in Die Hard – and got mercilessly dressed down for it by the hero. He was memorably violated by a gorilla in Trading Places. And that, for good or for ill, was how we liked him: suffering for the sins of all the faceless autocrats whose boots we’ve felt in our backsides since elementary school.

But Gleason gave his pricks depth, pathos, even a secret humility, as in The Breakfast Club. Who can forget the frightened, flummoxed look on Principal Richard Vernon’s face after his epic battle with Bender (Judd Nelson), where he pretends not to hear the parting “F— you!”? Who can forget his pathetic and terrifying invitation to “take one good swing”?

And the guy had the style to reprise those roles in parody, too, time and again. Sure, they were near-parodies already, but he made them iconic and indelible.

So knock one back on a school night for a working actor of the old school. We messed with the bull, we got the horns, and we’ll miss that.

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