“Airplane!”: Ted Striker fights his fear of flying – and David Letterman has a good laugh
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“The Incredible Journey in a Crazy Airplane” (more concise in the original: “Airplane!”) is one of the most beloved comedy classics in cinema. Five gags a minute and one nonsense follows the next.
The insane parody of disaster films almost had a prominent television star as the main character, but he was still on the cusp of his big career at the time: David Letterman. He applied for the role of the pilot with a fear of flying, which Robert Hays later filled brilliantly.
The now 76-year-old Letterman, who has long since retired from television, is sure that he would have ruined the film if he had become Ted Striker. According to Entertainment Weekly, this can be found in the recently published book “Surely You Can’t Be Serious: The True History of Airplane!”, which contains the final truths about the first hit of the creative trio ZAZ (David Zucker, Jim Abraham and Jerry sugar) revealed.
Accordingly, the late-night talker, who at the time appeared frequently on the “Tonight Show” but was still a long way from his later fame, quickly realized that acting wasn’t working out at all (despite supporting roles in the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Mark And Mindy”).
Letterman already failed because of a chair scene
“I went out there and they had set up a cockpit for the plane with chairs,” Letterman recalled. “I had a chair and there was another chair where the co-pilot would sit. We shot the scene once, then they came in and gave me a few notes about what I could do better, and then we did it maybe two more times. And I kept saying, ‘I can’t act, I can’t act, I can’t act,’ and then one of them came to me after the audition and said, ‘You’re right: you can’t act!'”
Letterman then found something else to do: just a few days after “The Incredible Journey in a Crazy Plane” was released in theaters in the summer of 1980, NBC launched the “David Letterman Show.” It was only on air for three months, but won two Emmys. His “Late Night With David Letterman” premiered in February 1982, which was quickly received with enthusiasm.