David Zucker (director)

David S. Zucker (born October 16, 1947) is an American film director, producer, and screenwriter. Associated mostly with parody comedies, Zucker is recognized as the director and writer of the critically successful 1980 film Airplane! as well as being the creator of The Naked Gun franchise and for directing Scary Movie 3 and Scary Movie 4.

David Zucker
Born (1947-10-16) October 16, 1947
OccupationFilm director, film producer, screenwriter
Years active1976–present
Spouse(s)Danielle Ardolino (1997–present; 2 children)
FamilyJerry Zucker (brother)

Personal life

Zucker was born to a Jewish family[1] in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the son of Charlotte A. (Lefstein) and Burton C. Zucker, who was a real estate developer.[2][3] He graduated from Shorewood High School.[4] In 1997, Zucker married Dr. Danielle (Ardolino) Zucker, with whom he has two children, Charles and Sarah.[5] His younger brother, Jerry, is his filmmaking partner. The Zucker brothers have a sister, Susan Breslau.

When asked in a September 2014 interview by the BBC if he believes in God, Zucker replied:

Oh yeah, I believe in God. I think there's much more evidence that there is a God than that there isn't. I don't believe that Mother Teresa and Hitler go to the same place. I believe in justice, maybe not in this life, but there has to be justice. And if there isn't a God, I think it would be very depressing. I'd prefer to believe there is.[6]


Zucker's movies include The Kentucky Fried Movie in 1977, Ruthless People in 1986, The Naked Gun in 1988, The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear in 1991, BASEketball in 1998, Scary Movie 3 in 2003, and its sequel Scary Movie 4 in 2006. Out of 18 works he is associated with, Phone Booth, which he produced in 2002, is the only non-comedic film.

He co-directed several films including Airplane! in 1980 and Top Secret! in 1984; along with his brother, Jerry, and Jim Abrahams, the trio make up the ZAZ team of directors. He has also worked with Pat Proft (with whom he first teamed up on the Naked Gun show Police Squad!) and Craig Mazin (writer of three of the five Scary Movies).

ZAZ and Proft helped develop the parody genre of films, in which jokes are spit out with rapid-fire, using puns, physical humor, wit, and double entendres. Some of the veteran actors of ZAZ's vision of parody include Leslie Nielsen, Lloyd Bridges, Charlie Sheen, Julie Hagerty, and Anna Faris (Faris starred in four of the Scary Movie series).

Looking back on his career in 2009, Leslie Nielsen said the best film he appeared in was The Naked Gun, and that Zucker was his favorite director to work with. Nielsen said of him, "He came to me one time and said, 'Leslie, I'll never make you do anything that is not funny.' And he kept his word."[7] Most consider his greatest work to be Airplane!, which has brought on many accolades (including preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress).

In his movies, his mother, Charlotte was often cast in a small bit part (like the lady trying to put on make-up in Airplane!, one of the Lucille Ball impersonators in Rat Race, and Vincent Ludwig's secretary, Dominique, in The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!).

Zucker has stated that his dream project is a Davy Crockett biographical film. He mentioned his enthusiasm for the Davy Crockett project during an interview in 2006 for the feature-length documentary, That Guy: The Legacy of Dub Taylor,[8] on the life of Dub Taylor, which has received support from the Taylor Family and many of Dub's previous co-workers, including Bill Cosby, Peter Fonda, Dixie Carter, Don Collier, Cheryl Rogers-Barnett, as well as others. The project had its World Premiere at Taylor's Childhood Hometown of Augusta, Georgia on April 14, 2007. The project is from Executive Producers Stokes and James Kicklighter from JamesWorks Entertainment and Professor Pauper Productions. Part of his interview is on YouTube.[9]

Zucker began to focus more on politics starting in 2004 when he began working on political ads for the Republican Party.[10] In 2008, he made the political parody movie An American Carol.[11] In 2015, he made a video he called Side Effects attacking President Barack Obama for the Iran nuclear deal in the form of a parody prescription drug ad.[12][13]

In 2017, Zucker said that he was working on a script for a fourth Naked Gun film with Pat Proft.[14]

Recurring cast members

Among all of his directed and/or produced parody films, Zucker had frequently cast the late Leslie Nielsen.

Actor Airplane!
Ruthless People
Naked Gun: From
the Files of
Police Squad!

The Naked Gun
2½: The
Smell of Fear

My Boss'

Scary Movie 3
Scary Movie 4
An American

Anthony Anderson N N
Carmen Electra N N
Anna Faris N N
Regina Hall N N
Kevin Hart N N
George Kennedy N N
Michael Madsen N N
Jenny McCarthy N N
Edward Moss N N N
Leslie Nielsen N N N N N N
Priscilla Presley N N
Bill Pullman N N
Simon Rex N N N
Molly Shannon N N
Charlie Sheen N N
O. J. Simpson N N
Ed Williams N N



Year Title Functioned as Notes
Director Writer Producer Actor Role
1977 The Kentucky Fried Movie No Yes No Yes Man / Technician #2 / Grunwald
1980 Airplane! Yes Yes Executive Yes Ground Crewman #2
1984 Top Secret! Yes Yes Executive Yes German Soldier in Prop Room
1986 Ruthless People Yes No No No
1988 The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! Yes Yes Executive No
1991 The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear Yes Yes No Yes Davy Crockett
1992 Brain Donors No No Executive No
1993 For Goodness Sake Yes Yes Yes No Short
1994 Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult No Yes Yes Yes Teleprompter Guy
1995 A Walk in the Clouds No No Yes No
Your Studio and You No No No Yes Himself Short
1996 High School High No Yes Yes No
For Goodness Sake II No No Executive No Short
1998 BASEketball Yes Yes Yes Yes Man with Shooting Hot Dog Also executive music producer
2002 Phone Booth No No Yes No
2003 My Boss's Daughter Yes No No No Also wrote early draft screenplay
Scary Movie 3 Yes No No No
2006 Scary Movie 4 Yes No No Yes Zoltar (voice)
2008 The Onion Movie No No Yes No
Superhero Movie No No Yes No
An American Carol Yes Yes Yes No
2013 Scary Movie 5 No Yes Yes Yes Packer Fan Also assistant director / reshoots
TBA Spaghetti Versus Noodle No Yes No No
Other credits
Year Title Role
2019 MOSSAD! Creative consultant


Year Title Functioned as Notes
Director Writer Producer Actor Role
1972 The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson No No No Yes Performer TV Series; part as Kentucky Fried Theatre in one episode
1974 The Midnight Special No No No Yes Performer TV Series; part as Kentucky Fried Theatre in one episode
1982 Police Squad! Yes Yes Executive No Creator TV Series, 6 episodes (director and writer pilot)
1987 Our Planet Tonight No No Executive No TV Movie
2000 H.U.D. Yes Yes No No TV Movie
Absolutely True No No Executive No TV Series
2019 Late Night Berlin No No Creative No Episode 'Folge 42'



  1. Desser, David; Friedman, Lester D. American Jewish Filmmakers. p. 166. ISBN 9780252071539.
  2. "David Zucker Biography (1947-)". www.filmreference.com.
  3. "Charlotte A. Zucker's Obituary on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  4. "25 years and still laughing: 'Airplane!' maintains its cruising altitude with a non-stop zany attitude" Archived April 30, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, June 11, 2005. Accessed September 17, 2007. "The event is in honor of the volunteer service and philanthropy of Louise Abrahams Yaffe and her son Jim Abrahams, who wrote and directed "Airplane!" with fellow Shorewood High School and University of Wisconsin–Madison graduates David and Jerry Zucker."
  5. Stein, Jeannine (August 27, 1997). "Home Weddings Add a Touch of the Heart". Los Angeles Times.
  6. Hennigan, Adam. "Calling the Shots: No.11: David Zucker". BBC. Retrieved March 23, 2017.
  7. McEvoy, Colin (March 28, 2009). "Leslie Nielsen here? Surely you jest! MOVIE STAR SITS DOWN with students to kick off DeSales festival. And don't call him Shirley". The Express-Times. p. A1.
  8. "That Guy: The Legacy of Dub Taylor". Archived from the original on September 29, 2007.
  9. Behind the Scenes of "That Guy: The Legacy of Dub Taylor" on YouTube
  10. Ballon, Marc (October 5, 2006). "Comedy director David Zucker goes to GOP? You can't be serious!". Jewish Journal. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
  11. Corliss, Richard. "Top 10 Worst Christmas Movies" via entertainment.time.com.
  12. "Airplane! Director's Attempt to Satirize Iran Deal Is Laughably Bad". www.mediaite.com.
  13. "Director David Zucker Targets 'Idiotic' Iran Deal With Satire". September 18, 2015.
  14. Skubish, Jake (March 30, 2017). "Director David Zucker talks "Airplane!", comedy, getting his start on campus". Daily Cardinal. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
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