Paul Gleason, who frequently played figures of authority in his four decades-long television and film career, died Saturday from a form of lung cancer linked to asbestos exposure. The actor, fondly remembered as Principal Richard Vernon in 1985’s "The Breakfast Club," was 67 years old.
Gleason was born in New Jersey in 1939, played college football and minor league baseball in the 1950s, and studied acting under famed coach Lee Strasberg. His acting career ranged from Broadway stints in the 70s before launching into television and film roles, many of which utilized his austere countenance (often to comic effect) in roles as authority figures (high school principals, countless police detectives, military officers, judges and deans).
In recent years Gleason’s TV guest star credits included roles on "George Lopez," "Malcolm in the Middle," and "Cold Case," while he appeared on the big screen in "Van Wilder," "Not Another Teen Movie," and "Abominable." He made other memorable appearances as Deputy Police Chief Robinson in "Die Hard" and Clarence Beeks in "Trading Places," although most remember him best as Judd Nelson’s stuck-at-school-on-a-Saturday principal archnemesis in "The Breakfast Club."
Gleason had been diagnosed with mesothelioma only last month, although he’s believed to have developed it from asbestos exposure in his youth.