Paul Gleason, who played the go-to bad guy in "Trading Places" and the angry high school principal in "The Breakfast Club," has died. He was 62.

Gleason died at a local hospital Saturday of mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer linked to asbestos, said his wife, Susan Gleason.

"Whenever you were with Paul, there was never a dull moment," his wife said. "He was awesome."

A native of Miami, Gleason was an avid athlete. Before becoming an actor, he played Triple-A minor league baseball for a handful of clubs in the late 1950s.

Gleason honed his acting skills with his mentor Lee Strasberg, whom he studied with at the Actors Studio beginning in the mid-1960s, family members said.

Through his career, Gleason appeared in over 60 movies that included "Die Hard," "Johnny Be Good," and "National Lampoon's Van Wilder." Most recently, Gleason made a handful of television appearances in hit shows such as "Friends" and "Seinfeld."

Gleason's passions went beyond acting. He had recently published a book of poetry.

"He was an athlete, an actor and a poet," said his daughter, Shannon Gleason-Grossman. "He gave me and my sister a love that is beyond description that will be with us and keep us strong for the rest of our lives."

Actor Jimmy Hawkins, a friend of Gleason's since the 1960s, said he remembered Gleason for a sharp sense of humor.

"He just always had great stories to tell," Hawkins said.

Gleason was survived by his wife, two daughters and a granddaughter. Funeral plans were pending.