Obituary: Ed Asner – Actor (91)

He cornered the market on gruff guys with hearts of gold on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Lou Grant,” and on stage.

29 August 2021 | Kristen Lopez | IndieWire | includes additional photos, articles and video

Ed Asner, who cornered the market on gruff guys with hearts of gold on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Lou Grant,” and the Disney/Pixar animated feature “Up,” has died at the age of 91. He passed away peacefully on Sunday morning, as a representative confirmed to IndieWire.

“He was a brilliant actor. Amazing activist, a true friend, and great man,” said Asner’s manager Perry Zimel.

Asner had a long and prolific career in film and television, boasting the distinction of being the most honored male performer in Primetime Emmys history. He was nominated 17 times throughout his career, winning seven trophies in total. He was also nominated 11 times for Golden Globes, winning five.

MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, Ed Asner, Ted Knight, 1970-1977

Edward Asner was born in Kansas City, Missouri on November 15, 1929. He attended the University of Chicago after high school and worked the assembly line at General Motors for a time before serving in the U.S. Army Signal Corps. During his time with the Army in Europe, Asner would perform in plays. After his military service he helped found the Playwrights Theatre Company in Chicago (they would eventually become the Compass Players in the mid-1950s).

He start dabbling with comedy groups like Second City before getting his first Broadway role opposite Jack Lemmon in “Face of a Hero” in 1960. He made his television debut around the same time, in an episode of the anthology series “Studio One.” He made memorable appearances in the early ’60s on shows like “The Outer Limits” and “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea,” and in 1962 he’d make his film debut in an uncredited role in the Elvis Presley feature “Kid Galahad.”

Photo: Edward Asner (centre; as Lou Grant), with Ted Knight (left; as Ted Baxter) and Mary Tyler Moore (as Mary Richards) in a scene from the last episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.CBS

Asner appeared in numerous television shows throughout the decade, and with the arrival of the 1970s came the role that would make him a household name. In 1970 he’d debut as Lou Grant, news director of fictional television station WJM-TV, on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Grant was a grumpy and gruff boss whose outer exterior belied a kind and welcoming nature. Asner would appear on the series through 1977 before getting his own spin-off, “Lou Grant,” from 1977 to 1982. Asner would hold the distinction for playing the same character in both a comedy and a drama series, and was nominated for an Emmy nearly every season the show was on.

He also received an Emmy around the same time for playing the morally conflicted captain on the adaptation of the 1977 television show “Roots,” which he would follow up with another award-winning performance in “Rich Man, Poor Man.”

Asner, whose gruff tone was immediately identifiable, was also well-known as a voice performer. He voiced roles on the animated “Spider-Man” cartoon, “Captain Planet,” “Gargoyles,” and various “Star Wars” shows. Children today know him for his Lou Grant-esque role in “Up.”

In recent years, the actor hadn’t slowed down his work pace; in 2018 he was cast in the Christina Applegate-led dark comedy “Dead to Me” on Netflix. Asner voiced Carl in Pixar’s five-episode spinoff series of shorts, “Dug Days,” streaming September 1 on Disney+.

Offscreen, Asner also served two terms as the president of the Screen Actors Guild during the 1980s and was vocal about the number of political causes he supported; he described himself in 2017 as an “old lefty.” Asner maintained that the cancellation of “Lou Grant” was due to his personal politics than anything else. Asner was on the board of directors for The Survivor Mitzvah Project, providing emergency aid to elderly and impoverished Holocaust survivors in Europe, as well as a member of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and Humane Borders. He was also a fervent supporter of Autism Speaks.

He is survived by his four children, and grandchildren.

Additional reporting by Ryan Lattanzio.

‘Lou Grant’: Ed Asner Said He Had ‘No Idea’ His Character Would Become Iconic

Katie Maloney March 28, 2021

All Ed Asner knew was that Lou Grant was “one of the most exciting characters,” he’d been offered in Hollywood.

Lou Grant was a spin-off series from The Mary Tyler Moore Show that aired from 1977-1982. The show followed Lou Grant who loses his job at WJM-TV in Minneapolis. So, he relocates to Los Angeles and takes a job as editor of the city newspaper. The show quickly soared in popularity. During a 2009 interview, Ed Asner shared that he never knew viewers would receive the show so enthusiastically.

“I had no idea,” said Asner.  “All I knew was the character I was asked to play was one of the most exciting characters I had been offered in the nine years I had been in Hollywood.”

Asner added that he didn’t even care if the network canceled the show. He was just happy to land a role on what he viewed as high-quality television.

“As I saw succeeding scripts, I was delighted by their craftsmanship and their humor,” said Asner. “I thought it didn’t matter if they canceled us after the first thirteen or not.  I will at least have had this opportunity to do this type of quality.”

Ed Asner won five Primetime Emmy Awards for his portrayal of Lou. Three Emmys were for The Mary Tyler Moore Show and two were for Lou Grant. Additionally, Bravo ranked Lou 35th on their list of the 100 greatest TV characters.Intro for Lou Grant

Ed Asner Starred as Lead Voice for Pixar’s Up

Ed Asner won seven Emmys, five Golden Globes, served as president of the Screen Actors Guild, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. However, a new generation knows Asner for an entirely different project, Pixar’s 2009 animated fantasy Up. Asner voiced the lead role of crotchety Carl Fredrickson. During the movie, Fredrickson, after losing his wife, decides to use the balloons from his business to lift his home to the sky and travel the world. After finally floating into the sky, Fredrickson realizes that the little neighborhood boy inadvertently stowed himself away in the floating home. Although it’s technically a movie for kids, Up beautifully depicts adult themes such as love, loss, and transitional stages of life. During the same 2009 interview, Asner talked about the movie.

“I think it’s one of the sweetest movies to come down the pike,” said Asner. “I suppose if it gets attacked, it may get attacked for being sentimental.  But I think people will be very nicely touched by it. It’s a love story between an old man and a little kid.”

Asner joked about what it was like to switch from movie acting to voicing characters for cartoons.

“Well, you don’t have to shave,” he joked. “It’s quick. And I get enormous pleasure out of it.”

Ed Asner, Seven-Time Emmy Winner and TV’s Lou Grant, Dies at 91

Ed Asner has died at the age of 91
(© David Gordon)

The Broadway veteran was last seen on the New York stage in Craig Wright’s 2012 play Grace.

Author David Gordon August 29, 2021 TheaterMania

Edward Asner, the legendary seven-time Emmy-winning actor, has died at the age of 91.

Born in Kansas City, MI, and raised in an Orthodox Jewish family, Asner began his acting career while a member of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, appearing in plays that toured camps throughout Europe. He moved to New York City in the 1950s to pursue an acting career, making his Broadway debut as Peachum in the 1955 revival of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s Threepenny Opera at Christopher Street’s Theatre de Lys (now the Lucille Lortel). In 1960, he starred in the short-lived Broadway play, Face of a Hero.

In 1970, following a series of guest spots on television shows including The Outlaws and Mission: Impossible, Asner landed the role of television producer Lou Grant on the sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

When that series went off the air in 1977, he was given a spin-off, the hour-long drama Lou Grant. Asner received five Emmys for his performance as that character and, in doing so, became the only actor to win the Emmy for the same role in both a sitcom and a drama. (He also received an Emmy Award for his performance as Captain Davis in the acclaimed miniseries Roots and another for a guest appearance on the series Rich Man, Poor Man).

Asner has worked extensively in television and film, also appearing in guest spots on The PracticeThe X-FilesTouched by an AngelCurb Your EnthusiasmCSI: NYHawaii Five-O, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, to name a few. On the silver screen, he has appeared as Santa Claus in the comedy Elf and Guy Banister in Oliver Stone’s JFK.

He also voiced for the role of cantankerous Carl Fredricksen in the acclaimed Pixar film Up. Asner returned to Broadway in a 1989 revival of the Garson Kanin comedy Born Yesterday, and frequently toured the country as former president Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the bio-play FDR, based on the play Sunrise at Campobello.

A longtime political and social activist, Asner served two terms as president of the Screen Actors Guild. He was also a member of the Campaign for Peace and Democracy, the Democratic Socialists of America, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Asner was an advisor to the Rosenberg Fund for Children and a board member of the Defenders of Wildlife organization.

After an absence of over two decades, Asner returned to Broadway in October 2012 to play Karl, a good-natured German insect exterminator in Craig Wright’s Grace, opposite Paul Rudd, Michael Shannon, and Kate Arrington. In an interview with TheaterMania, he described what the Broadway — and general entertainment industry experience — was like decades after his career got started:

“I find that there are a lot of leaks in the dike now. Cheap is the answer and it’s not just here, it’s the same wherever you are in showbiz, film or stage. Cheap is the executive word. Frailty is what exists everywhere. Keep the juggernaut going no matter what, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. And I suppose behind that is the idea of fear. There is a lot more fear now in the business. Years ago, I said ‘Who gives a f**k? I’ll stay in my bailiwick and I’ll cut my piece of cheese.’ There seems to be a lot more fear now about even getting your piece of cheese. Also, when I started out, you had to apologize for being an actor. Now, with the conditions of society, the field is so filled with actors and wannabes that it must be one of the leading occupations.”

“Words cannot express the sadness we feel,” Asner family said in a tweet from his account. “With a kiss on your head- Goodnight dad. We love you.”


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