Ed Asner

Ed Asner

actor, producer

Born November 15, 1929 in Kansas City, Missouri, USA

Ed Asner is a television legend, as well as being one of the most outstanding and most respected actors of his generation, equally adept at comedy as he is at drama. He made a name for himself as a trade unionist and a political activist, as well, and served two terms as president of the Screen Actors Guild, from 1981-1985; during which he criticized former SAG President Ronald Reagan, then the president of a greater concern, for his Central American policy. Eddie Asner was born of Russian Jewish parentage in Kansas City, to Morris David Asner (founder and owner of the Kansas City-based Asner Iron & Metal Company) and his wife Elizabeth "Lizzie" (Seliger). After attending college, Ed worked various jobs, including in a steel mill, as a door-to-door salesman and on an assembly line for General Motors. Between 1947 and 1949, he attended the University of Chicago. The onset of the Korean War saw him drafted into the U.S. Army Signals Corps and posted to France where he was primarily assigned clerical tasks. Upon demobilization, Asner joined the Playwrights Theatre Company in Chicago but soon progressed to New York. In 1955, he appeared off-Broadway in the leading role of the beggar king Jonathan Peachum in Brecht's Threepenny Opera. Five years later, he made his debut on the Great White Way in the courtroom drama Face of a Hero, co-starring alongside Jack Lemmon. He also began regular TV work in anthology drama. From the early '60s, Asner, now based in California, earned his living as a busy supporting actor. His many noted guest appearances included turns in Route 66 (1960), The Untouchables (1959), The Fugitive (1963), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1964) (sinister dictator-in-exile Brynov), The Invaders (1967) (twice -- as aliens) and How the Ghosts Stole Christmas (1998) (one of a couple of ghostly residents in a haunted mansion). Heavy-set and distinctively gravelly-voiced, Asner established his reputation as tough, robust and uncompromising (though, on occasion, good-hearted) authority figures. Excellent at conveying menace, he was memorably cast as the brutish patriarch Axel Jordache in Rich Man, Poor Man (1976) and as the slave ship's morally conflicted master, Captain Thomas Davies, in Roots (1977), which earned him a Primetime Emmy Award in 1977. The immensely prolific Asner (417 IMDB screen credits!) would receive seven Emmys in total (from 21 nominations), all Primetime, and become the only actor to win in both the comedy and drama category for the same role. That was also the part which made Asner a household name: the gruff, snarky newspaper editor Lou Grant (1977). Grant began as a mainstay on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970), a 30-minute sitcom. When the character was promoted to West Coast editor of The Los Angeles Tribune, Asner went on to star in his own much acclaimed drama series. Despite consistently high ratings, the show was axed after five seasons amid rumours of disharmony between the star and producers, possibly due to the former's outspoken political views. Indeed, Asner has been a controversial figure as an activist and campaigner, engaged in a variety of humanitarian and political issues. A self-proclaimed liberal Democrat, he published a book in 2017, amusingly titled "The Grouchy Historian: An Old-Time Lefty Defends Our Constitution Against Right-Wing Hypocrites and Nutjobs." Between 1981 and 1985, Asner served twice as President of the Screen Actors Guild. In 1996, he was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame and in 2002 received the Screen Actors Guild's Life Achievement Award. In addition to appearing on screen and stage, he performed extensive work for radio, video games and animated TV series. He voiced the lead character Carl Fredricksen in Pixar's Oscar-winning production of Up (2009), starred as Santa in Elf (2003), and played Nicholas Drago in The Games Maker (2014). Ed passed away in Los Angeles at the age of 91 on August 29, 2021.

Golden GlobeBest Actor in a Television Series - Drama Lou Grant Season 1 (1980)

Connections

  • James L. Brooks

    James L. Brooks

  • Gavin MacLeod

    Gavin MacLeod

  • Mary Tyler Moore

    Mary Tyler Moore

  • Valerie Harper

    Valerie Harper

  • Ted Knight

    Ted Knight

Genres

  • Thriller
  • Action & Adventure
  • Comedy
  • Horror
  • Western
  • Military & War
  • Fantasy
  • Drama
  • Romance
  • Children & Family