The legendary actor Ed Asner died on Sunday morning at 91, his family announced. His death began a period of mourning in Hollywood and around the world as fans and his colleagues remembered his unparalleled contribution to film and television. Many also praised the Lou Grant star for his activism and philanthropy.
“We are sorry to say that our beloved patriarch passed away this morning peacefully. Words cannot express the sadness we feel. With a kiss on your head- Goodnight dad. We love you,” Asner’s family tweeted Sunday morning. His death came just days after his final interview was published in The Hollywood Reporter. In that interview, Asner reflected on how the coronavirus pandemic “changed” his life.
“My eyesight is not the greatest and my hearing is not the greatest, so I don’t go out much anyway,” Asner told THR. I sit here most of the time, bored as hell, not sure which way to turn. I don’t know. I’m waiting for the next gig, and they’re slower in coming in now, I can tell you.”
Asner was born on Nov. 15, 1929, in Kansas City, Missouri. While attending the University of Chicago, he was drafted during the Korean War. He served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps in Europe. After returning to the U.S., he began acting on stage in New York City and made several appearances in movies and early television shows. He made his film debut with an uncredited role in the Elvis Presley movie Kid Galahad. He played John Wayne’s nemesis in the 1967 Howard Hawks Western El Dorado with James Caan and Robert Mitchum.
RIP Ed Asner 😪
Was privileged to be interning on a show many years ago that he guest starred on. Funny, warm, and gracious. One of TV’s all-time greats.
One of his most famous on-screen moments… pic.twitter.com/6PCDrZyVFC
— Dan Signer (@DanSigner) August 29, 2021
Asner carved out a career as an excellent character actor until 1970 when he was cast as the loveable but cranky newsman Lou Grant in The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Asner starred in all seven seasons, then went on to play Lou in his own show, Lou Grant, which ran from 1977 to 1982. Unlike MTM, Lou Grant was an hour-long newspaper drama. Asner became the first actor ever to win Emmys in both Comedy and Drama categories for playing the same character.
Ed Asner… what a loss. A phenomenal career, from The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Lou Grant to voicing Carl in Up. To me though he’ll always be the iconic voice of J Jonah Jameson in the 1990s Spider-Man animated series. pic.twitter.com/MyCfH9gb1l
— Morgan Jeffery (@morganjeffery) August 29, 2021
Younger generations know Asner through his roles in family movies. He starred as Santa Claus in the 2003 holiday classic Elf with Will Ferrell. He also voiced Carl Fredricksen in Disney and Pixar’s Up. Asner never retired, appearing in episodes of Modern Family, Blue Bloods, Ballmastrz: 9009, Briarpatch, Royalties, Central Park, and Teen Titans Go! all in the past year. He also completed the movie Awaken before his death.
I’m sadden to just learn that Ed Asner has passed away at the age of 91. Some of his wonderful voice roles include Carl Fredrickson (Up), Cosgrove (Freakazoid), Granny Goodness (Superman), Santa Claus, and J. Jonah Jameson (Spider-Man). Expect a spotlight on Ed Asner tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/Dk6ESQXkai
— The Voice Artist’s Spotlight (@vas_90s) August 29, 2021
Asner is survived by children Katie, Charles, and twins Matthew and Liza, and grandchildren Jake, Will, Avivah, Max, Wolf, Eddy, Gabriel, Charlotte, Grant, and Helena. His son Mark established The Ed Asner Family Center in 2017. Scroll on to see how fans and stars remembered Asner.
Thanks, Ed Asner, for a lifetime of great work.
— Harry Shearer (@theharryshearer) August 29, 2021
“Oh, Ed Asner Rest In Peace and power friend,” Rosanna Arquette wrote. “What a truly good and honorable human you were. Gratitude for all you did for the screen Actors Guild when it was a true Union bless you.”
Sherrod and I met Ed Asner more than a decade ago, in Cleveland. He beamed as he approached us with his arms out wide and said, “Come here, you two.” Best group hug, ever. One of my favorite actors, decade after decade. https://t.co/s6uzpUgEyz
— Connie Schultz (@ConnieSchultz) August 29, 2021
“Ed Asner was a fine man and a great actor. He was tough in the ways that count and suffered no fools. I acted with him just once and knew how lucky I was to do so. A hero. Rest in peace, Ed,” Michael McKean tweeted.
Ed Asner, who won seven Emmy awards including five for the unforgettable role of Lou Grant, has passed away. He was a giant on the screen, and a philanthropist, too. A man of true heart and talent. He will be missed.
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) August 29, 2021
“We’ve lost one of the great humans. Ed Asner went from the over-the-top comedy of MTM to taking the SAME character and making him the centerpiece of an underrated drama of Lou Grant,” Keith Olbermann wrote. “I met him, where else, at a charity event. His life was charity.”