Ed Asner was a legendary actor who died on August 29, 2021, at the age of 91, his family confirmed on Twitter.
“We are sorry to say that our beloved patriarch passed away this morning peacefully,” they posted on his account. “Words cannot express the sadness we feel. With a kiss on your head- Goodnight dad. We love you.” No cause of death was shared publicly.
Asner was born in Kansas City, Missouri on November 15, 1929, and was raised in Kansas City, Kansas, according to his obituary in The New York Times. He went on to spend two years at the University of Chicago, returning home before being eventually drafted in 1951. After serving in the United States Army Signal Corps, according to Biography.com, he went back to Chicago to begin a career on stage that would eventually take him to New York City.
Asner will be best remembered for playing Lou Grant on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and the subsequent “Lou Grant” show. Asner went on to earn five of his record seven Primetime Emmy Awards for the role.
Speaking of his iconic character, Asner told the Los Angeles Times in 1977, “He radiates warmth, generosity and caring, someone who reflects a toughness over a mound of Jell-O, a nice degree of intelligence but a working intelligence as opposed to an arrogant one.”
His other iconic roles include Santa in the Christmas classic “Elf” and the curmudgeonly Carl Fredericks in the Pixar film “Up.” He also appeared in episodes of Netflix‘s “Cobra Kai” in 2018 and 2021, “Dead to Me” in 2019 and “Grace and Frankie” in 2019 and 2021.
Asner Won A Lifetime Achievement Award at the Screen Actors Guild Awards
Asner was recognized at the Screen Actors Guild Awards in March 2002 as the 38th Life Achievement Award recipient. He was a former, and at times controversial, president of the union from 1981 to 1985, The New York Times reported in his obituary.
“I thank God I’m no longer young enough to know everything,” Asner said during his Life Achievement Award acceptance speech. “But one of the things I do know is that there are many countries in the world where the life achievement award is just that: achieving life. I’m so glad I won the American life achievement award, which to me means living with purpose and passion.”
He continued, “I love acting, being an actor, and in youth I wandered from play to play as if in a dream. And wonder of wonders, I woke up and found myself to be an actor.”
In 2012, Asner and others sued the Screen Actors Guild president after the organization merged with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, according to a biography by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which hosts the Golden Globe Awards. Asner also supported “9/11 conspiracy theories,” according to the HFPA.
Asner Was Known for His Activism
Asner proudly declared himself an “actor, author, activist” on Twitter, known for speaking out about social and political issues.
According to the Los Angeles Times, he spoke out against United States involvement in El Salvador, co-founding Medical Aid for El Salvador. It was a controversial move for the Screen Actors Guild President, who blamed it for the cancellation of “Lou Grant” in 1982.
“I have an obligation to speak out for the cause of justice and to protest human misery and will continue to do so,” the Los Angeles Times quoted the actor at a news conference, though he noted CBS nor its sponsors pressured him to remain quiet.
The outlet referred to him as a “union loyalist” who joined the picket during the actors’ strike in 1980. The publication also reported his support of the causes, “Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, Death Penalty Focus, Defenders of Wildlife and Peace Now.”