Days before his death, Ed Asner’s interview with The Hollywood Reporter was published in the Aug. 25 issue of the magazine, taking a look back on his extensive television and film career.
The beloved actor passed away peacefully on Sunday, Aug. 29 surrounded by family. He was 91 years old.
Asner took on countless roles across various mediums in his decades-long career, lending his talent and voice to projects ranging from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and its spinoff drama series Lou Grant” to the holiday classic “Elf” and Pixar’s “Up.”
In what is believed to be his final interview ever, Asner covered a lot of ground about his career and discussed some behind the scenes moments, including a brief mention of his date with Mary Tyler Moore toward the end of the series, which ran from 1970 to 1977.
Asner confirmed that he had gone on one date with Tyler Moore, who portrayed Mary Richards in the series opposite Asner’s grumpy character, Lou Grant. Though she was a “doll” according to the actor, the back story behind the date was, as he put it, “dull.”
The late actor was recognized for his acting prowess by a new generation of moviegoers during the aughts. He captured the whimsy of Santa Claus in 2003’s “Elf” alongside Will Ferrell, who he called a “genius" and "the funniest man I came across since Ted Knight.” He tugged on everyone’s heartstrings as Carl Fredricksen in the 2009 Oscar-winning and "geniusly written" Pixar movie, “Up."
Asner pointed out, "My primary source of mail deals with one-syllable titles: 'Up' and 'Elf.'"
On Sunday, Asner’s family announced that he had passed away that morning in a tweet shared to his personal Twitter account, referring to the late actor as their “beloved patriarch.”
“Words cannot express the sadness we feel,” the tweet read in part. “With a kiss on your head- Goodnight dad. We love you.”
TODAY confirmed the news with his spokesperson, Charles Sherman, who said the Emmy-winning actor had passed away “peacefully surrounded by family.”
Born in Kansas City in November 1929, Asner started his career in theater before getting involved in film and television. His TV debut came in 1957 in “Studio One,” whereas his Broadway debut followed in the 1960 production of “Face of a Hero.”
He portrayed the grouchy-yet-lovable Grant for seven seasons of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” which he called “the golden age of TV.” Asner snagged three Emmy awards for his work on the comedy, two for outstanding performance by an actor in a supporting role in comedy in 1971 and 1972 and one for outstanding continuing performance by a supporting actor in a comedy series in 1975.
After the show ended, his character received his own spinoff drama series called “Lou Grant” which ran for five seasons between 1977 to 1982. Asner received two Emmy awards for his portrayal on the show, winning two outstanding lead actor in a drama series awards in 1978 and 1980. Asner and Uzo Aduba are the only two actors who have received drama and comedy awards for portraying the same character.
In his final interview, Asner admitted that he had more fun on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” versus its dramatic spinoff, “Lou Grant,” which took the 30 minute multi-camera comedy that was filmed in front of a live audience and translated it to a single-camera hourlong drama sans an audience.
“The effect of the laugh at the right moment was enormously restorative and energizing. You don’t have that with an hour show, you just don’t,” he said, later adding, “There’s nothing more fun than hearing rip-roaring laughter from an audience.”
The pandemic also had an affect on Asner’s life and creativity. Before the pandemic, the actor was touring Jeff Cohen’s “The Soap Myth,” portraying the role of Milton Saltzman, a Holocaust survivor.
“I think it’s changed performing and creativity as much as anything else,” he said of the pandemic. “My eyesight is not the greatest and my hearing is not the greatest, so I don’t go out much anyway. 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.”
Yet, even at age 91, Asner didn't fully subscribe to feeling “old,” telling the magazine, “If it weren’t for my bad left leg, I would feel younger.”
As for the last bullet on his bucket list? Family, of course.
"I haven’t climbed Suribachi," he joked, before adding, "No, I think just ensuring that I’ve left enough for the family."