Ed Asner, star of 'Lou Grant' and 'Up', dies at 91

The Emmy-winning actor made his name as gruff newsman Lou Grant

Ed Asner, who voiced the character of widower Carl Fredricksen in the animated film 'Up' (2009), has died at the age of 91. AFP
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Ed Asner, the actor who voiced the elderly hero in Pixar’s Up, has died at the age of 91.

The news was confirmed by his family in a tweet from Asner’s official Twitter account on Sunday. “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,” read the statement.

Asner became a star in middle age playing the gruff but loveable newsman Lou Grant, first in the hit comedy The Mary Tyler Moore Show and later in the drama Lou Grant.

Ed Asner had more than 300 acting credits and remained active in his seventies and eighties in a variety of TV and film roles. AFP

Asner won three Best Supporting Actor Emmys on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and two Best Actor awards on Lou Grant. He also won Emmys for his roles in the mini-series Rich Man, Poor Man (1976) and Roots (1977).

He had more than 300 acting credits and remained active throughout his seventies and eighties in a variety of film and TV roles. In 2003, he played Santa Claus in Will Ferrell’s hit film Elf. He was John Goodman’s father in the short-lived 2004 CBS comedy Centre of the Universe and the voice of Carl, the much-loved elderly man in 2009's Up. More recently, he was in such TV series as Forgive Me and Dead to Me.

As Screen Actors Guild president, the liberal Asner was caught up in a political controversy in 1982 when he spoke out against US involvement with repressive governments in Latin America. Lou Grant was cancelled during the furore that followed and he did not run for a third SAG term in 1985.

“There have been few actors of Ed Asner’s prominence who risked their status to fight for social causes the way Ed did,” said actor Gabrielle Carteris, who is Sag-Aftra’s president. She said that his advocacy “did not stop with performers. He fought for victims of poverty, violence, war, and legal and social injustice, both in the United States and around the globe.”

Asner, born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1929, almost became a newsman in real life. He studied journalism at the University of Chicago until a professor told him there was little money to be made in the profession.

He quickly switched to drama, debuting as the martyred Thomas Becket in a campus production of TS Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral.

He was married twice, to Nancy Sykes and Cindy Gilmore, and had four children, Matthew, Liza, Kate and Charles.

Updated: August 30, 2021, 8:14 AM