When I was making my first film, “Roger & Me”, I was broke, really broke, so I, a nobody from Flint, wrote to some famous people to ask them for help with my movie.
Only one responded: Ed Asner.
“I don’t know you, kid, but here’s 500 bucks,” said the note attached to the check. “Sounds like it’ll be a great film. I was an autoworker once.”
Ed also eventually became a union president (SAG), the star of one of the best TV dramas ever (“Lou Grant”) and one of the best animated films — no, correction, one of the best MOVIES — of all time (“Up”). He always showed up: for a picket, a rally, getting arrested, participating in nonviolent civil disobedience, testifying at congressional hearings, supporting progressive/left movements all across the country. He took on Reagan and Charlton Heston and fought against the American support of right-wing Latin American dictators. Companies like Kimberly-Clark (Kleenex) and Vidal Sassoon, sponsors of his CBS drama, told the network that if they couldn’t get Ed to shut up and end his political activism, they’d pull their ads from his “Lou Grant” show. CBS told Ed to tamp it down. He wouldn’t, so the sponsors pulled their ads and the award-winning “Lou Grant”, starring the man who still holds the record for the most (male) Emmys ever, came to an end. He once told me, “Look, it’s never been easy in this country to speak out against the status quo. I’m not going to stop now.” He never did and I loved him for it.
It still isn’t easy, Ed, and we will miss you. You, as Lou Grant, once told Mary Tyler Moore on her show, “Mary, you know what? You’ve got spunk!” After the best pregnant pause in TV history, you finished your thought: “I HATE spunk!”
Hahaha! The funniest thing about that line was that YOU were nothing BUT spunk!
R.I.P. Ed Asner.