Edward Asner



Also Known As
Yitzhak Edward Asner
Birth Place
Kansas City, Missouri, USA
November 15, 1929


A legend of both comedy and drama in both film and television, Ed Asner had the distinction of being the only actor to win an Emmy in both genres for playing the same character, Lou Grant. A crusty, heavy-drinking TV news producer, Grant was a major presence on the iconic sitcom "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" (CBS, 1970-77) and its dramatic spin-off, "Lou Grant" (CBS, 1977-1982). A veteran ...

Family & Companions

Nancy Lou Sykes
Actor. Married on March 23, 1959; divorced.
Carol Jean Vogelman
In paternity suit brought by her husband, won child support for her son (born in 1987) fathered by Asner.
Cindy Gilmore
Producer. Married on August 2, 1998; born c. 1940; has son Robin from previous relationship.


Awarded the Flame of Truth Award from the Fund for Higher Education (1981)

Inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' Hall of Fame in 1996


A legend of both comedy and drama in both film and television, Ed Asner had the distinction of being the only actor to win an Emmy in both genres for playing the same character, Lou Grant. A crusty, heavy-drinking TV news producer, Grant was a major presence on the iconic sitcom "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" (CBS, 1970-77) and its dramatic spin-off, "Lou Grant" (CBS, 1977-1982). A veteran of stages in New York and Chicago, Asner was a frequent guest star on shows like "The Fugitive" (ABC, 1963-67), "Ironside" (NBC, 1967-1975) and "Mission: Impossible" (CBS, 1966-1973), before landing the role of news director Lou Grant in 1970. After playing the role for laughs over seven seasons, CBS spun off the character into the drama series "Lou Grant," where Asner spent another five seasons as a newspaper editor confronting serious social and political issues that reflected his own outspoken opinions. From there, Asner frequently transitioned between film and television, playing drunken private investigator Guy Banister in "JFK" (1991) and Santa Claus in "Elf" (2003), as well as guesting on shows like "The X-Files" (Fox, 1993-2002), "Touched by an Angel" (CBS, 1994-2003) and "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009). Working well into his golden years, he also had a prominent career doing voiceover work, most notably playing the curmudgeonly Carl Fredrickson in the Pixar hit "Up" (2009). Despite his outspoken political activism, Asner remained impossible to dislike as well as one of Hollywood's hardest working performers.

Yitzak Edward Asner was born on Nov. 15, 1929 in Kansas City, KS, as was one of five children born to Lizzie and Morris, both Orthodox Jewish immigrants. While attending Wyandotte High School, the teen was a star athlete in football and basketball. Creatively, he also loved spending time at the local movie house, and got his own start as a performer by announcing sporting events for the school radio station. After graduation, Asner spent several years at the University of Chicago in the city's Hyde Park suburb, where he became active in the student drama group Tonight at Eight-Thirty. In 1951, he was summoned by the U.S. Army, and served two years with the Signal Corps. While stationed in France, he received an offer to join the Playwright's Theater Company in Chicago upon his return, which he did for several years before heading to New York to make a go of it on Broadway. Asner found plenty of work in Manhattan, including onstage parts in Shakespeare festivals, off-Broadway productions, and the long-running revival of "Threepenny Opera," as well as onscreen in a string of TV guest appearances. He finally made his Broadway debut in 1960 alongside Hollywood wunderkind Jack Lemmon in "Face of a Hero." The following year, the promise of the work in the exploding field of television prompted Asner to relocate his young family to Hollywood. It was a lucrative move, and within the first few years, Asner had already enjoyed guest appearances on some of the biggest shows of the day, including "Route 66" (CBS, 1960-64), "The Untouchables" (ABC, 1959-1963) and "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" (CBS, 1955-1962). He found himself especially in high demand for playing villainous, Russian-looking characters in the abundant spy-themed shows and movies of the Cold War era. Elvis fans might have noticed him in small roles in the films "Kid Galahad" (1962) and "Change of Habit" (1969) in which future co-star Mary Tyler Moore played Elvis' love interest.

In 1970, Asner was surprised to receive a call from MTM Enterprises, Mary Tyler Moore's production company, which was interested in casting the mainly dramatic actor in a substantial role in a new sitcom. They had spotted Asner in a made-for-TV movie and felt there was something about his demeanor that seemed perfect to inhabit Lou Grant, a brusque but sympathetic bachelor news producer. Even Asner himself was skeptical, but the script was one of the finest he had ever read, so he jumped at the chance to participate. Over the next seven years, "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" became one of the most respected comedies in television history, acknowledging a new era of modern womanhood with a single, professional woman in her thirties as the central character. The show further broke with stale TV traditions by eschewing plot-based sitcoms in favor of exploring a cast of complex, ever-evolving characters. When audiences first met Asner as Lou Grant, he famously informed potential employee Mary Richards (Tyler Moore) that she had spunk, before clarifying that he hated spunk. From that episode forward, Asner would find a decade's worth of richness in Grant's hard-drinking character to explore; first as Mary's jaded but soft-hearted boss and then as outspoken Los Angeles newspaper editor in the hour-long drama series, "Lou Grant." Asner's character was the only in television history to appear in both a comedy and drama, both incarnations earning the actor multiple Emmy Awards. In the period between the two series, Asner found time to also give a powerful performance as slave trader Captain Davies in "Roots" (1977), ABC's legendary miniseries based on the genealogical novel by Alex Haley.

"Grant" was canceled by CBS in 1982 under suspicious circumstances, but he continued to land film and TV offers, including the captain of the force in the feature "Fort Apache, the Bronx" (1981) and the lawyer defending accused Russian spies (modeled on the famous spy couple the Rosenbergs) in Sidney Lumet's, "Daniel" (1983). He also helmed a short-lived sitcom about the garment industry called "Off The Rack" (ABC, 1984) before returning to drama with "The Bronx Zoo" (NBC, 1987-88), a grim portrait of inner city high schools. He co-starred with Sharon Gless on "The Trials of Rosie O'Neill" (CBS, 1991-92), and was a formidable presence on the big screen as Guy Bannister in Oliver Stone's conspiracy classic "JFK" (1991), ironically, cast opposite his old friend and Broadway co-star, Jack Lemmon (Jack Martin). In addition to recurring spots on "Hearts Afire" (CBS, 1992-93), a starring role on the short-lived "Thunder Alley" (ABC, 1994-95) and a re-teaming with Tyler Moore for the TV movie "Payback" (ABC, 1997), voice acting emerged as the bulk of Asner's work in the 1990s and beyond. He enjoyed a steady schedule of voicing bad guys and cuddly creatures in animated television fare like "Batman: The Animated Series" (Fox, 1992-95), "Gargoyles" (ABC, 1994-97), "Freakazoid!" (Kids WB, 1994-97), "Johnny Bravo" (Cartoon Network, 1997-2004), and "The Justice League" (Cartoon Network, 2001-04). He also became, for some reason, the go-to guy for Christmas films, voicing "The Story of Santa Claus" (1996), "A Christmas Carol" (1997) and "Olive the Other Reindeer" (1999), as well as appearing in the TV flick "The Man Who Saved Christmas" (CBS, 2002) and the features "Christmas Vacation 2" (2003) and "Elf" ( 2003).

A recurring role in the 2003 season of "ER" (NBC 1994- 2009) led to a recurring role on "The Practice" (ABC, 1997-2004) in 2004; later that year, Asner was cast opposite John Goodman in the domestic sitcom "Center of the Universe" (CBS 2004-05), which was cancelled after its first season. In 2006, Asner enjoyed a series of guest appearances on "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" (NBC, 2006-07) and was a holiday hit in the soldier-themed TV film "The Christmas Card" (Hallmark) for which he received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor. He spent the spring of 2007 touring with a stage production called "The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial," a play based on transcripts of the famous 1925 court case which awarded the right to teach evolution in public school. His role in the play was the perfect culmination of Asner's two passions, as he had become as well known for his outspoken support of liberal political causes as he was for his enormous talent and body of work. His activist leanings first became widely known in 1980 when Asner, a stalwart "union man" who had, as a youth, worked in the General Motors factory, became an active organizer during that year's SAG strike. This led to his election as SAG president from 1981-85, during which time some detractors felt he was using his position as a platform to advance his own political beliefs. A high-profile clash with conservative SAG member Charlton Heston, in which Asner was looking for SAG to voice opposition to U.S. involvement in Central America, was suspected to be the cause of the sudden cancellation of "Lou Grant" in 1982. A member of the Democratic Socialists of America, death penalty opponent Asner protested for the retrial of convicted killer Mumia Abu Jamal and a pardon for Native American activist Leonard Peltier. A flaming liberal, he unashamedly spoke out in favor of gun control, campaign finance reform and animal rights causes.

In fact, Asner was so politically motivated, he not only assisted in the funding for a then unknown filmmaker named Michael Moore's first feature documentary, "Roger & Me" (1989), he also financially supported progressive organizations including Democracy for America, Moveon.org, and Progressive Majority. An outspoken critic of the presidency of No. 43, George W. Bush, Asner was among the earliest forces calling for an investigation into the events leading up to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Throughout the war, he lent his name and likeness to groups questioning the Patriot Act and American foreign policy in general. For his efforts on behalf of social justice causes, Asner was recognized with the ACLU's Worker's Rights Committee Award, the Anne Frank Human Rights Award, the Eugene Debs Award, the Organized Labor Publications Humanitarian Award, and the National Emergency Civil Liberties Award. Back on the big screen, he was the 80-year-old, pot-smoking grandfather of a mattress salesman (Paul Dano) attempting to adopt a baby from China in "Gigantic" (2009). After voicing the curmudgeonly Carl Fredrickson of the animated hit "Up" (2009), Asner earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama for an episode of "CSI: NY" (CBS, 2004-13).

He next portrayed billionaire investor Warren Buffet in director Curtis Hanson's "Too Big to Fail" (HBO, 2011), a compelling look at the people and events surrounding the financial crisis in 2008. He went on to have a small role as an angry investor in the lowbrow spoof "Not Another B Movie" (2011), while logging guest appearances on such varied shows as "Royal Pains" (USA Network, 2009-16), "The Middle" (ABC, 2009- ), "Hot in Cleveland" (TV Land, 2010-15), "Hawaii Five-O" (CBS, 2010- ) and "Law & Order: SVU" (NBC, 1999- ). In early 2012, Asner spearheaded a lawsuit that opposed the merger of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), a position he held as the former president of SAG. Asner was joined by fellow actors Martin Sheen, Ed Harris and Valerie Harper. Meanwhile, in March 2013, Asner was rushed to the hospital for exhaustion while performing his one-man show, "FDR," which had been touring the country for over three years. The 83-year-old actor began his performance 45 minutes late and struggled immediately with his lines, leaving the stage only 15 minutes into the show.



Cast (Feature Film)

Love Finds You in Valentine (2016)
Stars in Shorts: No Ordinary Love (2016)
All of My Heart (2015)
High Hopes: The Amityville Horror Murders (2014)
Casting By (2013)
Second Chances (2013)
Christmas on the Bayou (2013)
Too Big to Fail (2011)
All-Star Superman (2011)
Perry White
Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010)
Granny Goodness
The Desert of Forbidden Art (2010)
Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg (2009)
Gigantic (2009)
Up (2009)
Christmas Dreams (2009)
The Heart Specialist (2008)
The Man Who Saved Christmas (2008)
Christmas is Here Again (2008)
Generation Gap (2008)
Thomas Kinkade's Christmas Cottage (2007)
The Christmas Card (2006)
The Oil Factor: Behind the War on Terror (2005)
All In (2005)
Sir! No Sir! (2005)
Elf (2003)
Santa Claus
The Commission (2003)
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure (2003)
Gahan Wilson's The Kid (2001)
In Search of Peace - Part One: 1948-1967 (2001)
The Animal (2001)
Becoming Dick (2000)
Common Ground (2000)
Full Blossom (2000)
Above Suspicion (2000)
Love & Action in Chicago (1999)
Olive the Other Reindeer (1999)
Santa Claus
The Bachelor (1999)
Our Friend, Martin (1999)
Hard Rain (1998)
Payback (1997)
A Christmas Carol (1997)
The Fanatics (1997)
The Long Way Home (1997)
Heads (1994)
Happily Ever After (1993)
Down on the Waterfront (1993)
Gypsy (1993)
Beyond JFK: The Question of Conspiracy (1992)
JFK (Director's Cut) (1991)
Yes Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus (1991)
JFK (1991)
Silent Motive (1991)
Good Cops, Bad Cops: The Biggest Heist in History (1990)
Moon Over Parador (1988)
Cracked Up (1987)
Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night (1987)
Vital Signs (1986)
The Christmas Star (1986)
Kate's Secret (1986)
Darlin' Clementine (1985)
Anatomy of an Illness (1984)
Daniel (1983)
O'Hara's Wife (1982)
A Small Killing (1981)
Fort Apache, The Bronx (1981)
The Marva Collins Story (1981)
The Family Man (1979)
The Gathering (1977)
The Life and Assassination of the Kingfish (1977)
Gus (1976)
Death Scream (1975)
The Imposter (1975)
Hey, I'm Alive (1975)
The Police Story (1973)
The Girl Most Likely To... (1973)
The Wrestler (1973)
Haunts of the Very Rich (1972)
The Todd Killings (1971)
Fred Reardon
Skin Game (1971)
The Last Child (1971)
They Call It Murder (1971)
Halls of Anger (1970)
Ernie McKay
They Call Me MISTER Tibbs (1970)
Woody Garfield
Change of Habit (1969)
Lieutenant Moretti
El Dorado (1967)
Bart Jason
The Venetian Affair (1967)
Frank Rosenfeld
Gunn (1967)
The Slender Thread (1965)
Det. Judd Ridley
The Satan Bug (1965)
Murder Men (1961)
Dave Keller

Producer (Feature Film)

A Vision of Murder: The Story of Donielle (2000)
Executive Producer
Payback (1997)
Executive Producer
Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media (1992)

Special Thanks (Feature Film)

The Long Way Home (1997)
Special Thanks To

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Beyond JFK: The Question of Conspiracy (1992)
Through the Wire (1990)
Roger & Me (1989)
Moon Over Parador (1988)

Cast (Special)

World Poker Tour: Hollywood Home Game (2004)
TV Land Awards: A Celebration of Classic TV (2004)
Lifetime's Achievement Awards: Women Changing the World (2003)
The 8th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards (2002)
The Mary Tyler Moore Reunion (2002)
Roots -- Celebrating 25 Years: The Saga of an American Classic (2002)
Behind the Fame: Mary Tyler Moore/Bob Newhart (2002)
The Great American History Quiz: America at War (2001)
Intimate Portrait: Sharon Gless (2001)
Intimate Portrait: Brooke Shields (2001)
Wonders of Wildlife Honors: Concert For Conservation (2000)
There Once Was a Town (2000)
The Tulsa Lynching of 1921: A Hidden Story (2000)
Hollywood, D.C.: A Tale of Two Cities (2000)
Intimate Portrait: Betty White (2000)
The Great American History Quiz: Pursuit of Happiness (2000)
Last Stand -- The Struggle For the Ballona Wetlands (2000)
The Television Academy Hall of Fame (1999)
Michael Landon (1999)
More Great Escapes of World War II (1998)
M-A-S-H, Tootsie & God: A Tribute to Larry Gelbart (1998)
Behind the Laughs: The Untold Stories of Television's Favorite Comedies (1998)
Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS) 13th Annual Hall of Fame (1998)
CBS: The First 50 Years (1998)
Ed Asner: Lovable Grouch (1998)
The Screen Actors Guild Awards (1997)
Michael Landon: The E! True Hollywood Story (1997)
50 Years of Television: A Celebration of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Golden Anniversary (1997)
Prohibition: Thirteen Years That Changed America (1997)
The Trial of Adolf Eichmann (1997)
The Walt Disney World Very Merry Christmas Parade (1996)
The Ultimate TV Trivia Challenge (1995)
Sugar Scandal (1995)
Ninth Annual Genesis Awards (1995)
Stan Lee: The ComiX-MAN! (1995)
Going, Going, Almost Gone! Animals in Danger (1995)
P.T. Barnum: America's Greatest Showman (1995)
Down at the Waterfront (1994)
For the Living (1993)
Earth and the American Dream (1993)
Listen Up! Voices in Celebration of Education (1992)
Star-athon '92: A Weekend with the Stars (1992)
Mary Tyler Moore: The 20th Anniversary Show (1991)
The 18th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards (1991)
Night of 100 Stars III (1990)
Christmas at Pops (1990)
The Tube Test (1990)
Living the Dream: A Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King (1988)
Troubled Waters (1988)
Happy Birthday, Hollywood! (1987)
Star Tour Australia (1986)
The Television Academy Hall of Fame (1986)
Celebrities: Where Are They Now? (1985)
The Second City 25th Anniversary Special (1985)
The 37th Annual Prime Time Emmy Awards (1985)
The Night of 100 Stars II (1985)
A Case of Libel (1985)
Donald Duck's 50th Birthday (1984)
The Screen Actors Guild 50th Anniversary Celebration (1984)
Parade of Stars (1983)
Battle of the Network Stars VII (1979)
Celebrity Challenge of the Sexes (1977)
Circus of the Stars (1977)
Monty Hall's Variety Hour (1976)
Ted Knight Musical Comedy Variety Special Special (1976)
Twigs (1975)
Dinah in Search of the Ideal Man (1973)
The Rowan and Martin Special (1973)

Misc. Crew (Special)

Mary Tyler Moore: The 20th Anniversary Show (1991)

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Out of the Woods (2004)
The King and Queen of Moonlight Bay (2003)
The Sissy Duckling (1999)
Snowden's Christmas (1999)
Armistead Maupin's More Tales of the City (1998)
Dog's Best Friend (1997)
Gone in the Night (1996)
The Story of Santa Claus (1996)
The Real Story of Happy Birthday to You (1992)
Cruel Doubt (1992)
Switched at Birth (1991)
Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less (1990)
A Friendship in Vienna (1988)
Tender is the Night (1985)
Roots (1977)
Rich Man, Poor Man (1975)

Life Events


Served with U.S. Army Signal Corps in France


Began appearing on TV in shows such as as "Studio One" (CBS) and "Decoy" (Syndicated)


Made Broadway debut in "Face of a Hero"


Moved to Hollywood, CA


Film debut, "Kid Galahad"


First worked with Mary Tyler Moore in feature film "Change of Habit"


Played role of Mary's boss Lou Grant on long-running CBS sitcom "The Mary Tyler Moore Show"


Earned Emmy for his role as Captain Davies in ABC miniseries "Roots"


Reprised role from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" for CBS drama series "Lou Grant"


Served as president of the Screen Actors Guild


Played Sam Waltman on short-lived ABC sitcom "Off the Rack"


Founded Blake/Quince Productions with actress Timothy Blake; company dissolved 1991


Played leading role of Joe Danzig on NBC drama series "The Bronx Zoo"


Returned to Broadway opposite Madeline Kahn in a revival of "Born Yesterday"


Joined CBS drama series "Trials of Rosie O'Neill"


Played Guy Bannister in Oliver Stone's "JFK"


Joined one season of CBS sitcom "Hearts Afire"


Supplied voice of Chief Abalone for short-lived CBS animated series "Fish Police"


Played Gil Jones on ABC sitcom "Thunder Alley"


Re-teamed with Mary Tyler Moore for TV movie "Payback" (ABC)


Landed recurring role as a judge on ABC legal drama "The Practice"


Returned to series TV as co-star of Fox sitcom "Ask Harriet"


Co-starred with Tom Selleck on CBS comedy "The Closer"


Played Santa Claus opposite Will Ferrell in Jon Favreau directed comedy "Elf"


Cast in recurring role on ninth season of NBC medical drama "ER"


Played recurring role on NBC drama "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip"


Starred in Hallmark Channel Original Movie "The Christmas Card"


Voiced retired balloon salesman Carl Fredricksen in Pixar animated film "Up"


Narrated children's album <i>Scat</i>


Guest starred on "CSI: NY" (CBS) as clockmaker Abraham Klein


Played Paul Dano's 80-year-old pot-smoking father in "Gigantic"


Portrayed Warren Buffett in HBO film "Too Big to Fail"


Appeared in ABC Family movie "Home Alone: The Holiday Heist"


Morris David Asner
Lizzie Asner
Ben Asner
Record store owner. Born c. 1916; died March 3, 1986 of a cerebral hemorrhage in Kansas City, Missouri.
Matthew A Asner
Producer, actor. Twin of Liza; formerly married to TV reporter Jules Asner; remarried with son Jakob Ryan Asner (born in February 2000).
Liza Asner
Twin of Matthew.
Kate Asner
Actor. Appeared with father and brother Matthew on stage in "The Gathering" (1999).
Charles Asner
Born c, 1987; mother, Carol Vogelman.
Mother, Cindy Gillmore.


Nancy Lou Sykes
Actor. Married on March 23, 1959; divorced.
Carol Jean Vogelman
In paternity suit brought by her husband, won child support for her son (born in 1987) fathered by Asner.
Cindy Gilmore
Producer. Married on August 2, 1998; born c. 1940; has son Robin from previous relationship.



Awarded the Flame of Truth Award from the Fund for Higher Education (1981)

Inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' Hall of Fame in 1996

Asner's seven Emmys make him the most honored male perfomer in the award's history.