Asner was remembered for his liberal crusading and kindness toward those whose credentials were far less than his own, all captured in online postings by the famous and not-so-famous. They uniformly recalled a man who was unafraid to take on difficult tasks and speak truth to power. Moreso, he got results from his actions.
That’s not to slight his career accomplishments. He was also the male actor with the most Emmy wins, an iconic figure who was a working presence in the entertainment world well into his 90s.
Several organizations issued statements remembering Asner’s contributions.
SAG-AFTRA mourned Asner, a former Screen Actors Guild president, SAG-AFTRA national board member, and SAG Life Achievement Award recipient.
“There have been few actors of Ed Asner’s prominence who risked their status to fight for social causes the way Ed did,” said SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris. “He fought passionately for his fellow actors, both before, during and after his SAG presidency. But his concern 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.”
The organization called Asner “an outspoken advocate for those he felt were victims of oppression or injustice. Prior to being elected Screen Actors Guild president in 1981, he was a frequent presence on the picket lines during the joint Screen Actors Guild/AFTRA 1980 TV/Theatrical strike, which affected a multitude of productions, including his own Lou Grant, and was among the nearly two-dozen stars participating in the Evening of Stars strike benefit at the Hollywood Bowl. In September 1981, Asner addressed a crowd of 8,000 trade union members at Los Angeles’ MacArthur Park at a Solidarity Day event, and was elected Screen Actors Guild president six weeks later, winning 52 percent of the vote.”
Asner was also highly critical of the United States’ involvement in Central America, and of President Ronald Reagan in particular. In 1982, while he was Guild president, but acting as a private citizen, he and several other prominent activists held a press conference on the steps of the US State Department to present a $25,000 check for medical aid to the Communist guerillas in El Salvador. When CBS canceled the highly popular Lou Grant later that year, Asner claimed it was in retaliation for his political views.
During Asner’s second term as SAG-AFTRA president, the union succeeded in getting California legislation passed to end auto insurers’ discrimination against actors, expanding unemployment insurance rights for actors, substantially increasing TV/Theatrical contract minimums and pension and health benefits, collecting a then-record amount of residuals for members, and successfully lobbying to amend and improve California’s Personal Managers Bill, which contained numerous provisions detrimental to actors.
PETA also acknowledged Asner’s passing.
“Gruff on the outside and on the screen but a pussycat of a fellow, long-time champion of social causes Ed Asner recognized every species as worthy of respect, including the cats he loved and regarded as family members,” said PETA Senior Vice President Lisa Lange “He worked with PETA to end cruel tests on animals and advocated passionately to end circus acts with lions, tigers, and elephants. PETA will forever remember his strength and his kindness.”
A few of the online takes:
RIP Ed Asner. A great star and a great labor leader. pic.twitter.com/bfTVUNRZ0C
— David A. Goodman (@DavidAGoodman) August 29, 2021
Ed Asner, who won seven Emmy awards including five for the unforgettable role of Lou Grant, has passed away. He was a giant on the screen, and a philanthropist, too. A man of true heart and talent. He will be missed.
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) August 29, 2021
I am heartbroken to say goodbye to our friend #EdAsner who graced #CentralParkTV as the voice of Bitsy’s brother Ambrose. He was a Legend, a beautiful soul and a truly brilliant actor. Love you sir! We will miss down here, but smiling that you are have fittingly gone Up. pic.twitter.com/EAjuW9a3J5
— Josh Gad (@joshgad) August 29, 2021
will never forget at my former station.. a long time ago when I called Mr Asner and asked if he would front promos for our news. we didn’t have a budget or anything to offer an acting legend. he told us he did it because he believed in the importance of local news @TheOnlyEdAsner
— Pete Wilgoren (@WILGOREN) August 29, 2021
He had spunk. I like spunk. RIP, Ed Asner.
— Randi Mayem Singer (@rmayemsinger) August 29, 2021
This is very sad news. Ed Asner was a radical until the end. I'll never forget when he spoke once to a labor conference in L.A. on plant closures and brought out 3 members of El Salvador's Farabundo Martí National Liberation to talk instead. RIP. https://t.co/WOovgPvkPM
— Tim Shorrock (@TimothyS) August 29, 2021
Oh Ed Asner Rest In Peace and power friend. what a truly good and honorable human you were .gratitude for all you did for the screen Actors Guild ,when it was a true Union bless you. @Frances_Fisher @EllenBarkin
— ✌🏼rosanna arquette (@RoArquette) August 29, 2021
RIP Ed Asner 😪
Was privileged to be interning on a show many years ago that he guest starred on. Funny, warm, and gracious. One of TV's all-time greats.
One of his most famous on-screen moments… pic.twitter.com/6PCDrZyVFC
— Dan Signer (@DanSigner) August 29, 2021
Ed Asner was a difficult dude, a grump, a shittalker, and one of the primary reasons actors have health benefits.
Miss you already, Ed. Rest In Power https://t.co/BIuwRhXW9j
— Andy Cobb (@AndyCobb) August 29, 2021
I'm sadden to just learn that Ed Asner has passed away at the age of 91. Some of his wonderful voice roles include Carl Fredrickson (Up), Cosgrove (Freakazoid), Granny Goodness (Superman), Santa Claus, and J. Jonah Jameson (Spider-Man). Expect a spotlight on Ed Asner tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/Dk6ESQXkai
— The Voice Artist's Spotlight (@vas_90s) August 29, 2021
Ed Asner has passed away at the age of 91
Rest in PEACE, Ed. And thanks… pic.twitter.com/kTUojhSPP6
— Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@RexChapman) August 29, 2021
w/Ed Asner after the Death Penalty Focus Awards in Bev Hills. This healed all the pain of the 1st 10 mins of 'Up' pic.twitter.com/6L37qG3xhn
— John Fugelsang (@JohnFugelsang) May 29, 2016
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.