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Ed Asner

The Emmy award winning actor chats about his family and his current career Up-swing.

Ed AsnerEd Asner

No one can play gruff quite like Ed Asner. The outspoken actor won raves and awards as Lou Grant, the feisty newspaper editor with a hidden soft side, on Mary Tyler Moore and the character’s subsequent eponymous spin-off. His superlative work in that role is still paying off three decades later: It inspired director Pete Docter to cast Asner as the voice of the cantankerous protagonist in Pixar’s latest animated spectacle, Up, which opens May 29. The film chronicles the adventures of Carl Fredricksen—a stubborn, sarcastic widower with a low tolerance for nonsense—who ties thousands of helium balloons to his house and floats off to see South America, without realizing he has a young stowaway on board. Time Out Kids spoke with Asner about all things Up, his career in general and his off-screen role as a grandpa.

You’ve voiced a lot of animated characters (King of the Hill, Spider-Man, Superman). Is voice work easier than on-camera parts?
No, I find myself as taxed as I would on any other [project], though I do report to work unshaven most of the time. I call upon my talent and my soul to put in as great a depth of feeling as I would on any full-length dramatic role.

Does your role in Up rank among your favorites?
I had a lovely time doing this; it wasn’t as quirky and larky as other voiceover characters I’ve done, but I certainly empathized with him and love what he achieves in the course of the film.

The director, Pete Docter, said that the character of Carl is similar to Lou Grant, which is why your name kept coming up during casting. Did you channel Lou while voicing Carl?
No. Lou Grant was more volatile, more Type A. Carl is more reticent, laid-back, but as tough, if not tougher, than Lou. I would say that the film begins with Carl resembling a wounded animal who just wants to be left alone. But his wounds begin to heal, and because of his love and affection for the boy [Russell, the stowaway], he doesn’t want to be left alone.

Were you thrilled when Pixar tapped you to star in Up?
I was delirious. And most of my lines have been done in delirium.

Is recording for Pixar different from working for other studios?
The directors are painstaking. I say "directors" because in the beginning Bob Peterson was codirecting with Pete Docter, and they were like a dog with a bone and would not let go until they got the marrow out of that bone or the meaning they were seeking out of the line. Sometimes they asked for multiple renditions because they weren’t sure which way they wanted to go. So they were hard taskmasters. I was delighted that they bent me, but they didn’t break me.

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