Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ed Asner

Three hundred and ten (310). As of this date (Feb 19, 2014) 310 is the total number of film credits that is posted in Ed Asner's Internet Movie Database (IMDB) listing. Wheew! Here I am with only 50 and I am only 6 years younger than Ed.  Where have I been?  Obviously not where I should have been.

Anyway I was privileged to have worked with Ed in 1976 in a made-for-TV Huey Long quasi-biographical script entitled “The Life and Assassination of the Kingfish”. Ed played Huey Long and I was given a great little cameo role as Senator Jack Williamson, one of Long’s more staunch and fiery adversaries.
At the time of this filming Ed was on hiatus from his role as Lou Grant in the Mary Tyler Moore series. The real Ed was nothing like this character.  The Ed Asner you've seen on the big screen and TV is usually an irascible sort if not downright villainous. But the real Ed Asner is anything but irascible and villainous.

Ed and I, though total opposites politically, quickly became great friends. Though we’ve not worked together since “Kingfish”, we’ve had several occasions to meet socially after he was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild.  He's a very warm, sociable and caring person.  To know him is to love him.

We first met shortly after I was cast in "...Kingfish". The director, Robert Collins, had scheduled a script read-through with the full cast which is a common practice in the industry. During a break in the read-through Ed came up to me and said "Jerry, I hope when we do that scene (meaning a committee room scene in which he and I get into an explosive exchange) we can get a lot of fire into it." This comment laid considerable pressure on me because I would want it to go the way he envisioned it.

This committee room scene was first on the shooting schedule.  I would find out later that Ed had specifically asked that this scene come first in the schedule because this was his toughest scene and he just wanted to get it out of the way.  I too was glad that it was first on the schedule.

Needless to say I worked diligently on committing that scene to memory. Our dialog was particularly difficult because we were to talk over each other and each take needed to match to insure editing integrity .. no small feat. Ed would later say he hated overlapping dialog.  And so did I.

When our first day wrapped and the committee room scene was "in the can", Ed came to me and said "Jerry, I want to thank you.  You kept me on my toes.  That scene went better than I ever would have imagined."  

He noticed that I was vacating my dressing room and said "You're not done are you?"  I said "Yes, that was my only scene."  He said "You're kidding.  Hold on, don't go yet."  He quickly caught up with Collins.  I waited.  Then Collins motioned for me to join them.  He said "Jerry, I'm going to write you into some more scenes."

I thanked Ed for his intercession and got 2 additional days work.  I was written into two senate chamber scenes.

If your political philosophy is conservative then you might tend to consider Ed irascible and villainous should you see him in any political debates.  But the man, apart from his extreme liberalism, is as good as they come. You can't help but like him. 

Hopefully he will move a little to the right as he continues to mature into old age.


1 comment:

  1. Thank you Jerry. Thanks for taking us into the scenes and conversations. It would be great to see the movie.