Ed Asner has two weeks of shooting to go on Paul Ben-Victor’s big-screen “Should’ve Been Romeo,” then he’ll take four days off, then get back into character as Franklin Delano Roosevelt for the one-man show he’s been taking around the country. It’s now slated to open at the Pasadena Playhouse Oct. 12 for previews and run 4-5 weeks. He’ll keep doing the show into March. He also has several other films in the can.
Not bad for an 80-year-old actor who had hip surgery in late July.
“Ever since ‘Up’ came out I’ve had a revivification that I never expected,” says Ed, referring to the instant classic 2009 Pixar film for which he provided the voice of the main character, widower Carl Fredricksen. “It was a breath of fresh air, and I’m very proud of it. So I want to seize that energy and run with it for as long as I can.”
He tells us, “I feel better now than I have in years. I need to drop some more weight though.”
We caught up with the seven-time Emmy Award-winning actor just after he left his doctor’s office and “got a clean bill of health…I have very high hopes of being pain free when walking, which I certainly haven’t been for a few years now,” he admits.
For FDR, of course, he performs while seated in a wheelchair or “ambulating using two canes.” It’s strenuous, he says, “but worth it.” The one-man show was written by Dore Schary, who also penned the landmark play, “Sunrise at Campobello.” Asner, a devotee of the 32nd President, performed it on a Theater at Sea cruise and subsequently decided to tour with it. Response “has been excellent,” he says.
In particular, notes Asner, FDR’s battling of the Great Depression resonates today, “his instituting of many reforms and programs. He bulldozed his way through. I think nobody else could have saved us as he did. We would have bumbled along like we are now.” He adds, “Granted, he was a chameleon. He had his bad spots, but overall I think the achievements – well, he belongs on Mt. Rushmore more than anybody.” Asner is hoping that with FDR, “maybe the word and the influence will eventually get out.”
MEANWHILE: Asner plays the grandfather in “Should’ve Been Romeo,” a drama with comedy involving family and race relations. Nastasha Henstridge, Kelly Osbourne, Carol Kane and Renee Taylor are also in the cast. He’s an ex-con in the recently-wrapped “Get Low” and yucks it up in the forthcoming indie comedy “Not Another B Movie.” What compels him to keep up such a pace? “I do it,” says Asner, “to keep prodding myself — I must be alive, I must be alive.”