Why Ed Asner saw himself in the hero of Disney/Pixar's Up

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Edward Asner, who provides the voice of a grumpy old man in Disney/Pixar's upcoming 3-D animated Up, told SCI FI Wire that the character wasn't all that much of a stretch.

In the film, Carl Fredricksen (Asner) has spent years mourning his late wife, growing older, angrier and lonelier with each passing day he spends in the house in which they lived together. When he's threatened by developers, the 78-year-old former balloon salesman uses thousands of balloons to lift his house into the air... and all the way to wilds of South America. Along for the ride—accidentally—is Russell (Jordan Nagai), an eager-beaver scout who's 70 years Carl's junior. And together they embark on the kind of adventure Carl and his wife long dreamed of experiencing.

SCI FI Wire spoke to Asner by telephone last week. Following are edited excerpts for our exclusive interview. Up opens nationwide on May 29. (Possible spoilers ahead!)

Pixar calls and says, "We want to make an animated feature not about a toy, not about a car, not about a bug or a rat, but about a cranky 78-year-old man with a dream." What was your reaction?

Asner: I said, "Sounds like me."

You've done a lot of animated films and shows [The Amazing Spider-Man, Justice League, Freakazoid!]. Did you think it was a risky idea, a risky production for Pixar?

Asner: I really knew very little about the history of Pixar, but it didn't matter. I'm willing to follow anybody's dream as long as I can have a crack at working on it.

How much of the character, how much of the dialogue, was written in stone, and how much did you get to contribute to the process?

Asner: Every scene was playing with it. I mean, it may have been written in stone, but we were certainly capable of exhausting it when an idea reared its ugly head.

The opening sequence really gives you a sense of Carl's grief, of just how much he misses his wife ...

Asner: He's torched quite a bit [for her] and would torch until the end. But circumstances force him to reconsider.

In the recording sessions, did they have you try varying levels of curmudgeonry and then just pick the ones that worked?

Asner: I would choose the level first. It would either be seconded or denied. And it would vary with each line, each instance, with the particular day of work. I would do it, they would call for this change, that change, this change, that change. I would oblige them always.