There are moments in life that are So Big… they are ineffable. What would be amongst my top ten extremely difficult to explain moments in life? Here is my short list: Birthing our children, becoming a grandparent, meeting each new grandchild, witnessing the birth of a grandchild, buying/building a home in Israel, and working with Ed Asner as he breathed life into The Tattooed Torah script, co-written by my friend/director Marc Bennett and son Brett Kopin based on the book written by (my mom) Marvell Ginsburg.
I blogged about Ed a few years ago, after we recorded his narration of our script. With his recent passing it felt appropriate to write about him again. I’m sad he is gone. I only met him the one time. The day we spent together in the sound studio then sharing a meal afterwards, will forever be seared into my heart.
When Ed entered the studio I was dazzled, star struck. He was a mensch and instantly put us at ease. He walked with a cane, a bit hunched over. Ed entered the sound booth settled down and tested the mikes. The taping began. He straightened up and magically transformed, holding a commanding presence… “This is the story of a little tattooed Torah it was always little but not always tattooed…” We were hushed in the studio. I was jazzed from excitement and caffeine. I burst into tears and Brett broke into uncontrollable silent giggles. We turned away from each other composing ourselves. We were in the presence of genius.
Ed Asner was a special man, a star in every sense of the word. He came prepared to work, eager to begin and had clearly rehearsed. He asked us how we would like him to pronounce certain words and what intentions we were hoping for in various scenes. When he came to a spot in the script that he felt needed an adjustment he paused. We discussed everything through the glass booth and made a few modifications based on his suggestions. He did every line three times, each was slightly different always hitting it “out of the park.” His voice was rich and emotional, the perfect grandfather voice.
Between takes Ed took a few breaks. I seized the first moment I could and boldly walked into the booth. He was everything I ever imagined. Lou Grant (his character from The Mary Tyler Moore Show) is pretty much who he was, a sharp passionate curmudgeon. I found him to be flirty, bright, kind, snarky and funny. I told him I grew up watching him on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. He smiled. I also told him our kids were impressed we would be working with the man who narrated Up. He smiled again. We both adored Mary. He was proud of his many achievements and literally worked until his end.
He told me the writing of our script was good, it made his job easier and made him look good. Marc and Brett were thrilled to hear that. He loved the story and gave a shout out to Marvell at the end of the recording session. He was clearly proud of his Jewish roots. When Marc asked him to join our team, he immediately said yes. He felt it was important to educate the young on the Holocaust, hoping to stem the tide of denial that he was witnessing. We spoke about the power of film and how our story/film could have a greater reach than simply remaining in print.
The recording by chance took place during the Ten Days of Awe, the time period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This a very sacred time in the Jewish calendar, when our prayers are most powerful. At the time I prayed silently for this to be a blessed project…
Ed Asner was a blessing! Our Tattooed Torah Team will be forever grateful he chose our project to narrate. Ed participated in several screening presentations, whole heartedly supporting our efforts. His stardom gave our indie film the needed gravitas to have it considered a serious contender.
The day I spent with Ed and for several days afterwards I felt like I was floating in a state of Nirvana, again ineffable. I’ve heard his voice hundreds of times now. I feel as though I know him. Ed signed his autograph on a copy of mom’s book, “Love & Life, Ed Asner.”
Ed, our film was one of the last projects of your career. You will always be remembered in our hearts; as friend of Mary’s, a friend of ours and a friend of The Tattooed Torah. May your memory be for a blessing.
Love and Life, Beth Kopin and The Tattooed Torah Team
Click on the video above to hear Ed recording the opening lines of the film (video courtesy of Beth Kopin)